Big little things around here

Eve come home yesterday with a few forms to show me. She started pulling them out of her bag and announcing them — course planner for next year, course selection sheet, and a drivers ed application. DRIVERS ED?!? I was NOT prepared for that.

I have been bugging B’Lake to bring home an application so he can take drivers ed this summer. Lex got his license and I was prepared to do the next two in order. The idea that Eve could take drivers ed this summer NEVER even occurred to me! Of course, she will be old enough and could have her permit in time, but in my head it was one kid at a time, not two at once!

Also, Lex and B’Lake are at a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) meet this weekend. They left with their team after school this afternoon, which means they were packing and prepping last night and this morning. This is the first time Lex is off on his own. Not really on his own, of course, but not with parents or grandparents. They are staying in a hotel and taking the bus to and from the competition. Unfortunately (for me) FRC isn’t allowing non-team attendees, so I can’t go watch.

Lex joined the team his freshman year and we went to our first FRC competition in March 2020. Two weeks later the world shut down and all further FRC competitions were cancelled. We all really enjoyed the competion and were bummed that we couldn’t attend any more. Last year the season was all virtual, which wasn’t much fun for Lex. This year they are back in person and able to hold the competitions, even without an audience. I’m happy the kids can do this, even if I can’t be there to watch. :) Luckily they will be livestreaming it, so if you want to follow along, you can do so here: https://www.thebluealliance.com/team/95

I’ll be watching and cheering them on! Maybe my buddy, who can’t possibly be old enough to take drivers ed this summer, will watch with me.

Car Trouble

Lex drives Eve to school each morning, but yesterday they had to go early because Lex had jazz band rehearsal. Eve didn’t want to wait in the school, so Lex let her wait in the car. He told her to turn it off and lock it when she came inside. Apparently she locked it, but didn’t turn it off. In the Tesla you don’t have to turn it off and Lex says his car normally turns itself off after 10 minutes with no key (Eve took the key into the school with her), but for some unknown reason the car didn’t turn off. Later in the day someone told him his headlights were still on and when he got out to check it out the battery had died. 

He texted me mid day and told me the car was dead. My school day was already stressful, so I told him I’d be there after school to get him and we could figure it out then. After school finally came and it was cold and raining. The car was definitely dead. We walked around the parking lot for a bit, looking for an outlet. No luck. However, I did noticed the Rapid Rescue trucks setting up for the weekly vaccination clinic in the parking lot. I accosted some young guy in a Rapid Rescue shirt and asked if we could borrow a generator. He was nice enough to help us out and brought over a generator. He got it running and we plugged the car in. No luck. The car wasn’t charging from the generator. We called Alan for advice and he suggested the smaller starter battery was dead and needed a jump start. Ugh.

I returned the generator to the Covid folks and asked about a jump start, but by this point the clinic had begun and the guy I returned the generator to was less friendly than the first guy, and he said he just couldn’t help at all. Which is totally understandable.

I sent an SOS email to my lovely neighborhood list serve and 10 minutes later my neighbor Sally was there. She had jumper cables and an functioning vehicle. We hooked it all up, but still couldn’t get the car running. We left it hooked up for awhile then tried again. No luck.

By this point we were 90+ minutes into dealing with this, in the rain and encroaching darkness, so I was just ready to give up. I called a tow truck and went home.

The tow truck driver had a jump start kit and was able to get it started enough to release the clutch lock and roll it onto the flatbed truck. At the house he hooked the jump start kit back up and rolled it into the garage. We plugged it in and checked it a few hours later. It was charged and started up with no trouble. Thankfully!!!  

Minecraft in School

Lex had a project for his social studies class (Conflict, Chaos, and Counterculture) and he used Minecraft to show three different examples. I am SUPER impressed with how cool this looks. He showed me his work along the way and I was so impressed at every step.

This shows the whole scene. It makes me think of a digital diorama. On the left is the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the center shows the Jan 6th insurrection, and the right side shows a BLM protest in New York City.
Conflict
Chaos
Counterculture

I have heard a lot about using Minecraft in education, but this is the first real project that I’ve seen that really makes sense. Lex did a lot of reading about the events and looked at a lot of photos to create these scenes.

Math Dept Student of the Month

I got an email this morning….

“The Mathematics Department would like to award Alexander (Lex) Johnson with Student of the Month for October 2021. Lex is currently enrolled in both Computer Programming and AP Calculus with Mrs. Kent.

Lex is a strong AP Calculus student, constantly striving to achieve at the highest level. In computer programming, Lex quickly grasped the concepts and is now on his own, learning a higher-level language to apply it to Minecraft modifications. He sets high standards for himself and is fully invested in his education. Congratulations Lex!”

😊🤗

Champlain College

We went on another college tour today. This time it was a whole day event! They had swag and sessions and presentations and tours and lunch! It is a really nice college in a beautiful city. Lex is definitely interested in their Game Programming major.

Their gaming center was a big hit.
This is where students learn and play
(and probably play and play and play!)
The professor said they put out pong for the parents, but I saw plenty of kids playing too. 😄
Accidental twinning
My new favorite photo! 🤣
Fight club! They make medieval weapons from foam and stuff and then “fight” on the quad. 😄

A big day all around!

School starts tomorrow. In normal town this day would have been spent celebrating the last day of summer and getting ready for school. I think I need another month so I can do those things! Instead today we 1) got news from the judge 2) bought a car and 3) … umm… I guess that’s it. It just felt super big and busy!

The judge in B’Lake’s merits case ruled that merits were found and the boy are to remain in custody! It was a huge relief and I let out a big breath I didn’t realize I was holding. There are more steps in this process, but we now know that he’ll be staying here with us for the foreseeable future and brother will be safe as well. Thankfully!

On the car front, Lex and Alan have been doing some research on used electric cars. If you don’t know, the used car market is HOT these days. And by HOT I mean, cars are flying off the lot and dealers are charging a fortune. :/ They found several used Nissan Leafs and a used electric Ford Focus. We drove up to Burlington today to check them out. Lex drove a pretty red Nissan Leaf, but it was a little more money than we were hoping to spend and the dealer had zero interest in negotiating. He told us his dealership hasn’t sold below list price in many, many months. We decided to go check out the Ford Focus at a different dealership and Lex decided he liked that car better. It’s a 2014 (one year newer than the Leaf) and has a backup camera, which surprisingly, the Leaf didn’t have.

2013 Nissan Leaf

2014 Ford Focus Electric

Lex drove it, Alan drove it, we had a little discussion, and bought a car!! I’m in the process of refinancing the house and will get some money out of it to pay for the car, so Alan wrote a check against his stock account (or something) for the short term and I’ll pay it off when the house closes. I was shocked at how much quicker the car buying process goes when you don’t need a loan!

Eeek! Lex and his first car.

I mean, Lex and his first car and his silly dad. :)

The Focus doesn’t have a long enough range to get from the dealership to our house, so Lex stopped at Alan’s house for a few hours to charge, geek about the car, and have dinner. I headed right home to see Eve for a few minutes and then pick the other one up from his new job. Lex drove himself home in the rain and dark and fog. I worried just the right amount and everything was ok. :)

Alan’s car and Lex’s car. Can you tell the Tesla Model 3 from the Ford Focus? :)

Throughout the whole day I was getting incoming back-to-school emails, website update emails, and having conversations with the bank about the refi and an estate attorney about updating those docs. I felt like a very busy person! :)

Tomorrow we go back to school. Five full days a week. All in person. Lex will be driving himself to and from school. B is taking the bus (unlike the other two, B’Lake says the bus is just fine and he sees nothing wrong with it), and E has chosen to have me drop her off at school each morning, even though that means she’ll get there 45m early each day! She said that beats taking the bus. Our sweet carpool deal from last year was complicated this year because of the closed bridge right between our two houses, making a short drive much much longer and therefore way less convenient.

My bulletin board with 250ish student names on it. :) It looks like confetti to me. ❤

I’m looking forward to seeing all the kids again, and the fun of school, but dreading the humidity in my unairconditioned library and a little anxious about getting back into the swing of early mornings, work/school/work/karate/meetings/activities/etc. I’m already looking forward to next weekend! LOL!

This was my library last Friday morning. 🥵 I can’t wait until they fix the AC!

Lex got his license!

Yesterday afternoon Lex took his driver’s license test. We had to go to a DMV 35 minutes away, because that’s life in a small state in a pandemic. Lex hasn’t driven in a bit since he’s been home all week on a virtual camp, so he wanted to practice his driving and his parking. He knew there would be three key maneuvers that he had to do on the test and he really hadn’t practiced any of them recently, so we decided to leave a bit early. As we were walking out the door we remembered that we had to print his driving log. He turned his computer back on and the printer started having issues. Of course. We finally got it printed, but by then we had lost most of our extra practice time. It was sunny when we left home, but pouring rain when we got there. Lex practiced his parallel parking a few times on a street near the DMV, then we parked in the lot next to another black Tesla and checked in. We had a 3pm appointment, but it still took nearly an hour before we were seen. During which time the instructor passed by and asked if we were driving the Tesla. He said he had seen Lex practicing his parallel parking. 😬 Then he told us we couldn’t do the exam without a front license plate. We said we have a front license plate. He said no we don’t. Then he left to take another kid (before us in line) for their test. We went out to double-check and noticed that the Tesla next to us didn’t have a license plate. On his way past again he asked if we had the completed paperwork (we did) and proof of insurance and registration. So I went back into the rain to get those documents.

Finally it was our turn. We insisted (again) that we have a front plate, then he pointed out that registration is expired (it’s not!) because the paper I gave him said 2020. Ugh. Back out into the rain. I couldn’t find the current registration paperwork, so I took a picture of the back license plate with the valid sticker. Back in the office he told me that a photo of a sticker doesn’t count for anything, but he can issue me a second registration for the low low cost of $16. Basically what that meant is that he could reprint my registration paper (which he could easily view in the DMV system) for that fee. He said he can’t take a kid driving without the paper in the car. He was not mean, but not exactly friendly either. Very curt and short with us. Also, the whole place stunk like cigarettes, chemicals, and stale air. Needless to say I was working hard to stay friendly myself!

I paid the fee and they left for the test. It turns out the test is only 15 minutes and really just involves the three maneuvers (parallel park, turn around, and a hill start). It was still pouring rain and the DMV had closed by this point. I spent those 15 minutes sure that Lex was going to fail the test just because of all the crappy circumstances surrounding him. But nope, he came back in with a big smile and a thumbs up! Yay!!

Then the instructor asked for his identification (birth certificate, ss card, passport) and Lex didn’t have them. Lex had uploaded copies of those things to get his permit online (because the world was closed last summer), so he figured he didn’t need to provide them again. The DMV guy disagreed. He gave us all the paperwork and said to come back another time when we have the proper ID. Fortunately Lex didn’t have to retake the test though!

We went back this morning with ALL of the paperwork, waited less time (but still plenty of time, it is the DVM after all!) and got the job done! They don’t print licenses onsite anymore, so Lex walked out with a piece of paper that will serve as his temporary license until the new, official one arrives in the mail. This morning was quicker, less rainy, and less stinky, so I walked away feeling a whole lot better than yesterday afternoon. Lex walked away happy to be done with it.

They had a big selfie station set up with a sign saying “Looks Who’s Driving Now!” and some fun artwork. Next to that was a poster saying not to take a picture of your drivers license. 😜 Lex had zero interest in a selfie, so I snuck a picture of him getting his picture taken instead. Gotta have some photos!

 

 

 

So, now the real question is, what errand should I send him on first? 😄

3D printing

Lex has been saving for awhile and finally had enough to buy himself a 3D printer! He did the research on the make and model (online research and also personal experience from his 3D printing classes at school) and decided on a Prusa MK3. It came disassembled and so Lex’s first job was to put the whole the together. The pieces were all either metal or 3D printed plastic. Lex said it was like a grown-up Lego kit. :)

Then he printed a few test samples. The printer came with an SD card full of example prints so he could make something right away! We were all eager to watch it! He’s made signs and frogs and dragons and castle… pretty much whatever Eve asks for. :) He is also nice enough to let the rest of of us use it too. I created my own sign (which was harder than it looks!) and after a few tries I got it to successfully print. The issues were all in my design, not his printer.

First test print

It is pretty captivating to watch! :)

I’m such a dork that my first creation was a school thing. :)

Using the provided programs, Lex printed a dragon and a castle. He hasn’t designed anything of his own to print yet. At home, anyway. He’s designed several things at school and printed them during his 3D printing classes.

This little guy is coming to school with me. :)

While we were having fun experimenting with Lex’s new printer, I also got an email saying that a grant I had applied for in the spring was approved. The grant is to get a 3D printer for school!!!  I’m psyched! I’m going to get a different model than he did, which will be neat to experience both. I have so much to learn this summer! :)

Black Belt – Shodan-ho

Lex got his first black belt today! He had a two hour test with an hour of demonstrations afterwards. Parents were invited to the demonstrations and award ceremony. He did AWESOME! I am so proud that he was brave enough on the very first day to put on the gi, and persistent enough to continue going even when it got hard, and committed enough to do a year of karate lessons on Zoom just because he knew the pandemic would end eventually and he wanted to get back to in person lessons.

Well, for a few months they have been in-person at a local park and recently they reopened the dojo as well. Tonight his bravery, persistence, commitment, and hard work paid off – black belt!

Karate in the park.

Running through the basics.

Nai han chi

The board breaking isn’t part of the test, it was just for fun. Lex kicked the middle right out of the board, splitting it into three pieces!

Kudos from Sensei

New belt!

Ari gato gozaimasu (thank you very much)

Look at this amazing person!! 🖤

Then and now

This is the probationary black belt, which is the normal process. They stay at this black belt for one year, then test again for the final belt with their name embroidered on it. Lex will be rocking that belt next summer. Dad, save the date! :)