FLL 2018 – Our final competition

This is Lex’s final year in FIRST Lego League.  The program runs through 8th grade, then they are able to move on to FIRST Robotics (no Legos, lots of machining and Java programming).

I coached again this year and we again had three teams, with 27 kids total.  We went to the state competition on Sunday.  It was the usual big, crazy, busy, 12hr day.  We had a blast.  This year the teams brought home two trophies too!  Green team earned one for their research and Red team (the team Lex was on) won one for their innovate robot design. Lex was pretty instrumental in that.  I was happy for him to have that accomplishment on his final year.

The robot design presentation where they show their robot, their code, and their favorite missions.

Project presentation. Red team chose to figure out an innovative way to feed people in space.

A very happy Red team (with two equally happy tag-along little brothers).

I’m happy with how well the season went, how organized we were at the tech center, how many kids had a great time, how well Lex connected with another kid on the team, and overall how we’ve grown the FLL team in Hartford.  I’ll miss it next year… but not enough to coach again! LOL!

Now, if you want an awwwww moment, check out little Lex at his first FLL competition.  <3 <3

First Lego League – 2017

We had a long, eventful, FUN day at the Lego League competition today!! All three teams did really well, with each excelling in different areas. The coaches did a great job keeping track of kids and getting everyone where they need to be at the right times. No small task!! We were complimented by many for bringing so many teams. There were no awards this year, but the missions worked, the projects were done, and the tears were minimal. (Tears are somewhat unavoidable at high-stress, loud, busy scenes like this when you have kids as young as 4th grade.) Lex’s team really meshed well and he’s already talking about next year. Eve’s team (my team) did not mesh as well and she has been saying all along that she won’t do it again, but today the language changed to “If I do it next year…” We are considering making one of the teams all girls next year. I think that would be fantastic and we already have a lot of girls in the pipeline! We’ll see. For now, here are some pictures, then a wrap-up team party next week, a debrief coaches meeting sometime soon, then we put FLL to bed for the season. Next season’s theme — life in outer space!!

For someone who “didn’t care,” Miss Eve did an awful lot of talking and question answering. I think maybe she learned a little bit, despite her best efforts. :)

All three teams together.

And with the coaches.

I missed the presentations with Red team (since I was busy with Green team), but thankfully the robot missions are all in the same place so I could watch all three teams run their robots!

One of these things is not like the other…

When kids get bored they turn to devices. Hardhats generally not required.

When military folks get bored they turn to push-ups! LOL! The kids had fun joining in the push–up challenges. :)

Final scores for the three teams. Arachdroids Green hit triple digits!

What to do while waiting for the award ceremony to start? How about dancing?! Lots of dancing!

And maybe a conga line. You can’t go wrong with a conga line! :)

One more thing…

One more thing is coming to a close. Tomorrow is the 2017/18 Lego League competition and we are (kinda) ready!! We have three teams, 21 kids, and 10 adults! Not to brag, but I’m largely organizing all of them. :) I take the work upon myself. Eve is not enjoying the season (she’s grumpy these days), but Lex’s team has come together nicely and he’s having a great time. I look forward to seeing all three teams compete tomorrow — and I look forward to it all being over!! :)

My life, in bullet points

  • We are closing on our new house next Friday (Friday the 13th, to be precise!)

We have a lot of mirrors in the master bath vanity!

  • Everything is coming along swimmingly!

We were here for awhile, making faces in the mirrors.  :)

  • We hope to get all the moving done in one weekend. Alan says one day, but I can’t even imagine that. :)

I”m sure she’ll be super helpful!

  • Lego League is going a bit better.  We have divided up into three teams, so the chaos is more manageable.  I have a bad habit of finding myself in charge of things, so I’m pretty much in charge of the Upper Valley First Lego League team.
  • School is good.  No, school is great!  I don’t always love going (so much to do at home!), but I always love being there.
  • I’m in the middle of two grad courses.  One boring and the other super boring!  I posted a minor vent on a closed Facebook group for librarians about my cataloging course and got over 100 replies, most all of them completely emphasize, but a handful who admit to absolutely loving cataloging. It takes all sorts, I suppose.  Glad someone likes doing that stuff and I’m double glad I won’t have to do much of it after completing the program!  :)
  • The kids have both had growth spurts and now have a whole lot of ankle showing.  ‘Tis the season, I suppose.  Probably should do some cold weather shopping soon, before the cold weather really hits!
  • I started a Battle of the Books program at school.  It’s for 4th and 5th graders and will take us through the end of February.  The kids were luke warm at first and I was getting nervous, but last week they got to pick their books and we officially kicked off the project and they were SO EXCITED!  I loved it!  It made me feel 100% more confident about the idea and I know it’s going to be fun!

The brackets are up!

  • I finished making the growth chart I’ve been thinking about for 10 years.  It came out really great.  I’m happy with it and now we can officially move.

Growth chart ruler

  • I am running my first book fair at school in three weeks.  I feel wholly unprepared for it!  The kids at school are very excited and definitely missed it last year.
  • PTO is organizing a Color-A-Thon again this year.  It’s supposed to be bigger and better than last year.  I’m the VP of the PTO and should be helping with this effort.  I’m not.  I do plan to show up for the event.  I hope that’s sufficient for this year.
  • We got flu shots last weekend.  Did you see the photo?  Lex was worried, of course, but didn’t protest too much.  He held my hands and cried a little, but he got himself there, talked himself through the whole thing, and didn’t end up no the floor even once.  Eve smiled for a photo at the end!  I think my babies are growing up!!

Alan says, “Flu shots for a happy family and healthy community.”

  • Eve is playing field hockey this fall and loving it!  She has practices three times a week and one or two games each week (sometimes a game replaces a practice).
  • Lex is belt testing next week for his purple belt.  He’s had the green one so long that the threads are coming out!  He said it’s time to retire the green belt.  We missed a few tests over the summer, so he hasn’t tested in many months.
  • Monday is in-service for me and no school for the kids.  I decided to sign them up for a rec sponsored trip to Jay Peak, a super cool (or so I’ve heard) indoor water park that’s two hours away!  We have talked about going for years, but never made it.  The kids are thrilled that I’m letting them go.  I’m nervous about the distance, but I had a nice email exchange with the parks department director and the details he provided greatly reassured me.  I still don’t love them being that far away without me (am I weird?) but I know they’ll have a great time and ya know, Alan and I have to work, so it’s a pretty good deal.
  • Alan is super busy at work, with town stuff, and, of course, taking care of all the important yet boring parts of this house process, like researching lights and keeping the finances moving forward.  He has been the detail man on this project and has done a wonderful job keeping it all on track.  I just show up with cookies and a camera when the mood strikes!

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.


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.


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!


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)


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.


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


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…


Bud knows karate!


Eve was fast friends.


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.


Time for the actual robotics competition!

Between matches we did decided to get some fresh air!


Rolling down the hill. Everybody needs a break sometimes.


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!


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


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!


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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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!


Running the 200m


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.


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.


The girls


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.


A cool scene.


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


A rotating restaurant.


“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.


No kragle here!


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.


A map of New England.


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


Extra, extra, read all about it!


Eve makes such funny faces in all her pictures.


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.


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!


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. :)


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


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


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.