Monday, June 10, 2013

A Complicated Solution to a Simple Problem

How many teenagers does it take to turn off the light?  That was the problem that needed solving in my basement this weekend.  Jack had a group project for Science--he and two of his friends needed to create a Rube Goldberg machine.  If you are not familiar with Rube Goldberg, he was famous for drawing cartoons that explained very complicated solutions to simple problems.

For their science project, the machine had to include different types of simple machines, be at least 15 steps, and actually have to DO something. The boys worked all afternoon weaving a maze of ramps and dominos, homemade pulleys and rolling balls.  Finally they had built a machine that started at the top of the  steps and ended with the basement light turning on.  All they had left to do was film it in action.

The key, however, was to iron out the glitches so that all 15 steps would work consecutively without stopping.  Their first attempt was unsuccessful, as was their second, and third...and 25th.

"Maybe you could splice a few of these films together so you can see the whole effect," I suggested.  After all, it was getting late.  The afternoon playdate had turned into a sleepover.  I headed to the grocery store for emergency rations of Doritos and root beer.

"It's going to work this time, I can feel it," P.J. said.  The ball rolled down the steps to hit the table.  The impact knocked the weight to activate the pulley, which pushed the toy car down into the dominoes.  The last domino in the row stayed standing.

"Noooo!" all the boys yelled.  Take 35 unsuccessful.

"Why don't you go to bed," I suggested--mainly because I was tired.  Am I allowed to go to sleep when I have 3 teenage boys awake in my basement?  What is the parenting protocol on this? 

I finally did doze off, until I was awakenened by screaming at 1:30 am.  I stumbled down to the basement to find the three boys jumping up and down ecstatically.  "We did it!  It worked!" 

What started out as a homework assignment for these boys turned into something more.  It was a challenge.  They spent the entire day together brainstorming, compromising, laughing, sharing and working.  Like engineers, they revised their design and had countless trial runs.  They designed a machine and they weren't going to quit until they got it to work.

Now, next question.  How many teenagers does it take to clean up that basement?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Irony of May

Girl Scouts host the Mother Daughter Tea
Ironic that May is my busiest month yet I told you nothing about it.   May is chock full of activity--let's start with the kids: Katherine's dance classes are ramping up for a recital, her active Girl Scout troop is in full swing hosting the Mother Daughter Tea and her service learning project was due while Jack is busy with baseball and soccer.  Whew.  I took Katherine to her first concert to see Taylor Swift at the Verizon Center too.

And don't get me started on the homework.  Virginia's standardized tests are in May.  Ironically they are called the SOLs  (Standards of Learning).   Just when we think the end of the year might mean a reprieve on homework, the review packets start pouring in. 

Paul knows the kind of Mother's Day Flowers that make me smile.

Meanwhile, Paul's commitment to the Pastor's search committee is more frequent as they whittle down the list of candidates to find our new senior pastor.  He traveled to Las Vegas for work to speak at a conference and, wonderful man that he is, spends his spare time battling weeds in our garden.  We snuck out on a school night for a date this month--had to make time to see an Australian singer named Paul Kelly in concert. 

I have been wrapped up in school too.  Just 12 days of school yet and I know that in the next two weeks somehow it will all get done--end of year evaluation portfolio, end of year math assessment, packing up my room, report cards, parties, field day, graduation...I signed up for a triathlon in August and I've started a new exercise routine to (hopefully!) get in shape by then.

So that's May in a nutshell.  In life's paradoxical way, the periods when my life is most full of activity and adventure are the times when I don't seem make time to reflect on my days and record my memories.