Saturday, May 07, 2011

iPhone Album

April 10, 2011.

It was a hot day, in the middle of their spring break. Max and Maria were determined to go swimming. One hot day, after a long, cold winter, does very little to warm up a pool. I do not know how they endured this polar water dip!

iPhone, thank you. This reminds me of their bravery, how much they love-love-love the water, and the last year when they will be in the same school together.

April 12, 2011.

I cannot even remember what took us east. But I never go out there without stopping at our favorite market in the whole wide world. Manuel was there, and of course he asked about the boys. Then he offered Maria "any fruit you want... tell me." She chose raspberries, then asked to have her picture taken with our friend, the produce man.

iPhone, thank you. We have known Manuel, and all of the friendly and helpful people at Major Market, since our Rancho Days. I miss living out east, the pace and gentleness, the small town appeal and pride. I am glad we are warmly received whenever we return.

April 14, 2011

Our spring break 24 hour getaway, and playing with our farm animals. William, Alex, Max, Maria, Eli, and I took the GreenGoose and found a beautiful spot next to the creek, and for twenty four hours we played.

iPhone, thank you. It's nice to be reminded how much pleasure can be squeezed into a day. We brought toys, but we also made and discovered toys... like the oak twig fence and the oak leaf pig trough. We made leaf boats, and tree bark barges. Discovery and play... what wonderful gifts these are.

April 15, 2011

Eli and Max, and D&D in a tent. Spaghetti, campfires, oak trees, and raccoons in the night. Did I forget to mention that a helicopter landed nearby, that I thought homeland security was coming for the inventors who were building a furnace so they could manufacture... never mind. We had a real good time.

iPhone, thank you for being so handy and reliable, so easy to use. You are a lovely aide to my brain.

April 16, 2011

An evening at Maria's Park. Bicycles, and Smashball, the setting sun. Families gathered for play. William and Geoff had a seventy-six hit rally, which was impressive considering how many small boys were roughhousing at their feet, and begging for turns.

iPhone, thank you for capturing a moment in an hour, and reminding me that one hour can hold a lot of goodness.

April 22, 2011

Speaking of "goodness."
Oh dear. I wasn't sure I should post this. Have I ever mentioned how much Maria loves barbecue "rubes?" And really, do I need to use 'words' to express the up-to her elbows saucy devotion Maria has for this dish? I remember very well how especially appreciated this meal was. It was Friday night, after the fashion show, and we dropped Alex off to have dinner with the Fashion Guild, then we went off in search of our own dinner. We had the hardest time finding a tasty place we could all agree on, that did not have an hour wait. Maria was crying, the boys were starved and discouraged. At one point, Maria threw off her ears announcing that 'missing Alex and being hungry,' she was 'done with the ears'... it was a tragic, hilarious mood barometer. We did have to wait, and it was very late... but we did finally get our dinner.

iPhone this is priceless. Thank you for capturing the bliss, the healing, the bunny-eared joy. It reminds me that it is possible to overcome tragedy, to laugh again. And whenever I see this picture I will laugh again, and again!

April 29, 2011

St Louis, FIRST Championships.
Would you believe we think of quitting? It's true. We love it, and we need a break. It is far more stressful and challenging than I ever write about. Alex has struggled to feel successful, to feel a part of it, and while he loves designing and building, he does not relish the pressure, the roller coaster ride of expectations and politics. I know how we feels. It's why we need to work on the balance.

iPhone, where does the time go? I know him as the little boy who makes things, dreams things, pictures things, and he is growing up. Fast, and learning more about how the world is complicated, hurtful, amazing, frustrating, crushing, yet fragile. Thank you for capturing this moment that reminds me that minds are brilliant, hearts are resilient, and we keep moving forward.

April 29, 2011

Onstage, in St Louis: The Black Eyed Peas, Willow Smith, and a lot of lights and big screens. This is the concert at Championships. ABC will air this "loud and cool" concert August 14... is and Dean Kamen's collaboration to bring world wide media attention and celebrity to FIRST.

hmmmm... I understand the desire to promote FIRST, but I don't think upstaging the students, insisting they cheer and chant for half an hour so celebrities can make grand entrances, and then compromising the quality of robotics matches to accommodate concert stages is the direction that sincerely promotes science, technology, engineering, and math. I just happen to think the students, the geeks, nerds, wiz kids were cool all along. Old Cool.

iPhone, wow. Even from the nosebleed section, you caught the glitz and flash of a fun concert. Most memorable part: talking with an amazing teacher about schools and plans, opportunities and learning, about our children, our hopes for them. That was cool. And George S., congratulations... I am so happy to learn that Micah and George are off to such amazing places.

April 30, 2011

Caught! Up and out in the hall, past curfew. Apparently I already own a bad reputation, so no love loss here... hahaha. I was just helping Alex get to our room, before everyone else had to make early flights. Darrahl joined us to fill us in on sights he felt we should not miss on our last day in St Louis.

iPhone, you tiny, useful tool, thank you for snapping one last memory of a very full weekend, and for giving me a happy glimpse of what makes our team worthwhile and good. Darrahl, and Bobby... if we ever get back to St Louis I want to go to Bridge with you, and check out a few of those fifty local beverages you mentioned!

It is fitting that Dallas, of For The Journey inspired me to download the snapshots collecting in my iPhone. What are you carrying on your mobile device, in your cell phone? Maybe they aren't the best quality, or the most artistically composed, but those snapshots hold a lot of memories. Life is a journey, and hopefully you find a way to capture and hold moments along the way. I am so happy to have my iPhone for the journey.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

We Met In St Louis

This visit to St Louis was for FIRST 2102 Team Paradox... for four days, but the fifth day was for us. I would like to thank the students, the teachers, the mentors, the parent volunteers, and FIRST, for effort, dedication, inspiration, coordination, organization, stamina... you know: everything! I would like to add a thank you to Tutu, who kept all safe and sound at the Bird House... could not have had any peace of mind without you, Ruth. I would like to thank Delia and Ron, who support us, and the team, on every level... you two help us achieve big dreams, and we are so happy to have you join us in the celebration. And finally, and most importantly, I would like to thank Geoff, William, Max, Maria, and Alex.

We are a FIRST Family. And I like to think we put family first, but that is not always easy. And the strength and grace it takes to balance family needs with individual needs, and dreams, is challenging indeed. Though we are frayed around the edges, and there is some hardcore evidence of domestic neglect... I think we have managed to survive excel through another season of FIRST.

Now for family time. Now for other themes, and other agendas.

I am so glad we had a few hours to spend in St Louis before flying home to chores, and schedules. Sure, we brought our Paradox mascot along, and happy reflections of a long robotics season, but for the most part we were out, visiting new sights, and kind of getting reacquainted with just being a family.

We had lunch together... no meetings, no interruptions, no texting to find out who is where, no scouting, no debating why motors were slowing, or the best way to charge batteries... away from our family dining table, mini-bots and tools were far, far away.

Hello, Ben.

Maria got to have one of her dreams come true... a carriage ride... just like in the movie, Meet Me In St Louis, when the whole family goes to The Louisiana Purchase Exposition!

Only instead of going to the State Fair, we went to the City Gardens! We got our feet wet, and our thoughts loose. We saw beautiful art, and whimsical sights.

Seems playing in water parks is an FRC Championships tradition, now that we have done the same in Atlanta and St Louis!

Eye see you Max.

Thank You, Chickenblog readers... the ones who left comments, made donations, endured my endless robo ramblings. I am tempted to tell you why I love the team and FIRST, and the... I think by now you know. Time for a break, yes? Thank you, though, it is even better with you.

Don't you love art that wants to be touched, can be touched. Like to run up and just grab a hold...

Hug Bun.

I did not read one sculpture plaque or sign. I just walked, and smiled, and listened. I saw new to me flowers, and noticed the changing clouds, the new storm approaching. I noted the boys, walking and talking... it gave me a deeper smile.

Perspective... there is a lot to reflect on.
And a lot to do.

Catching up, and attending to the things that need sorting... this is my new horizon and focal point. I am feeling a bit weary, kind of overwhelmed. It was easier to overlook what was being neglected when I was too busy, but as the robo dust settles, I am aware that we are far off balance.

I will be making a list... two lists actually. One list for me... the things I have to do and must do, and must rise to, and the second list is for God... those things which I am asking for help with, the stuff I cannot manage or sort for myself.

Monday, May 02, 2011

FIRST Celebrities!!

ce•leb•ri•ty noun
1. :the state of being celebrated
2. :a famous or celebrated person.

We are home from St Louis and the FIRST Championship. The rumor was there were going to be a lot of celebrities at this year's Championship... there to make FIRST a loud and cool FIRST.

Well, seeing as how this is Maria's eighth FRC event, including her second visit to Championships, it seemed like a fitting assignment for this Mini-Paradox to go out into the four day event, and do some celebrity scouting. She has always found plenty of admirable, exciting, smart, and passionate people at these FIRST competitions... and she was totally game to put her colors on and see what was in store for FIRST Championships, St Louis 2011!

And here is just some of what Maria found...

FIRST 2102 Team Paradox was invited to Championships when at the San Diego Regional Competition they earned the Regional Engineering Inspiration Award. This highly regarded award "... celebrates a team’s outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering and engineers, both within their school as well as their community." Mentoring FIRST LEGO League Teams, fellow FRC teams in our district and in Mexico, and building a science, technology, and math loving parade robot, are just some of the things FIRST 2102 has done recently to inspire new students and the community to become passionate about engineering.

FIRST 2102 Team Paradox strongly supports the girls on the team staying involved in any aspect of team business they feel passionate about... so, whether it's in the metal shop, at the computers, behind the cameras, on the drive team, or with a clipboard... Victoria and Maria know everyone is valued and capable of contributing to team success.

Cheers for our girl celebrities!

Cheers for our boy celebrities!

In marketing, in build, designing, taking notes, scouting, programming... the work really never ends, and the passion is always there, and that's what it takes to get a team and robots to the Championships, and to keep playing matches, and getting better... it takes diligence and dedication.

Seeing that Victoria had the team pit under control, and that Terence and CLU, the robots, were in good hands, Maria went to the Curie field to do some scouting. Here she is with Olivia, and a mentor from FIRST 1717, D'Penguineers. They are watching matches to see what strengths each team and alliance has, and what strategies can help in future matches. There were matches Thursday, Friday, and Saturday... each of the four divisions had about eighty-eight teams, so there was always scouting to be done.

If it seems as though the teams in FIRST have hardly paused since Kick-Off, then you are beginning to understand the intensity and duration of their commitment. No one on 2102 Team Paradox is coming to FRC to merely talk about science, or to be awestruck by bright lights and party favors. The joy, the fun, the passion... it is instilled, it is hard won, and it has nothing to do with being in a spotlight, or conforming to mass media-pop culture cool. It's the real cool.

We cheer for our Team Numbers.
We cheer for our drive team.
We cheer for the robots.
We cheer for the Blue Alliance, the Red Alliance, the underdogs, the champions, the rookies, the programmers, the designers, the guy that repaired the bumpers, the girl that milled the chassis, the teachers that came to watch, the mentors who stayed to share... we cheer for the passionate players who do this because they love robotics, science, technology, engineering, math, art, and power tools.

In a child's eyes the heroes and celebrities are the people in their lives who lead by example... those people earn a child's trust, those people shine like superstars. Maria finds superstars in 2102 Team Paradox. And I could not be happier that the people Maria looks up to and celebrates are dedicated, smart, and generous people. Our mentors, parents, teachers, and volunteers give their time and passion to support students who want to excel, want to do better, try again... students who want to discover their potential.

Like at any other FRC event, like any day in the metal shop, working at the Street Faire, or when spreading a message of community outreach and charity... FIRST 2102 Team Paradox is there for the pleasure of the challenge, for the opportunity to share ideas with people, to actually do something that makes the world better. Making the world better, maybe one robot chassis at a time, it gives a guy a gratified feeling, a reason to smile.

Amir has reason to smile, and a passion for education, for science, technology, and math. Very Cool indeed.

An author! Writers do make Cool celebrities. Neal Bascomb is the author of The New Cool, the book a dear Chickenblog reader won in our giveaway! I would be happy to pass along another copy... seriously, if my own tales of robo-mania and FIRST passion have not made it clear enough, then Neal Bascomb's book will definitely give you a thorough understanding of what it takes for teams to go through an FRC season... in nail biting-tension building detail. Okay, so if you don't have time... you can always see the movie.

So, how many celebrities have we seen so far?  Hundreds, maybe thousands.  Students, teachers, mentors, an author, volunteers...  And Maria was nearly tireless in her interest and passion to see and meet as many people, robots, mascots,  and robo-math-science fans as possible.  So we covered a lot of ground over four days... visiting all kinds of amazing celebrities.

Celebrities like this bright young man from FIRST 2826 Wave Robotics. We played together on the Curie field, and cheered together in the stands. Anyone in the Oshkosh area should seriously consider paying this Wisconsin FRC winning team a visit.

These cheese heads are not from Wisconsin. They are from Virginia, and FIRST 1086 Blue Cheese is sharp, not stinky... they have the Spirited and Inspiring awards to prove it!

Ah, a local celebrity. It's the team president from FIRST 2984 The Vikings, a Team San Diego favorite! Their stats show, they play like rock stars.

Maria has been passing out chocolate Paradox eggs ever since her second San Diego FRC. She enjoys outreach, making new friends, and representing her team, and sharing FIRST passion with other teams like the Girls of Steel, FIRST 3504.

Daisies! We remember FIRST 341 Team Daisy from our very first FRC event, where they came to San Diego all the way from Pennsylvania Gracious, spirited, and very inspiring... they just keep blooming!

Some celebrities are easy to recognize, like the spirited Team San Diego birds we know as FIRST 1266 The Devil Duckies!

As Maria made her way around the America Center and the Dome, she was sometimes a bit of a celebrity, like when these FIRST LEGO League players from Taiwan asked if they could please have their picture taken with the Mini Paradox. Teams love to celebrate each other, exchanging ideas, support, buttons, hugs, smiles. It's heartfelt. It's FIRST.

FIRST wants to Inspire young people to be leaders in Science and Technology around the world, and so do we!

From FIRST 2102 Team Paradox all the way to Colombia and this inspiring FIRST LEGO League Team Mon~Tech~Ssori. ¡Hola amigos!

Egypt! We had a really great time visiting this all girl FIRST LEGO League Team from Egypt! Karama!

Celebrating Island style! Aloha, Hawaiian Kids! FIRST 359 Waialua Robotics are riding a wave of success from the island of Oahu all the way to St Louis, and they show no signs of slowing down! We remember them well, from FRC San Diego in 2010, and from the beautiful Team Spirit Award they graciously gave to us in Las Vegas. Mahalo nui loa, Hawaiian Kids!

Coolness, wherever you look!
Here are the Mustangs... the FIRST 1281 Wild 'Stangs from Ontario, Canada!

Hola, Tec Balam, FIRST 3527! Y felcidades por ser Rookie Inspiration Award ¡ganadores en St Louis! And team spirit? They have team spirit dancing in the street! They are all stars!

Maria! Maria, this is turning into, like, the longest post ever! And there are still so many winners, so many stars, so many rockin' robo moments to celebrate! From the pits...

to the matches...

with friends...

with silly, dear friends...

and family...

because of mentors...

and because of our team spirit... we found countless ways, and countless people, to celebrate!

Our mini-bots, CLU and Rinzler, like shooting stars... racing to their destination, fueled by design and determination, are worthy of celebration!

FIRST 2102 Team Paradox celebrates ingenuity, design, engineering...

FIRST 2102 Team Paradox celebrates families...

FIRST 2102 Team Paradox celebrates the senior members, and the rookie members, and hopes to inspire new members...

Seeing all of these students who love FIRST, who love to learn, and work on challenging problems was a prize in and off itself, and having this final celebration of what has been accomplished was a sweet finish to an amazing season...

... especially when the lights and cameras were focused on the real celebrities of FIRST, our friends, our peers, our mentors, and teachers, our inspirations.

When the work is finally done, when the team has persevered and played like gracious, professional winners... it feels good to celebrate with those friends, peers, mentors, and the people that inspire us.

It is good to see a familiar face in the crowd, one that you can turn to for support, and encouragement, that will be there to build again in 2012!

That's right... we are already thinking of next year!

So many stars!

So very many bright and shiny stars!
And thank you D'Penguineers for taking us in your alliance in San Diego, and for taking this picture in St Louis!

Well, Maria. You certainly did find a lot of cool and amazing FIRST celebrities! Thank you for bringing us this inspiring FIRST 2102 Team Paradox update all the way from Championships in St Louis!