Friday, January 28, 2011

Working some things out

And then she threw me out of the car. Out of the car. The day after I had my knee fixed, two miles from the house. No crutches. “GET OUT”, she screamed over the sound of the kids crying in the backseat.
Terror, that’s what it is. I got out to calm the boys down. Started to walk home. Slow walking on one leg. Think it is possible to hitchhike on the main road. The only hill in this town, and I am at the bottom of it.
She has been angry for years, but nothing like this. Pissed at me for hurting my knee and having to get it fixed. Not sure how that could have been prevented. Pissed at her new job. Pissed at her family. Pissed at me. Pissed that when I got home yesterday, I could not cook, clean or watch the boys. She had people coming over for drinks that afternoon and needed help, damn it. “Get off the sofa, vacuum and cook—Now! Get the kids bathed before people come over too. Is the laundry done?”
Today she called to say that her friends from work were coming over for dinner, so I needed to make sure everything was picked up, clean and dinner started. “Go to the store and buy wine and food. NOW! Pick me up from work, NOW! Is all that stuff done? Why not?”
“Rufus just went down for his afternoon nap, and um, I shouldn’t be driving on the pain killers, and my knee won’t bend to get into the car.”
“There is nothing wrong with you! Come get me now!” “You can’t get a ride from your friend who lives next door?” “I don’t have time to contact her, just get me, can’t you understand anything?”
“I really don’t want to wake Rufus, and you can walk home before it is time to get him up”
“Just put him in the car, and get over here. I need you to pick me up, we have people coming over for dinner or did you forget? I bet you didn’t even get to the store to get what was on the list!”
“No, I didn’t get to the store, because I can’t drive with the leg and drugs”
“The only thing you had to do today and you were too lazy and stupid to do it. I think the boys and would be better off without you; you’re like a third helpless child. “
“OK Roo, let’s wake up, and change your diaper. We’re going to pick up Mommy!”
“Come on bud, let’s get ready”
“mmmmnnnnnhhh Bb Mdoleode Ieee”
Good diaper clean. Not cranky yet. Time get his brother and get into the car. It hurts to walk down the stairs, holding a kid. Not really safe.
“OK Aaron, Time to get into the car”
“Aaron, we need to pick up Mommy”
“No, wanna watch Thomas”
“Where the hell are you?”
“Getting the guys into the car.”
“Hurry up, I need to be home by now, or do we have to stop at the store?”
“Yes, we need to stop at the store, and I need to get Aaron to the car”
“What is your problem? It is not that hard to do, I do it every day with no problems, you are not that helpless, I need your support for this, and you give me nothing, all you were to do was a few things and you can’t do that”
“If you let me off the phone I can get going”
“I thought you said the boy’s weren’t ready and Rufus was asleep, and don’t speak to me like that, I will let you know when I am done talking to you, you don’t tell me what to do, I had to go to work today, and you got to stay around the house all day, I didn’t get to do that, and you throw that in my face like you always do. I really think you need to decide on how you are going to treat me better and give me support, which you never do, and I support you all of the time, give you all that you need and never complain, and here I ask you one simple thing and you fight me about doing that. Do you understand? How hard is it? Just get over here, now!”
Now trying to carry two boys at once, on one leg, with one struggling to stay home, both starting to cry, me trying not to. Get them buckled up into their car seats, at least that was never a struggle. Pry myself into the car, and hope I don’t have an accident. Now my mind starts running, images and words. What I should have said on the phone and how she would have reacted. Yeah sure you do it every day, after I wake them up, clean them up, feed them, make lunches, and then pick them up at day care at the end of the day. Nope I never do a thing. Yeah, I didn’t go to work, school ended two days ago. I have the summer off until school starts in August. Was going to teach summer school, but it was more cost effective to stay home this summer. Why the hell did you have to go to work today? Your summer session starts in two weeks and your grades were done for spring semester a few weeks ago. You could have stayed home and done what you did today. What is wrong with me, why can’t I do better? How much can I do? Support? What the heck does she mean? Raffi on the CD player. I can sing better than he can. Wish I could play guitar. Joshua Giraffe, Joshua, Joshua…
“OK guys we’re here! Let’s go see Mommy!”
“Go on up to her office I will be right there”
There she is with Aaron and Rufus all over her, talking cheerfully to our neighbor, both of them walking out of the building.
“Thanks for offering me a ride, but we have to do a few things, see you in a bit!” she calls out.
To me: “I wish you would not let the boys come up to my office like that, I was in an important meeting when they started to bang on my office door, how unprofessional, what do the others in my department think of you for doing that?”
“Could you please drive, I should not be and it hurts to drive with this knee like this?”
“I’m tired of you using your knee as an excuse, I worked all day, I can drive, but you know I am tired. What did you make for dinner? We are having 8 people over you know. “
“I know, and I did not get to the store, and I did not start dinner yet, as I said I could not get to the store and did not know what you wanted me to make”
“WHAT?! We have people coming over in an hour, and you have not started dinner? Did you get the house vacuumed and the bathrooms cleaned?”
“I got some of that done, probably not good enough for you” oops! Should not have added that last part. Dang drugs. The boys start getting upset.
The car slams to a stop, the boys are now crying.
“GET OUT” she screams “Out of my car!”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Working with First Robotics Team 340. Year 3

As readers of this blog know, I have been working with FIRST Robotics Team 340, Greater Rochester Robotics for three years. In the past I have written about this being real problem based learning, that must have been the theme for the first FIRST year. I am once again amazed with what these students learn and how they go about solving a complex problem in six weeks.

All FIRST Robotics teams found out about this year’s game, Logomotion, at the season kick-off on January 8th. Our team, for the second year, held a tailgate party in the parking lot of the Theater on the Ridge, one of Kodak’s buildings in Rochester. A freezing good time was had by all. After the kick-off, we went to work.

One of the most excruciating times is the meeting on kick-off day. Excruciating, but necessary. It is then, we go over the rules and discuss what the team will focus on for the build. Brainstorming is never pretty, but it is needed for all to have input. It would be all too easy for the adults to tell them what we are going to build and how to go about it, but that is not the point of FIRST, it is for students to do the work and adults to help and advice. Sort of like some boy scout troops in the world, some are really boy run, others are run by the adults, which do the kids learn more about decision making and leadership? Just as I am sure there are some FIRST teams out there where the adults do all of the work, and the students? I really don’t know.

Last week students started to build prototypes for parts of the robot. This is where they can let their creativity shine. They had several ideas for the “minibot” built and tested, and re-tested. It is nice to see how they learn from problems and make fixes. It looks as if we will have a good minibot to climb the pole at the end of the game. Delivering the minibot to the pole at the end of the game is a future concern.  Another set of students have been working on the problem of picking up and delivering the inner tubes to the scoring rack. This group has in turn broken up into smaller groups to work on their ideas. They met last night and discussed their ideas, and showed some rough prototypes. All of these look promising. This piece is critical for the game, it needs to be robust and simple. Weight of the piece is also a concern, as it needs to be lifted about 10’ off of the ground and not tip over the base of the robot.

We have groups working on the frame, programming and electrical components. Programming and electrical are in their own room so they are doing whatever they are doing.

Watching the students grow and learn over the years is fun. My oldest son, who is a senior and also in his third year (there is a connection, you know), is the head of electrical. Seeing him work and plan is great. His knowing so much about electronics is amazing, and this hands on experience will help him next year as he goes off to college to study engineering. A quick disclaimer, he has a wonderful Project Lead The Way program at his school, where he has learned most of this stuff.  But seeing him put this knowledge to work is very nice.

My youngest is in his second year of FIRST, and has been working on the part of the robot to pick up tubes. He has good ideas and is working hard to make his the best of the bunch. There are several that are doing the same, and many of them would be good choices for the final pick. I watched him present to the group last night. He has no problem speaking to the group, but has a few speaking and meeting skills that will be worked on over time. He wants to be a teacher, so learning how to speak to a group and have a discussion is a great head start.

There is so much to do and so much to learn. If you have any questions about this experience, let me know, or contact FIRST. There are programs for younger students and smaller schools too. My boys and I helped a  school start a FIRST Lego League team, which was a great learning experience for them, and the team learned a lot from them.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

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After spending the day attempting to get a good converter for PDF to Word, I found this. It works well, leaves no watermarks and is FREE!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another Year, another Dollar

Good luck to all this year. I hope things all go well for you, and you achieve your goals. I know I have a few goals to work on, and will see how that all works.
Just got back from a road trip with my boys, now 17 and 15. It is nice to have the older one be able to drive, makes these trips less exhausting to do, even though I am driving from the passenger seat. They claim I fell asleep, but I really doubt it.
The whole idea of the trip was to take them down to see their grandparents in Virginia before Eric graduates from high school, after that point, I doubt I could get him to go anywhere. We went now, rather than later, because if we went later something would happen so we could not go.

First the new air and space museum. The gps got us lost, and the back-up directions from google were wrong. But we got there.
Had a good time, many cool things. Free to get in, $15 to park.

Then we went to my parent's house, spent two nights and one day. Just about long enough for the boys. They have not seen the grandparents in several years.
Watched a bunch of football games. Of course I went to bed and missed the end of the UNC game, which I hear was interesting.

We left the next day for home, but went to Luray caverns. We went there when I was little, and it seemed like a good stop. Too expensive to get in, the tour was on headsets, but we had to go with a group.
While we were there, it dawned on me, this is where my parents forgot me when we visited last time. I went to the restroom, came out, and they were gone. They came back for me not too much later, but this was the place.

Now we are home, no worse for the wear. Good to be here