Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lone Star Regional FRC

In April 2015 my son's FIRST Robotics team competed at the Lone Star Regional in Houston, Texas. This was their third and last regional. It was the only regional I attended.

The team had decided to change the robot to add arms for the autonomous portion which would fly forward and grab two cans and pull them back and away from the opponent. These cans are necessary to use for stacking to get higher points to propel a team toward a higher score that may win. This was a kind of practice weekend as these new things were being practiced and tested and modified in order to use them at World Champs later in April. It was odd being at a regional and knowing you were not really trying to win. Also it did not feel good to not win. 

A new project this year that my son helped work on was the use of two monitors to show video of the team's work which was stationed at their workstation in the pit.

Also new this year were these two banners which my son helped design and compose highlighting the team's accomplishments. These were used in the Chairman's Award oral presentation and kept in the pit for display purposes. Double click to enlarge to read about what the team did. 

Game play.

Testing the arms while the team looked on. Discussing the issues.

Testing and retesting.


I find it hard to put into words how fantastic FIRST Robotics can be. I know not all teams are highly functioning or healthy but my son's team is just amazing. The amount of autonomy this team works with is great. This is a team full of leaders and they are just good kids in general. Between January 1 and the end of April my son put in 35 hours a week, five sessions a week on work for the team. This team meets year round. I am so grateful that this team allows homeschoolers to join. I feel that the flexibility of homeschooling and the lower homework load allowed my son to have enough time to do this activity.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

People Tolerate Different Stress Levels

Through working with family and other adults I am seeing more and more how people can vary so much in their ability to handle stress and adversity. Often the media or health care professionals reference stress and they tell us to reduce it but I don't think enough gets said of how people vary so widely in their ability to tolerate it. Thus the general statements about stress reduction start to seem pretty silly. Some people can handle a lot and some can barely function in daily life, the span is wide. What you can expect from a person varies so much, it's not about being lazy versus being a so-called workaholic, it's not about what to do to make a person more productive, it's just about what people can handle.

Some parents have been telling me about their kids on my son's sport team. The variance of what these kids go through before a competition is just amazing. Also how they react based on whether they win or lose varies greatly.

Both of my kids do not get nervous before a race. They sleep fully before race day, they get no butterflies in their stomach on the days before or at the time of the race. They eat normally and have an appetite. They do not obsess or worry in their mind. They feel no anxiety. Although they love to win medals more times than not they do not win medals. This is due in part to the fact that one son began racing in grade 7 against others mostly in grades 9-12 and the other was racing in grade 9 against those in grades 9-12. This sport is not fair at all regarding the mixing of ages from any low age (grade 7 or even younger) in the same exact race as 12th graders. Also how they do not define JV vs. Varsity. And lasty how they can race a 12th grader as a novice against a 7th grade novice. Anyhow. The goal is that my younger son racing in grade 11 and 12 will have had 5 and 6 years respectively to perfect his rowing technique and to build muscle memory as well as strength and cardio endurance. But I digress. Point being my son wants to win but he is up against the odds so you would think he would be full of anxiety knowing the likelihood that he would fail and not wanting to not win.

One of the factors in kids quitting the sport is they sometimes cannot handle the stress of racing and do not wish to put themselves in a competitive environment. That is their choice. It's just interesting to me that some are so bothered by a race, some run to the bathroom with diarrhea, some puke in the middle of the race or right after, some are stomach sick with anxiety for days beforehand, and some break down in tears or pouting or run off in anger if they do not win. People, even teens range widely.

One thing lately regarding my own self is I have been noticing how physical pain affects daily life. Whether a headache, pain from my braces or back pain from tight muscles, it can change my outlook on life and how I react to normal everyday things. My reaction to events each day can hurt or hinder a situation. I can choose to lash out and make other people's lives miserable but I choose most often not to. I have been cognizant lately about trying to maintain a happy and healthy marriage and part of that is not over-reacting to various things. I am a venter so when problems happen I need to vent to my husband. However the risk is I can sound negative and be a downer all the time if all I do is complain or express negativity. I need him to be there to listen to me when I am in the middle of a small crisis but the risk is I become more of a burden or a hassle.

When I have been in pain it opened my eyes to how others act. Usually I am pretty unaffected by things and can roll with the punches while others react with tears or yelling at the same things. I have wondered why little things bother some people. Well when I'm in pain those little things bother me. And we never know what others are living with. It made me realize that some other person not even in pain or having some excuse just cannot handle what I can normally handle.

I have been on trips with people with high anxiety. Some are on medication for it and some are not. They are a mess over worry and over-reacting to things that are no big deal. It drives me bananas to be around those people. Yet to them that is their normal. Their anxiety stands in the way of doing all the things that others can do, they are often paralyzed with fear and cannot do tasks or things that need doing. They feel overwhelmed with life. This affects others because they often can get upset with others for things like feeling they are being asked to do too much or when they feel a deadline is too close or unreasonable. To some other person the tasks are easy and the deadline is just fine.

Anytime we work with others we have an expectation for what they have to do. A co-worker is to do ABC and you are to do XYZ. If you do your part you may get angry that they did not do their part. But what you may not realize is they might not be not doing thing thing intentionally they just are not capable of handling it due to the stress happening in their life right now. I used to assume everyone was on a level playing field and those who didn't do what had to be done were just lazy or incompetent. I now know there is another option: they just can't do that much in that amount of time for various reasons ranging from energy levels to stress levels.

In my recent post about feeling unfocused I said that I wanted things done but just could not get them done. It feels so weird that on another day when my energy is higher and when my mind is more focused I can do a ton of work. I used to be like that all day every day. I used to only go to sleep as it was what I was supposed to do; I was never tired even at bedtime.

I am starting to see a bigger picture about ability and personal choice relating to how we live our lives. These are at the core of why some kids perform higher in school, how the ones who can perform at a high level under the most rigorous classes with the highest pressure are those who are permitted by American society to go on to access college that gives them the most options in life. How a student is able to perform in college matters. Which student has the ability to handle an internship may help them get a job after college. Whether a boy has it in him to finish his Eagle project one time is important.

The multitasking ability and flexibility and ability to handle stress and anxiety is what I think is at the core of whether a person is productive and high achieving and high performing or not. That's what is on my mind lately.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

Younger son did not get into the private school he applied to. The letter said there was high re-enrollment and too many new applications.

We are trying to figure out whether to use the same private school. Enrollment has decreased as the year progressed down to eleven students in the combined grade 9-10 class and there is one girl so it's not balanced. Another option is the public school with 3200 students. Talk about extremes. I am unwilling to drive my son over a half hour each way to either the private parochial school or the private Lutheran school.

I had a meeting with the headmaster to voice some of my concerns. At this point our main concern is the quality of education and if it is truly college prep, how it will prepare him for the PSAT and SAT as well as make him college ready. Private schools have great freedom in our state as to what the curriculum is. I also do not like that two teacher instruct for five courses and they have the same teachers every year, so that's great if the teachers are outstanding but it's not great if the teacher is not a fit for the student or if they are incompetent. Our secondary concern is the social aspect.

I really cannot say anymore on social media. Take my silence on the blog to indicate we are busy dealing with real life and it's not all bloggable.

Homeschooling younger son for high school is not an option. He refuses to go back to homeschooling. He really enjoys the general school environment and time with peers although he struggles with issues of injustice.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Unfocused Lately

I've not felt right for the last month. This type of state of the mind is not quite as bad as when I had Lyme Disease before I got diagosed and treated. I am not sure if this is nutrition related or something else. I have had three diffferent illnesses in the last four weeks so maybe my body is just a mess.

I am sharing this because these symptoms are on the list for ADD but I do not have ADD. My first time with this as I said was with the Lyme #1. I then had it again with my second case of Lyme. I have not been 100% my normal after my first Lyme.

It is weird to know how you were before then see when you are not that anymore. It's different when it's thinking or mind based than just something like a good knee then you injure it and it is never quite right.

I figured I'd share this. Maybe those of you who know ADD people may learn some empathy.

I am having trouble getting started on things. I have a to do list and know my deadlines but sometimes I just cannot get started. Days can pass. I missed some deadlines. Sometimes I forget and other times I just cannot get started.

I have trouble with transitions. It is hard to do a lot of different things. It's easier to do one thing for a long time. For example the other day I did about ten loads of laundry. I do find it easier to do one load a day but I had felt stuck and it built up. I got it done in one day but my whole day had laundry infused in between everything else and I was kind of tied up at home waiting on the next load. So it's not convenient to do marathon laundry.

I have been forgetting a lot. I keep lists now but I forget to look at the list. I realize that sounds compeltely stupid but it is true. I also have multiple lists in different places. I should have one list. It is too much effort to put the list on my phone. That was what I was doing last month and prior and it was easy then. I realize this sounds crazy and dumb.

The to do list seems overwhelming. It is easier to do nothing on it and then just do something stupid to procrastinate instead like read Facebook. I completely realize I am procrastinating but I can't seem to stop myself.

When I finally do a thing I have been putting off it don't even feel satisfaction because I know there is so much else waiting to be done.

Last month I was doing a lot of house projects. It got to a point where daily mom life got busier and I was not able to juggle the big projects with family life. So all the projects got put on the back burner. The fact that they are undone bothers me.

My husband has been doing this also. We finished our taxes on April 14. Oh! I just realized my state taxes are due today. Okay I am getting off of blogger to go pay my business taxes online. SHOOT!

I have not done the Paleo Cleanse thing or gone Paleo yet as my doctor said I have to. Maybe it will clear up when I do that. I'll let you know. Or maybe this is aging or estrogen related? I don't know.

My mood is fine so this is not depression. I'm just unfocused and feel scattered and forgetful.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I Misunderstood the IB Grades

I met with the Headmaster of the IB school to discuss some things. One thing was the grading system. In our discussion I learned that my son did very well in Term 2 and I had not understood the grades.

The system is 7-1 not A-F. I was told that a 7 is impossible to achieve. A 6 is rare and means excellent, very very good. A 5 is to be celebrated as very good and if that is earned it is something to be happy about. A 4 is a more common "good" and is nothing to complain about, it's decent and to be lauded. A 3, 2, or 1 is a real problem.

In the 9 classes my son earned a 2 in art (!) - don't ask; two 6s, and the rest are 4s and 5s. So now apparently we can be joyful that he made a major improvement. I was told that we should be really happy about our son's performance.

On "The Big Question" essay he got a 2. I learned that he is not following the rubric at all including writing it as an opinion essay when it needs research and citations for examples to make the opinion statement he has taken. It needs a bibliography. That is not a class per se it is a grade on one essay that appears on the report card.

After having spent almost three weeks fretting over his Term 2 grades apparently now I should be celebrating. I sat and explained this to my son and we were both relieved.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Son Took The ISEE Test

The ISEE is a standardized high stakes test that is given by private schools to help make the admissions decision.

My younger son has applied to a secular college prep high school. This decision was made quickly and he had less than a week before he had to take the ISEE test. This prep time before the ISEE was his finals week for Term 2 in school so it was a high stress week. His last final was on a Thursday. He had school on Friday. The test was Wednesday morning.

I went to the local bookstore and bought an ISEE test prep book. I knew there was not much time to do anything but wanted him to take at least one practice test to get to know the test a little. He spent most of Saturday at sport practice then doing a project so he was not home. For Sunday-Tuesday he felt he needed a break and it was his spring break from school. So basically he took one test spread over those days.

All I kept saying was, "It is what it is, just let it go." I wanted to see him more driven, doing a full test (three hours) each day before the test and grading it and going over the answers to see where he was going wrong. That was not what he was willing to do.

I don't even know if I will find out the test results.

For those complaining about fees for the SAT, FYI this test cost me $100, made payable to the test company directly. Ouch. (There was also an application fee for the school.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Scenes From My Town

Most are scenes from my walks in March: this is The Woodlands, Texas (a Houston suburb).