3, 2, 1, LEGO!


It’s go time in Legosvile. I’ve been coaching the Magnum Mindstorms since the first week of school, and I love them all. They are all the most magnificent nerds. In the last ten minutes, the conversation has ranged from Minecraft to Greek Mythology to the problem of rusty dust on Mars to who wants to live on Mars to lame jokes with Latin punchlines.

But there is something about the competition – how it gets them to come together as a team; how it completely reframes the exerience of the last few months; how they see themselves in the context of this larger group of school kids, both challenging and encouraging each other to bring their best, best selves into the competition. Each one of them is shiny and bouyant and brilliant.

Each blessed one.

How books infect our brains – possibly forever


As many of you already know, I am a coach with First LEGO League – where I feebly attempt to assist my little charges in the building and programming of a robot – built from LEGO blocks – and the successful completion of various missions. It’s a cool program -interactive, innovative, creative, and collaborative. The kids learn how to design, engineer, program and work as a team. I am not a very good coach, alas, in that I suck at both building and programming – like, I can’t do them at all – but I’m pretty good at getting my team to work together and help one another, and they have been taking care of the other part on their own. Go team.

As part of this program, the kids have to do a project in which they have to identify a need in the world, and come up with a solution to fill that need. They research, design and create a presentation. But before they present, they have to share their ideas with others. And that can be tricky for a bunch of elementary schoolers.

So I was trying to help them.

“Let’s just brainstorm some ideas,” I said, holding the dry-erase marker for the white board. “What are some ways that we can share our ideas with other people?”

Now let me back up: these kids? They all go to a Classical Education charter school. They all excel in their rigorous curriculum, speak Latin, stand up when called on, and pat their heads when they know something instead of blurting out. They wear uniforms and can name at least six Byzantine emperors and can tell you the long-term effects from the Mongol invasion on European culture. They are adorable, adorable nerds. And they read. All the time. When they asked me who I voted for and I looked at them, all seriousness, and said, “Lord Voldemort,” they nearly peed themselves laughing.

“YOU DID NOT,” they wheezed. Then they paused. Looked at me seriously. “Wait. Did you?”

These are bookwormy kids. They eat books for breakfast.

So, I’m talking to these kids.

“How can we share our ideas? Your ideas are GOOD. You can bring those ideas to other people and talk about them. But how will you do it?”

One kid raised her hand. “Well?” she said. “We could? You know? Build a website? And put it on the Web?”

“Good idea,” I said. “But what’s the problem with the web? How many websites are there?”

“Bijillions,” one boy said.

“That sounds about right,” I said. “So how are you going to get your particular information to the particular people who might benefit from it? Or who might give you more ideas?”

A boy raised his hand, “We could make a committee!”

Another girl raised her hand. “My mom likes Tumblr. We could put it on Tumblr.”

And another girl: “We could present it to our families and get ideas and then present to other people’s families.”

And then a boy started jumping up and down. His hand was outstretched so high it nearly pierced the ceiling.

“Oh!” He gasped, bouncing up and down in his seat. “Oh!”

So I called on him. He stood up.

“I got it,” he said. “We make a brochure. And then we strap it to one million owls and send them out around the nation!”

He beamed.

“I see,” I said.

“It’ll be perfect.”

“Owl post. That’s your solution?”

“Well,” he said. “You want your idea to be memorable. And how much more memorable can you get than you’re biggest dream finally coming true.”

And the thing is? He’s right. I have dreams about messages coming via Owl Post. I dream it all the time. And so do these kids. And I’m guessing, so do you. Thanks, Ms. Rowling. You are in our brains forever. My guess is, that was her aim all along.


I made them myself. And they are horrible! NO JUDGIES!

Still, as my husband worked his poor little soul to teeny tiny pieces in his efforts to coordinate and coach the Lego Robotics team (with, I have to say, very little support from the school. More on that when I can write about it without spitting on my computer), and as the kids both kicked ass and took names at the competition yesterday (and proud we are of all of them), I have spent the last two days baking Lego cakes.

And you know what, those kids deserve cake. Their school is a small, fairly new charter school, and this is the very first trophy that the school has won. The very first one. And I am proud to the teeth of these children.

I am not, however, proud of these cakes.

The cakes are, by every estimation, a miserable effort.

I swear to god, I’m an excellent cook, but I am baking-challenged. I am baking-deficient. I am the anti-baker. Oh, Julia Child! I have failed you! An entire childhood spent watching your show on public television, and so very little to show for it! Only this:

Mmmmmm....... Food coloring......

Here they are in all their gloppy glory. Do not laugh. I shed tears for these. Sweat too, but not blood. At least, I’m pretty sure.

Really, I blame my husband for this. For giving me the idea. For working so hard that I felt that I needed to increase my contribution. I needed to match. I needed to justify myself. I blame my husband for the fact that, when one fell and exploded on the floor with a sickening schllllllurlp, I honestly thought that I could fix it. “I’m sure it’s salvageable,” my Betty-Crockered brain whispered as I gazed at the crumbly goo on the ground.

And I believed it.

This is Ted’s fault.

Ted, my darling husband (god bless his infernal self) who came up with the idea.

“It’ll be fun,” he said.

“The kids’ll love it,” he said.

“Look! Here’s a website! It looks easy!”

He did not, I found out later watch the helpful video that was on the website:

Still I did it. I even have photographic evidence. Look:

Here I am, looking oddly crazy-eyed.




And now they exist. And they are messy. And lopsided. And gloppy. And honestly, not that good. But the kids will like them.


Or, they better like them, anyway.

Congratulations Team Lego Pandemonium and Team Sonic! You guys are AWESOME!

(have some cake!)