Saturday, March 23, 2013

Family robotics

We are into our second week of robotics using the NXT micro controllers.  We are using this book and building (and programming) the robots to undertake 5 missions.  Each mission takes 3 sessions to complete.  Our first mission is to navigate a tunnel and wait 30 seconds on a pressure plate to activate a secret door.   One of the Dad's is an IT engineer.  He is teaching the kids how to program.  We have another fantastic IT engineer solving our technical issues! and the rest of us do the best we can to assist in understanding the building instructions in the book and finding parts!

Today was filled with many ah-hah moments as the children discovered what all the programming blocks do.   I enjoyed watching the dads spend time with their children.  Usually we are a bunch of moms with our kids.  Having the dads participate adds a whole new element that is great for for the boys.  It was a real family event.

Next week we finish programming the robots.  Then of course we will film them accomplishing the first mission and take a lot of photos before dismantling the robots for the next challenge. It was a lot of fun to watch the boys getting into it.  The more they learn about it, the more they are getting into it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dancing up a storm

Recently Tristan was invited to join a group of young break dancers to form a crew.  His crew is going to meet once a week for 2 hours and train together.  The crew is being trained by his teacher and mentor Luis and crew of the current Battle Toadz.  Tristan is more than excited to have a crew of serious dancers to train with.  His two best buddies have been invited too.

Breakdancing is not just a street dance these days.  There are breakdancing groups all around the world.  In Korea, breakdancing is a state sponsored sport where the athletes are paid the minimum wage to train.  There are international competitions where breakdancing teams come from all over the world.  Recently, there has been a push to set up statewide breakdancing franchises across the country.  Each franchise will have a team.  Only four states have franchises thus far and Connecticut is one of them.  Tristan's crew will be the first rung on the path to joining the CT team.

I am thrilled that he will be hanging out with a group of mainly boys and be mentored by older dancers passionate about their sport.

Right now Tristan is concentrating on building his core strength and balance.  He trains hard. He dances less than half of his 90 minute lessons.

Tristan's crew will start training in April.  In the meantime Tristan has been training with the Battle Toadz.  United Outkast members mentor the younger team.  It has been fun watching Tristan get to know the dancers.

There is a dancers code.  In order to be on these teams you must be dedicated, kind and supportive of other team members.  It s a very cohesive group with its own culture.  No one drinks or takes drugs for example, even when they celebrate.  They work too hard.  They are always trying to better themselves.  Tristan knows that you don't talk when you train.  You make sure your shoelaces are tied.  You are always making the most out of your training.  You listen to advice.
You are a role model for younger members.
You don't miss a training.

It is a great feeling to see him aspiring to be his best self.

His next competition is coming up in the next couple of weeks.  He is battling with his teacher (in a team of 2) against other experienced break dancers.  I can't wait.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lucky Tails update

You might have noticed that I haven't been writing much about Lucky Tails lately.  I guess it is because Claire has had a challenging couple of months with her dogs.

Roxy was adopted very quickly but the others have proven to be difficult to find homes for.

We are waiting to see whether Zucchi will go to a new home on the weekend after an unsuccessful trial at a new home 2 weeks ago. There has been no interest in Mocha.  Both of these dogs are brindle Pitbull mixes.  Not the most popular combination.

It has been hard watching Claire juggle finding long term foster care for them and coping with one disappointment after another.  Still, valuable lessons are being learned and she is continuing, albeit more cautiously.  She will be choosing more marketable dogs to rescue in the future. It is a shame that there are just so many abandoned dogs in need out there and so many euthanized every day.

Meanwhile Mocha has been staying with us these past 8 weeks and she has grown on the whole family.  She is a very sweet, exceedingly loyal dog.  She follows you around and is always so excited to see you.  Her constant happiness is contagious.  She is cuddly, affectionate and gentle and has some adorable quirks.  She lies on the floor for example like a stretched out frog. George is teaching her to fetch and she learns quickly.  She also gets on very well with Tuggles and keeps him fit, chasing him all around the yard.  Everyone wants to keep her.  I would prefer to have one dog (just Tuggles), but George is wearing me down as he has fallen in love with this little one. I am still holding out.

Her legs crack me up.  She looks like a mechanical dog! So cute!

Friday, March 8, 2013

The book

I think it was at Christmas time Claire started to write her book.  A year or two ago she started writing one about this girl and gladiator fights.  She had a notebook full of pictures and ideas.  Since then she read the Hunger Games and the Divergent series which sparked a new yearning to write a book.  She has partnered up with her best friend and they have been spending countless hours face timing and discussing all things book related.  Claire has used this book as a guide and has been writing everyday.  She writes 3-4 hours every day, mostly at night and sometimes quite late.

This project is a series of 3 books.  She is over half way through the first draft of the first book which is currently 73,000 words.  The parents have only been allowed to read the first chapter of the 25 they have put together.  We know the title and are not allowed to divulge any information. All I can say is that it is a fantasy fiction in the style of the books that she likes to read.  They plan to release it June 3rd.

Writing a book is all consuming.  She hurries to finish her compulsory work so that she can write.  Her characters seems real to her and she is constantly talking, planning, researching things for the book.
...sometimes I find myself saying "come back to reality, Claire!"  Marlin, her writing partner ordered her to take a two day break!  But now it is writing as usual every night.

Claire has also been working on book cover design and making "edits" for Instagram accounts.  This has involved learning 4-5 iPad apps and designing current art work that is uploaded onto Instagram sites.  She has her own Les Mis related accounts onto which she posts her artwork and gets feedback from her followers. Of course I have been watching this closely.  It takes up time and I worry about the opportunity cost of her time spent here.  Then recently she was approached by an author whose book is being published soon by Random House and who asked Claire to do artwork for her.  I am still watching....

I find myself marvelling at this little seed that is growing , changing and "becoming" in leaps and bounds around me.  I don't believe that I can be anything but a guide as she forcefully carves a path out for herself.  I asked her if she is still a dog rescuer at heart.  "You might be a writer at heart!" I said.  "No, I am a singer and a stage actress who also loves dogs!" she replied, "I am just writing for fun!"