Monday, January 28, 2013

Les Mis, fan fiction and novels!

I have just seen Les Miserables for the third time.  I do really love the movie, I have to say.  It doesn't take much convincing for Claire to get me to take her.  She has seen it five times and when she isn't doing other things she has ear phones on listening to the 25th anniversary concert of Les Mis. I think we can safely say she is obsessed.  She has memorized every song at this point.

She found the original Les Mis by Victor Hugo on her iPad.  It is quite different from the play and movie.  She is going to try and make her way through it...but I think it is going to be hard slog (almost 2,000 pages) given how "lite" and enticing her other distractions are at the moment.

Last week The Studio had a Les Miserables Masterclass, led by their new singing teacher, Casey who was in the cast of Les Miserables as Fantine's understudy and a factory girl.  Of course Claire is already signed up for lessons.   Casey is also co-producing the Sound of Music this semester which Claire is auditioning for next Thursday.

 ...and did I mention fan fiction (or Fanfic or whatever the cool word for it is?)

So this morning I woke up and went into her room and she looked sad.  I sat on the end of her bed and probed to find out what was wrong.  Apparently a fictional character in one of her favorite fan fiction writer's ebook (?) she follows died suddenly.....AND THAT JUST SHOULDN"T HAPPEN! in full 13 year old drama.

I have heard of other teens getting into fan fiction.  Claire loves the Hunger Games series and the Divergent/Insurgent books.  Other people have used the characters in her favorite series and written spin offs, some of which she follows....something to do while waiting for the next book in the series to come out.  She is also trying to write her own novel and is reading incessantly about other characters and developing her own.

She kindled this book by Nicholas Black and is using it as a guide.  She has a friend who she is writing it with...bouncing ideas off and getting input about what to do.  Hours of FaceTime and giggling, writing into the night and so far she is 11,000 words in.  Apparently the first draft, or manuscript, will be 50,000 words. The final draft will be (she tells me) 100,000 words.  I have never written anything that long before but with this girl, I would never say that she couldn't do it as she surprises me all the time.

I can't believe how much she has changed over the year.  She has evolved from a shy, tom-boyish 12 year old into a tall, giggly happy teenager, full of ideas and discovering all sorts of ways to connect with people who share her passions (and obsessions!)

...and did I mention Instagram....

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Game Design

Tristan has a great friend, Kaya who is designing a computer game for the Huckleberry Hill project.  He is using a game design platform called Game Design 1. Tristan has decided to learn the platform too so that he can make games and have something fun to do with his friend.  The program has good reviews and the nice thing about it, is that you can continue with courses that build on what you have already learned.  The next unit is Game Design 2, followed by Game Design 3D 1 & 2,  and then App Design.  I would love Tristan to be able to make an app.  It is a program designed for 8-14 year olds and is only for the PC.  It is made by Youth Digital.

Tristan completed the first two modules this week and so far so good, he really likes it.  There is a funky teenager who delivers these short video tutorials, full of humor and silliness, the perfect combination for a 9 year old!  You earn points and get cool stuff! (like lasers) to put in your game.

To make a game you have to master this program called Multifusion 2.  You have to program each little object on the game screen to react as you want it to.  It is an exercise in logic and problem solving and just the right amount of challenging for Tristan so that he can do it independently (which I like!)

It would be great to find a couple more kids to do it so we can make a little game making community.  He plans to put his little games on his blog.  Maybe it will turn into a website over time.

(I bought Game Design 1 from the Homeschoolers buyers coop and received the 30% discount.  I found out about it from this wonderful lady at Frogcreek!)


Meanwhile Tristan's Minecraft Club is taking off.  Now the library has increased capacity and the room was filled to brim with noisy boys!

It was so nice for me to meet other Mom's with boys in neighboring towns my son's age. It was fun to share ideas about safe servers and other resources out there for kids to use.

Also this week we were contacted by a mother in a neighboring town who wants to set up a club in her local library.  She had seen an article (or ad?) for Tristan's club in Parenting Magazine.  During the week Tristan made some web tutorials showing how to get Minecraft skins and how to share your LANworld with your friends.  He used iMovie and it was very easy to do.

We showed the tutorials on the big screen at the library, however the sound was an issue.
A room of boys playing Minecraft is loud, and the sound was drowned out.  Instead we are sending links to the club members.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Huckleberry Hill update

The Huckleberry Hill Project (2HP) has been growing and evolving into what it is meant to be.  2HP is essentially a day where young children get together and work (individually and together) on an individually chosen project, that represents an expression of who they are.  They come up with a way to express and share what they are passionate about. It doesn't really matter what the project is as long as it is very meaningful to them, as they are required to do all of the work (with ample assistance from the surrounding parent body).  The children use a myriad of real life skills to manifest their vision, transferable skills that they will use on their next projects.  Essentially, this is a group of kids visualizing their future and acquiring the skills they will need to go out in the world eventually and turn a big idea into reality.  I enjoy this part so much, watching them grow and seeing their ideas evolve.

I thought I'd post a few of little 1 minute videos the kids made about their projects.

In the afternoon we have the documentary making portion of the program.  This is where we all get together as a group and work on a group project.  We want to make our documentary about food, and making sure we have access to safe food, free of GMO's and chemicals.  We have been researching GMO's in particular, learning to use the documentary making equipment and starting to formulate our plan for the documentary.  Next week we are starting  a new phase of our project which is growing food at home and in our neighborhoods and documenting the process of doing that.  Each family is going to work out how they would like to do that this year and the kids are going to research and find their own method of growing a particular food, such as growing lettuces in plastic bottle towers or hydroponic peppers.  We are using heirloom seeds and I am looking forward to getting an early start on this summer's garden. We have some field trips in the works and I am looking forward to transform my deck into a summer vegetable garden!

Tech class and the super collar

The tech class has been humming along.  Claire has been making this high tech "super" collar with Blythe.  The super collar has an LCD screen, camera, accelerometer and will have a GPS.  They have it all attached to a basic stamp circuit board. Today they were testing it on Tuggles and making a schematic for the electronics.

The big lego mess in the background has to do with Tristan picking out all of the green and grey lego to make a 4ft x 4ft landscape that his Minecraft rover is going to carry out missions on.  He is doing that with his friend Lewis.

Doesn't look like any fun at all...does it?  Hopefully these projects will be ready for the Maker Faire in April.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Dancing is now a big part of our lives.  Tristan has to move. In fact looking back it is obvious now that he should have been dancing up a storm from a much earlier age.   I have spent these past 5 years trying to get my little compressed spring to sit and write and do his work on his own.  Well, all I can say is, that to stay sane you have to work with what you have.

This school year I have been concentrating on movement and finding discipline in that process.  I figure that if he finds discipline in his body movements, meaning if every move he makes is intentional, this will carry over into his work. To this end Tristan has been working on his brown belt in karate, attending classes in parkour (where he learns to move his body efficiently over obstacles and land safely) and breakdancing.

Breakdancing has become a passion for Tristan, an outlet where he can really push himself, use all of his strength and show off at the same time.  It is a social dance where his fellow breakdancers are constantly showing their new moves.  He is making up moves and he has a whole new set of excuses for doing his math upside down! He has two mentors, Nicole and Luis who are his heroes.  He has two buds with whom he would breakdance with all day if he could (and play Minecraft!)

We were early
I think last time I was talking about dance on this blog, Tristan was preparing for his first dance competition (dance battle) in Westport last November.  His teachers are professional break dancers who compete and train almost every night.

They are amazing at what they do.  They also organize the coolest events. They have DJ's who break beats with their hands on record players using real records...remember those! The event was an ecclectic mix of people who love to dance. So much fun!

Warming up

Cool DJ

Nicole trying to relax Tristan who was so so so nervous!

Proud parents watching our kids dance.

Tristan was knocked out in the semi final with a tie breaker and was very pleased with himself.  The next night we headed out to this nightclub in Danbury to see his heroes in action.  Some of the best breakdancers in the world had showed up for a "crazy eight" battle and to celebrate Sweet Lu's (his teacher) 12th anniversary of breakdancing.  The moves were mind-blowing (and ear drum blowing).  It was great to see the action and Tristan was inspired. He kept saying, "dancing is my life" and "I am is what I do."  So we are going with it.

Calypso cafe "crazy eights" battle with DJ Lean Rock in Danbury

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lucky Tails update

Underdogs to the Rescue arrive!
Just in case you thought that Lucky Tails might be slowing down, I have a little update.  Now an official Animal Importer, Claire has reached out to some other high kill shelters, one in Ohio and a second one in North Carolina.  She wants to expand her network and options. One of the shelters requires an operations manual from her rescue which she is working on.  Yesterday a shipment of 4 dogs arrived from Georgia.

This is Mocha (our foster dog)
Claire wants to be recognized as a responsible rescue organization. She has tweaked her protocol to make sure that she conducts her business to the highest standards that she can, including microchipping her dogs.

This little cutie (not ours) came with its Mom.
All out of state dogs are immediately delivered to her partner animal hospital.  There the dogs are bathed and undergo a wellness exam.  Comprehensive fecal tests and any other tests deemed necessary by the vet are administered and all the dogs are microchipped.

The dogs are delivered to the foster homes where they stay for a while to get used to being in a family.  This way Claire gets accurate information about the personalities of the dogs and whether they are suitable for families with children, good with other dogs and cats and how well mannered they are.  The dogs stay in foster care until Claire is confident that treatable health issues have been resolved and she has found a well matched adoptive family.

Claire rarely makes any money through this process. Any gains quickly goes into vet bills for dogs who need extra care, such as Molly who needed teeth pulling and Jesse who had a lipoma.  Thanks to the generosity of family and kind friends (especially the generous support of the Cosar family and their staff at Ridgehill Animal Hospital) Claire has been able to collect enough donations to make it all happen.  Thank you!

Washing the dogs here is much better than in our bathtub at home!
It took two vets 1.5 hours to process 4 dogs

Friday, January 18, 2013

Minecraft Club

Andrea the children's librarian
Saturday was a big day for Tristan.  Over the past few months he has been working on a project for Huckleberry Hill.  He had to choose a project in line with his passion and manifest it.  He decided to try and set up a Minecraft club for children in the community that love Minecraft as much as he does.  Tristan wants to meet other boys in our town to play Minecraft with.

We came up with a plan and documented it on Simpleminds (iPad app).  He made appointments with the local librarian and convinced her to set up the club in the library.  He then worked with the IT guy at the library to make sure everything was set up so  the children could play on his server.

Huckleberry Hill is all about children manifesting a dream.  Children are supported and helped as they try and make their dream happen.  The process of making Tristan's dream happen involved learning a lot of new skills and exposure to different productivity tools that he will have in his tool kit going forward for future projects.

Dale the IT guy
These are some of the tools he used:

Simpleminds App (iPad): brainstorming app, that allows you to record and remember your ideas, where you left off on a project and what is still needed to do.  It is a great way to get back on track quickly after a break.

Google Sketchup (Mac): free 3D drawing tool that allowed Tristan to draw a building quickly and visualize how to build something in Minecraft.

Google Earth: (Mac): tool that allows you to see the ground that you want to map out (amongst other things) and draw a map that could be replicated in Minecraft.
The Flyer

Blogger: free blogging tool that he used to make his own blog to share his progress.

Notes (Mac): notetaking steps to making a server as a backup

Pages (Mac): Word processor to make the flyer for the library

All of these skills are transferable to his next project.  Actually finishing a project and seeing your idea manifested is great motivation to start another project.

Add in the paper
Tristan had 16 kids show up to join his club.  It was a boisterous, productive group.  The librarian decided to continue hosting the club through February and there were smiles all around. Mission accomplished!

Now I am of course wondering what his next project will be.

Setting up on the first meeting of the club

Friends came in support