Friday, July 17, 2015

Excuse Me Sir, Can I Get Off the Ride?

Don't we women really want to say that sometimes?  For many of us, life can go through acceleration points where it is moving so fast that we desperately want to get off the roller coaster for just five minutes to breathe (or actually - just to pee for darn sakes!).  

The last five weeks have been such a blur that my head hurts.  It is always like this in the summer; as
The team at one of the 12 outreach events this summer
teaching science projects or robotics to kids.
the end of school is approaching, I find myself taking that long draw through my teeth as if the coaster is clicking up that first big hill.  The anticipation of what is about to unfold is extreamly unknown except that it will be fast, jerky and somewhat terrifying.  

Taking a break from building by playing
sting-pong (don't ask).  A small crowd - only seven.
Was having a gathering this day planned - heck no.  
Not only are the summers wild with my husband's desire to cram as much of the world into whatever vacation time he can negotiate out of me, but my kids are just so damn high maintenance.  Not in that 'do everything for me mom' kinda way, they do the laundry and clean and all that.  But what they crave is stimulation of their own interests when school no longer demands all their resources.  And a result of this is THE ROBOT TEAMS.  Sometimes I wonder if I had known... would I have opened this pandoras box?  (Yes, of course I would have and I will mourn it terribly when all these kids leave me).  But there are days...

The robot kids are increasing in number (By last count we are at 21 between the two groups) and go to different schools that all got out of school over a three week period.  And what do mobile teens do before what ever summer program they are eventually going to starts?  They find some place to hang.  Well - that is my house.  And they have a perfectly good reason - we gotta do robot work, so it is so hard to tell them to go away.  This is also a terriably bittersweet summer as one of the core robot kids is moving to Germany
We have girls on the team now!
And the shyness of the boys is downright hilarious
for 1-3 years.  They want to hang together in a most sad, desperate way and always get a ton of stuff done too.  They are madly integrating two girls and a boy into the team, have done an insane number of outreach events with EIGHT more this summer and also came up with something totally off the wall to keep Nick on the team while in Germany.  

'Tricia - we'll build a telepresence robot'.  Ok, what is a telepresence robot you ask?  That is a robot that is face-timing/skyping with the person and allows them to see inside the room where you are and move the robot that the device is attached to.  You may have seen one on Modern Family (that was plan A - let's buy that one for $5000.  I said no, come up with Plan B).  So I challenged them to build one with the leftover electronics we and their families had laying around.  Never challenge these kids in the summer - you will find yourself making a spontaneous trip to an electronics store with seven teens in the car (rocking from the boom boxes blue-toothed to phones) in search of the most obscure cable you can imagine to hack a Roomba from Germany.   

Darn if they didn't do it - for $10 and old parts.  I can't tell you how hard that is because truthfully I don't quite understand some of this stuff anymore.  I certainly was a bit shocked to see some of the resourcefulness of the guys (please use these powers for good dudes!).  How would I have known how to hack into my internet router and open the firewall on only one channel for the kid from Germany to get into my wireless system and control a robot in the room.  Damm.  So now our team is not only open to Nick and his little sister Lena to stay on the team (founding member of the little team), but we can invite other kids we know who don't live here to participate.  (THIS IS CRAZY TALK!!) 
So that brings up Filip.  Filip is a kid from Sweden who my kid used to bite in day care - they are like brothers.  Long story - but a bite can bring two families so close we feel like family even though we live in different countries.  Filip came back to the US three years ago and spent two weeks, went to camps with my son and his friends and so knew the team.  Well Filip came back this summer for two weeks.  I didn't quite realize how the internet had kept all these kids together and how connected they were - we weren't home from the airport more than 10 minutes before robot kids started arriving and giving this foreigner warm welcomes like you wouldn't believe.  They stayed three days.  YES - a spontaneous three day sleepover.  Parents kept arriving and dropping off more food and clothes, shaking their head and laughing at me.  

This is how a typical day went for two weeks:  I get up with a plan to do something semi-quiet with
Did someone say waterpark??? Trying to squish the best
teen things in Boston in two weeks.  You wouldn't believe how
many pounds of lobster that Swedish kid can eat.
Filip and my kids.  The texts started around 10am from robot kids begging to come over and get involved with whatever was up.  If I was lucky - I ignored them for hours and got something accomplished.  Then they would get smart and ask to come over to get something on our summer team agenda done... smart.  Once you say yes to one - you have to be prepared as you might have all who are in town by default as the text chain would fire up.  Next thing you know you are scrambling for food for 15, they have made some crazy progress on the robot stuff and are building a fire in the fire pit for marshmallows.  The drink fridge is down by 30 sodas, you have doled out countless bandaids over the shoeless soccer game and parents are texting you asking if you know about the plan to have a sleepover and Indiana Jones marathon for the evening.  Suddenly you find yourself at a waterpark the next morning in a multi-car caravan.  WAIT - what just happened!?!

The team decided to cook dinner for us to
relieve me of the duty.  That can't go bad - right?
Notice that most of the cart is firewood.  No space
here to tell the story of how the gas
grill almost exploded.
Now add my sister-in-law and her parrot who is living here while her apartment is being reconstructed.  My parents come for the 4th and to meet Filip.  By this point - we start taking bets on how many people will be at each meal and will sleep in the house nightly.  I become obsessive about counting heads so no one goes missing under my watch.  And this isn't counting the little robot team who always had a few midgets running around playing or working on pre-work for the season.   

And this doesn't even begin to express the craziness.  I become trapped as we always need an adult around (as I say - someone has to call 911).  They aren't bad, just creative.  My SIL walked in one day as I came down with first aid supplies for some ping-pong tournament injury while assuring my youngest that his hair would grow back.  She stopped and looked at me quizzically.  "Caught his hair on fire.  Long story, I need pizza for twelve".  She said 'nothing surprises me anymore around here'.  I said 'wait until you see what they built downstairs today'.  Her eyes got big as she belly laughed.

So they took the Swedish kid in with open arms, they all weaseled their way into being here when he left with long drawn out goodbyes (these are guys - what the heck with all the emotion?!).  He helped build the demo robot we will use this summer at expos around Boston.  Seems I need to get another shirt printed.  And now my team is not just located in Boston but apparently in Stockholm and Berlin too.  This will be a very interesting year and we just might need another Roomba with Filip's name on it.  And if I am not mistaken in my prediction, he
Halfway through 'the shopping trip'.  Filip's
top list of junk food you can't buy in Sweden.
Some to eat, some to take home, and some to
sell to other desperate ex-pat teens in Stockholm.
and Nick will be coming back next summer for another crazy drink from the firehose at my house.

Ok, so I need to stop my five minutes off the roller coaster ride and get back on it.  1pm - go to a college an hour away for my little robot team to show off what they did at a workshop all week.  2pm - drive carload of boys back to Boston while they spend the fourth day trying to teach one the important life lesson of how to arm fart (really kids - if he can't do it yet, give it a rest!).  3-6 pm ship more embroidery kits.  6pm shop for tomorrow - that is when a team from New Hampshire shows up to stay with us for a mad weekend of us all training each other in the new robotic electronics system and Java.  I believe the head count for lunch is now at 20ish.  7 pm - pick up other kid from crazy month long MIT live-in program where he has to start a company and pitch to a panel of Boston VCs.  He needs to teach robot team tomorrow and just has to get out of there to get some sleep tonight.  Did I say that I made a mad dash yesterday to Pittsburg to consult for a company?  Still a bit tired from that flight.  

I guess that the corkscrew turn is just up ahead!!!  I think I will just close my eyes and scream this time!  Maybe I will even put my hands up in the air. 

September will come soon... right?


  1. It all sounds so wonderful! What memories you are creating for your boys and you and all their friends! Such a great summer and then mom needs to take all those ladies on a wonderful trip this Fall, which I am envious of ;0 It's amazing what these kids are capable of when given the chance to explore. Keep that roller coaster going!

  2. Beware of empty nest syndrome when they all finally leave! It sneaks up on you and life takes a huge turn when you least expect it.

  3. Wowee! Love that you have girls on the team now! I'm amazed at what they can do, most of which I don't understand at all...

  4. I'm going to wear my robot t-shirt all weekend

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  6. You know you love it! Enjoy every minute because they do grow up and will maybe even leave the house someday. You'll think back fondly on these days! On the other hand, just because your guys graduate and move on doesn't mean there won't still be some younger kids left in that group of 21! They will keep coming as long as you let them! lol