Tuesday, January 17, 2017

INFINITY SQUARED

Back in August Clark came to me and said he wanted to coach a FIRST Lego League team.

I shuddered.

This would be a major undertaking and require a lot of time.  A friend and I had talked about coaching a team the following year, but not this year.  I wanted to savor this one and only year I had everyone at home, before my birdies started leaving the nest.  I didn't want to be stressed out with yet another time commitment.   I somewhat grudgingly agreed to be the official adult coach, but made sure Clark understood that he and his fellow youth mentors would be running the show entirely.  My friend and I helped organize the team, collect fees and get them registered, but then we would be coaches in name only.

I did end up being slightly more involved (but not much) than in name only.
I did have to rally the troops frequently to clean the house for our bi-weekly meetings.
We did have to sacrifice some living space for the huge table the challenge was set up on.
It did take well over 4 hours a week for almost five months.

And yet,  the whole experience was so much more rewarding than I ever anticipated.  In fact, being a part of the team, working together with most of the family, ended up being the means of accomplishing the very goal I hoped for the this most precious year of our lives.
Our regional FLL tournament was this past Saturday.  We gathered at 6:40 AM to finish accessorizing our look and loading up the vehicles. 
Our team name was "Infinity Squared".  Thanks to a talented mom (not this talented mom), the girls all had matching green hair bows and black and green gel nails for the occasion.  
The two people-mover vehicles were decorated and spirits were high!
Abe snapped this pic as we made our way to a middle school in Sandy where the competition was.  Abe had to work during the day, but he was able to be there for the opening and closing ceremonies.
There can only be 10 members on a team, and it would appear we have way more than that.  However, we have four youth mentors-- Clark, Corrine, Ben, and Bethany.  Plus we have younger siblings who are not team members, but are tagging along to cheer the team on.
Darn it, it's kind of blurry.  Oh well.  There was a terrific energy with this group.  There were four sets of siblings and two singles.  The kids responded so well to the teenage youth mentors-- who were fun and inspirational and knew their stuff.  
The team's age range was 9 to 13-- which is the youngest and oldest allowed on an FLL team.
There's a lot of downtime at competition, and our team spent much of it dancing.  
I won't bore you with the details of everything that goes on at competition, but there are four main categories you are judged on-- Project, Robot Design, Core Values, and Robot Competition.  Our kids were very well prepared in all of them.
The mentors keeping their cool while the team was in with the Core Values judges.
As you can imagine, Peter was a bundle of energy all day.  In hind sight, paying a babysitter might have been worth it.
Our project poster and our Core Values poster, along with four team members.
Elinor and Faith were on the team, Clark and Bethany were mentors.
Team Infinity Squared-- plus Pete.
The back of the shirt.
See that tall girl in the green shirt?  Yeah, she's awesome!  Elinor was so amazing!  She worked so hard programming the robot-- which robot was capable of completing some pretty incredible tasks.  At the actual competition it didn't perform quite as well as we'd hoped.  You'd think a robot would be more dependable, but alas-- it is made of Legos.  Nonetheless, it did good enough and that was enough for us!
Notice the guy in the brown shirt and sombrero?  He was on Clark's Lego League team when they were little guys and is currently on Clark's FIRST Robotics Competition team.  It was comforting having Tanner there as a volunteer helping to reset the tables. 
She and I spent a considerable amount of time together  in the week leading up to competition as she programmed and I helped reset the table.  To this day I still have no idea how to actually do the programming.
Sitting in the stands.
Dancing in the stands.
How did we do at competition?  I'd say pretty darn well.
We won the Core Values award (One of the five biggies) and we were one of 6 teams out of 20 that got an invite to the State Tournament in February.  It was more than just a little exciting and very rewarding.  But the season had already been a success in my estimation.  
It was a success because we got to work together as a family, along with other friends and families.  We were focused on a project.  We had thrilling moments when a program worked and the robot did just what we wanted it to.  We had lower points when frustrations ran high and feelings were hurt.  We got excited about ideas, we played games together, we worked together as a team.  The very thing I thought would take away from "my year with my family" ended up being the very vehicle that made it just what I hoped it would be.
To my Clark, I thank you.  You are a force to be reckoned with.  You have vision and leadership abilities that never cease to amaze me.  Thank you for making team Infinity Squared happen.  I love you and will look forward to writing you on your mission to let you know how Team Infinity Squared does next year!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Frog and Toad

I'm pleased to introduce you to our long time reading mascots-- Frog and Toad.  Abe's wonderful mother gave them to us years ago and they have occupied a place of honor on the bookshelves for roughly fifteen years.  I love Frog and Toad.  I feel very protective of them.  It is a near unforgivable crime in this house to remove Frog or Toad's clothing.  Ask my children and thy will tell you-- Mom freaks out if someone removes their clothing!

A few days ago I saw an article in the Arts section of the newspaper that a local theater was putting on A Year With Frog and Toad-- a musical based on the children's books by Arnold Loebel.  I completely adore these book and have loved reading them with all my beginning readers.

My first encounter with Frog and Toad was at Abe's parent's house, shortly after we were married. The first story in the original Frog and Toad book is entitled "The List".  Toad makes a list of everything he's going to do that day, but when it blows away in the wind, he is distraught and cannot move on because he doesn't know what is next on his list.
This was so funny to me, because at the time, and still somewhat now, Abe was a hard-core list maker.  So I bought him the book for Christmas and I've loved all the books ever since.
Recently, George has discovered these books and has requested they be his books I read aloud to him.  I was more than happy to oblige.  So when I saw the play was being produced locally, I knew I HAD to go on a date with George.  I would have loved to take all the kids, since they all loved Frog and Toad, but the budget suggested a single date with George would be more feasible.  He was the perfect age at the perfect time for a perfect evening.
Here is George at the end with Frog and Toad live and in action!  The show was completely delightful!  Because George was so familiar with the stories, he got quite a kick out of recognizing everything.  He laughed through the whole thing. The music was catchy and it was a high quality production.
Two of the things I enjoy so much about the Frog and Toad characters are their friendship and their joy in the simple things in life.   I want to be more like Frog and Toad.
George was tuckered out by the time we got home.  This was a magical evening with this sweet six year old boy and I was so thankful to get to have such a fun outing with him.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017- One Week Down

Two thumbs up from Peter!  This little Mr. is doing so, so well!  His communication is improving leaps and bounds by the day.  His frustration levels are way down.  He is sleeping well.  He is eating well.  He is happy and hugging everyone.  He has even--- if you can believe it--- had several glorious potty training moments.

I know.
I can hardly believe it myself.
And for my new favorite picture-- Pete and Gret.  Oh, how he loves her.  He will on occasion tell me to put her down.
"Down.  Down."
That means I am to put her down and pick him up.  Frankly, I am so overjoyed that he is using a word to tell me what he wants rather than screaming, that I will happily oblige.
Here he is, back with his favorite activity--- his trucks and his kinetic sand.
George decided he wanted to join Cannon in his all boys hip-hop dance class.  
No problem!  Boys tuition is half-off at the dance studio and we're already headed there.  Brilliant!  
George loved his first day.
The dancing Fox boys!  How fun.
You know what's not fun?  Cavities.  
We've had a really good track record, but Faith (poor thing) just shattered it.  I swear, we went to our regular dentist in August.  Everyone, including Faith, had a clean dental bill of health.  So how she got FIVE cavities in five months, I do not know.  
At least Faith got a carton of ice cream to herself to eat the day she got them filled.
The cavities were on Thursday.  Not fun.  
But Saturday, she and I and Greta went to the opening meet for the University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team.  Very fun.  We took TRAX up and had such a delightful time together.  What a treat!  Greta did great until the last event when the U was on the floor exercise and the arena was going nuts.  That was a little too much excitement for her.  But she liked riding on the train and looking all around.
Our seats weren't very close up, but they were on the first row of the upper bowl and we could put our feet up on the concrete ledge in front of us.  Very comfy and on the aisle, so I didn't have to worry about needing to make an easy exit with Greta.  
Watching Faith's enamored face as she watched the meet was well worth any discomfort I felt being on the University of Utah campus.  
Kidding.  
Okay, not really kidding.  I'm uncomfortable there.  I heard a snotty boy make a rude remark about BYU on the TRAX train going up and I almost picked a fight on a train full of U fans.  
Kidding.
Okay, not really.  
But I can go do something I enjoy with my girl who I enjoy even more.  And I'll clap along, but I won't stand up for the fight song.  I must draw the line somewhere.   
In the latest edition of "Why are the Foxes so Weird?"  I present you with a charming little game they play on occasion.  It's called "Prison Guard".   They set up the gymnastics mats in a continuous circle so there is no exit.  And the prison guard (Bethany in this game) pretends to be the guard and won't let them out.  
That's it.  That's the whole game.  
They love it.  
Okay, well, Peter wasn't loving this particular moment.  Don't worry, it's not real prison and there is no abuse.  He was promptly removed from prison.  
Some kids just have no imagination.
And as in any good game... it ends in wrestling.
Last week we had quite a bit of good snow fall.  Abe, being the great dad that he is, promptly took Team Middle Kids out to build a snow fort.
It was impressive, although not a free-standing structure.  They did use some supports for the roof.  If it means my children won't get trapped in a collapsed snow fort, I'm good with it.
It has been so very cold lately, but today warmed up and tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer.  Hooray!  The freshly fallen snow is so pretty, but let's get it all melted away before it turns gray and nasty.
I think I'm going to have a really good night's sleep tonight, because of this...
Greta had her first bites of rice cereal!  She loved it!
It would not appear so from this picture, but she was gobbling it up.   And then spitting it out.  And then gobbling up some more.  
She does look rather alarmed in these pictures.  I assure you she was happy.
Oh, she is so yummy!
Patience, patience my little Greta.
Here's hoping for a good night's sleep tonight.  
But if not, at least I'll have adorable company!

New Years Eve 2016

I usually get a little blogged out and then I forget to write about New Year's Eve celebrations.  We have had the same New Year's tradition for 9 years straight-- GAME NIGHT WITH THE JOHANSENS!   We play games and eat treats from about 6 pm until about 1 am.  This year was no exception, except that we had even more fun that usual.  I don't know why-- nothing was really different-- but we both agreed it was just a super fun time.
Look, even Greta is having a marvelous time!
Jeff and I both have very unfortunate "game faces" on.  We had a great game of liars dice.
Guys playing a fun card game.
There is usually some playing of the wii for the younger crowd.
Some "Just Dance" is part of the entertainment.
At the stroke of midnight there is always dashing out of doors...
... and banging on pots and pans.
And there is some smoochie-smoochie to ring in the new year.
Our New Year's Eve celebration is a a simple one, but it has brought us so much enjoyment over the years.  Many thanks to the Johansens for their friendship and fun times together