Sunday, March 18, 2012

Family update

Little Guy has been taking a robotics class this semester. It's outstanding. What better activity can you imagine than to build something, program it, push buttons to make it move automatically, and then put your masterpiece into a ring with someone else's invention and let the two objects destroy each other? This is boy heaven. (Perhaps girl heaven, too, but no girls signed up.)

Thursday was the last session, and my parents arrived in town just in time to attend the observation session. Little Guy and his partner had built a robot whose arm flipped over its head, scorpion-like, to grab at the opposition. But what all the boys were in awe of was the rattlesnake robot someone else had built, which zapped out and bit at whatever came near it. Very cool.

At home we have an almost-complete Lego Mindstorms kit, passed down from my now-college-age nephew, and most of another kit passed on to us by my friend Kate. Little Guy had tried using Mindstorms a few times, but the projects were so complex he gave up after an hour or two. The software's also considerably older, and not as easy to use. But yesterday he pulled out the boxes anyway and started fishing around; he'd decided to make a robot, the one he said was hardest robot in the guide book. "I figure I can do one section a day, Mom," he said.

And he's succeeding. Whatever else they built in robotics class, they built up my boy's confidence. So far his new robot can rotate, and it has one arm that's supposed to claw at things. The arm isn't working yet; Little Guy has matter-of-factly analyzed it and has some theories on what needs to be changed.

*       *        *         *        *

Snuggler has had a good time with Kiss Me, Kate. She's been hanging out with the 12- and 13-year olds, who tend to chatter less in the wings. Having funny, engaging older kids who've adopted her as one of their own has been a delightful solution to the impulse to shush kids her own age.

Thursday night Snuggler had her MRI. This was the last step in ruling out neurofibromatosis. I stayed in the room with her. She's always been sensitive to loud noises, and certain types of clanks and noises were clearly more stressful to her than others. There was one beeping sound that shot her heart rate up from 93 to 104 in a matter of seconds. I watched as she took deep breaths and closed her eyes to calm herself, and within another ten seconds her heart rate had dropped back to about 96. It was an impressive display of mind over matter. I exhaled, too: she has learned to cope.

*       *        *         *        *

Big Guy started a class at the historical society last Saturday. It's free (a prerequisite, since he often can't manage activities even when he wants to go), seven weeks long (a manageable length), and there's no homework (which makes participation more likely). I am trying not to get too excited that he's trying this, because I don't want to be frustrated again if/when he stops going. Last semester he made it to four classes in a course on U.S. protest music. This class is on American revolutions that didn't succeed.

History used to be Big Guy's passion.When he was five he once opened a conversation with my mother by saying, "So who's your favorite Civil War general, Maman?" Later, when he was hospitalized at age seven, he went to the day room and drew pictures of the Monitor, of ironclad fame. A social worker asked him perkily, "Which TV show is that from?"

We don't see much of his history passion any more. I am grateful that we see it at all.

*       *        *         *        *

Dancer goes into tech week next week. I remind myself that at least her tech didn't overlap with Snuggler's tech, and that it didn't even conflict with performances. She is excited to be dancing in three separate pieces for her spring performance, including an excerpt from Balanchine's Stars and Stripes, and the four cygnets piece from the end of Swan Lake. She's also in a new piece being choreographed by Brian Reeder.

If you're in the city and are interested in coming, drop me a line and I'll send you the link for buying tickets.

*       *        *         *        *

And guess who's coming to visit? Eldest's spring break starts at the end of this week. We are sooooo missing her, and are beyond eager to have her home.


  1. Please send the link. Don't know if we'll be able to swing it, but it would be great to have the info, and we'll try.

  2. Mom, I'm in four forgot Don Q.

  3. My son happened to be walking by as I was reading this and exclaimed about the robot picture "That's so cool!" He is in a robot club as well, but it is all Legos. No robot fights though, which he would dearly love. Thank you for sharing bits of your family with us. I enjoy it greatly.