Saturday, January 24, 2015

What Christmas is all about..

 Christmas morning at the Sweeneys.
The kids come into our room and ask the question, when can they open gifts? 
I tell them to go look for their stockings. The night before I hid them, giving the parents an extra 15 minutes of sleep. 
 If you have not started this tradition at your house you might want to begin. Especially if you are parents of kids who get up at 4 am. 

Mom and dad eventually wake up, pour ourselves some hot tea, sit down with the kids and begin the gift giving.  It is not my top priority every Christmas to make sure my kids get the same number of gifts.  However I do tend to give them similar types and usually that evens everything out. 
As it was getting to the end of the opening of the presents, more of them appeared to have Jane's name on them than Elliot. 
  A week prior I had did a quick overview of the gifts and I remember thinking that it was good, so I was surprised that I missed it.  
The reality is we don't need gifts. We are"rich" Americans who have a house with heat, running water, plenty of food, we own cars, you get the picture. Compared to a majority of the world we don't need anything. Celebrating Jesus' birthday does not require spending any money or spending any extra time to give something to someone else. 
 It is possible we have had this conversation on many occasions with our kids and that is why Elliot decided not to speak up.
 I kept waiting for him to say something, possibly even get upset. If he was bothered, he kept quiet. The things Jane was opening were smaller items, odds and ends, girl stuff. 
He might have said something if she had got an iphone 6 or something.  
I will not be buying my kids smart phones anytime soon.
  He admitted later he had been thinking she was getting more presents.

The last one under the tree is finally opened and it appears that everything is done. 
I am debating, do I say something to Elliot? Slip him five bucks and apologize or  do I let it go, since he will be getting more presents in a week from my family anyway?

Then I remembered the box in the basement.

 I had put it in the basement because it was heavy and had lots of pieces of in it. Pieces I was planning on separating into two or three boxes to wrap up and put under the tree.
 Back in November my friend offered to sell me a large lot of toys second hand. It was a set Elliot had actually seen at their house and wanted.

 I got really excited when I remembered the box and any guilt (justified or not) that was setting in,vanished as I ran down the stairs to retrieve it.

There you have the picture. Elliot opening an unwrapped, not even a taped box.  Inside it contained a large assortment of Imaginext pieces.

This stock photo is an example of Imaginext stuff.
I think I was so happy to see him get it, I turned the camera off shortly afterwards and never snapped a photo of him playing with them.

Every year I try to make our Christmas season less about stuff and more about people and Christ.  If I am feeling stressed and worried about buying gifts and meeting peoples expectations than I would prefer to not celebrate at all.  

 I appreciate the Charlie Brown Christmas Special because it is one of the few Christmas specials that mention Jesus. It is a great reminder that no matter how crazy or commercial an American Christmas can become, it cannot change the true meaning. 
John 3:16

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lego League

This year the kids were part of First Lego League. 
From the website: FLL introduces young people ages 9-14 to the fun of science and Technology. 
This the technology a Lego Mindstorm

 This years theme " How can you help someone learn"   
The kids decided on 'we want to help people learn about the laws of motion,using roller coasters.'
This is where I give all the credit to their coach, had it been me I would have strongly suggested we do something more simple. I wouldn't have gone as far as to actually choose something for them, but I would have narrowed their choices. 
  The coach, however was true to the "FLL spirit" and let the kids make decisions and for the most part run the show.  It was great!
 One of the first tasks was to come up with a name for their team, originally they came up with "too cool for school" it was one kid's idea at being funny about them all being homeschooled. I thought it was hilarious, but after submitting the idea we were told unless the team was really going to be top rate from the start, it might come across a bit pretentious and not be received well. 
 They decided upon The Motion Marvels. 
They had to learn programming to make the mindstorm perform tasks. If the kids couldn't figure out how to make the robot do something, it didn't do it. The person helping with the programming side - I call the robot coach, was also true to the FLL guidelines and did not tell the kids outright what to do. He could have showed them how to run all the programs and made the robot complete all the missions, but he let them problem solve and see if they could figure it out. If they couldn't explain how the robot did the task and actually program it themselves, then it didn't happen. 
The kids had to do research, perform a skit, and answer questions from judges. They aren't just scored and judged on robot performance. So a team could possibly advance and not have the best robot. The competition goes all the way up to World Level.  We were partially sponsored by the high school level team who served as mentors and judges.  Smart kids who know robotics. These kids  -as their tag line suggest- Our next engineers
 will likely enter science/technology based careers. 

At first I only signed up Elliot to be on the team, Jane wasn't interested. Once I saw how many young boys were on the team, I thought they could use some more mature influences and suggested she join. It worked out well since one of her friends was currently part of the team and was the only girl. 

One of the fun aspects of this team was the use of Minecraft.  Their coach runs a Minecraft homeschool site, that uses the computer game in learning.  Part of their research was creating a virtual roller coaster in Minecraft. They were then able to have kids test it out and see if they could learn the laws of physics.  It was well thought out and I think was effective. The kids talked to a guy whose job is to design/test roller coasters. Jane thought his job sounded so fascinating she said she could see herself doing that when she got older. 

 Elliot would have liked it to been more about just playing with Lego.  He did overall enjoy being on the team and he said he would consider joining again. Sometimes that is as enthusiastic as he gets, 
 Jane enjoyed the dancing and music that played while they would wait for the judging. It was fun to see all the kids run out and do the YMCA, line dance or belt out "What does the Fox Say." 
She had a major part in the skit and she answered the judges questions with confidence. 
It is ideally a progressive team event.  There were teams that were well established and had worked together for years. 
It was a overall a  great experience. 
The Motion Marvels- everyone loved their creeper hats. 
This was at a practice meet. It was a lot smaller and everyone got a trophy. A great confidence booster for a rookie team. 

This is them running their robot. It had to be able to do different task on the table. Strict rules on when you could touch the robot and how you ran it. The coach was not allowed inside the pit. 

The skit: Elliot and a another kid are pretending to visit Disney World to ride roller coasters to learn about motion.  He didn't want to wear Mickey Mouse ears so he chose a pirate hat. Not sure what Pirate it is based on since it was bought second-hand but it has a Disney store tag on the inside. 
Jane was a teacher. 
 Elliot has actual Mickey Mouse ears from our trip to Orlando years ago. We didn't realize until after we got them embroidered they were too big. I actually thought when I heard they were doing a bit on Disney,  'great he can wear those ears and they might actually fit.' He had other thoughts.

How time flies.  Jane was four and Elliot was a month shy of turning three. 
In-between time, all the kids dancing. 
Our team did not advance but had fun anyway. 
Not everyone can get a trophy here, but everyone got a participation medal. 
Maybe a trophy next year.. 

lego league from outypants on Vimeo.