Saturday, October 4, 2014

Lego 2014

If you're wondering why Lego gets its own post on my blog, then you don't know my kids very well. In fact, since I haven't posted anything about Lego since 2012, I really have two years to catch up on. In 2012, all the boys entered the Tennessee Valley Fair, and Nathan and Noah won big.  You can read about it here. They became local Lego celebrities, and started being asked to give programs at the public library.  Here they are at one of these library visits:

In 2013, they entered again, but I knew it was going to be hard to top their previous performance. There was nowhere to go but down!  Plus all their library visits generated lots of new entries at the fair.  But they did some really cool builds.

Noah made a mall scene.  It was huge with lots of tiny detail.

Notice that between the library visit and the fair entry, Noah got a much-needed haircut.  But I digress.  

Nathan built a castle with removable parts and working portcullis for his entry.

Let's just say that second place is not much fun after first place, apparently.  Besides the individual competition, the boys entered the team build (where you build for an hour with random pieces that you are given).  I can't even remember how they placed, but it was 2nd or 3rd (if it had been first, I would have remembered that!).  Their build was inspired by the TV show, Psych.

So on to 2014.  Early in the year, we experienced a Lego-lover's dream when one of the guys that worked for Terry was getting ready to trash all of his son's outgrown Lego (and some of his own) and gave it to us instead.  It took several days just to sort it somewhat.  It was at least 50 lbs of Lego.

We ended up with about 15 Indiana Jones minifigures.  We need to make a stop-action movie where Indiana Jones is cloned, I guess!

At this year's fair competition, Noah entered a beach/boardwalk scene, Nathan entered a complex spaceship.  

Caleb never finished the jumbo mini-figure he was building, so he just entered the head as a "Lego candy dish."  Guess who won this year?  Perhaps this was payback for the travesty he suffered at a Lego competition that his dear old Mom organized several years back.  

The most fun thing at the fair this year was that the boys got some of their friends involved in the team building competition.  After winning the qualifying round with this ice cream sundae

  They went on to win 4th place overall for their Lego paint set and easel:

But wait, there's more!  One of the most exciting things is that our boys were asked to participate in the founding of the Knoxville Lego Users Group.  There are quite a few of these across the country (mostly in big cities), and they are called "LUGS."  There is not another LUG in Tennessee.  Our group currently has a big project underway sponsored by the Children's Hospital, the Tennessee Valley Fair and in cooperation with the University of Tennessee.  They are building a 6-ft. "Power T"  sculpture that will go on display at the 2015 fair.  Here is a drawing they are working from:

This was the end of my original post.  Then I remembered more Lego news!  Last year, Noah competed in the First Lego League.  Terry and I coached the team of six boys (aka "Brainstorm") that met at our house each week.  They competed in a qualifying tournament here in Knoxville and then at the Tenn. Eastern Regional Tournament at Tennessee Tech.  The boys vastly improved their robot score between the two tournaments and ended up winning 2nd place overall for their presentation - a skit about a product called "Float Your Bum."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

2014 Camping Trip

We had another simple vacation this year - five days at one of our favorite spots on earth - Little Oak Campground on South Holston Lake near Bristol, Tennessee.  This year there were a few new features to our trip.  The first was that Kevin O'Bryan joined us for a few days - now this isn't totally new since Kevin (and his brother, Chris) have both camped with us before.

Also, Rebecca bought a hammock right before the trip and slept outside several nights.  I really enjoyed sleeping and reading in the hammock, too.  We'll definitely take it with us from now on.

Campfire treats this year included two new additions - roasted Starburst (much better than you think), and these dough boys.  Caleb made the wooden dough boy sticks for us before we left.  We cooked crescent roll dough around them and filled them with chocolate, marshmallow, heath bits, etc.  Delicious!

This year we were also able to coax Jingle onto a tube.  She really does not like the water, but she loves being in the boat with us.

I am conscious every time we take a trip now that my kids are growing up and this might be the last time we are all camping together like this.  Make memories while you can!

The trip was so much fun that the boys decided to commemorate it with tattoos:

Well, the tattoos were temporary, but the pictures last forever!

And, of course, we ended the trip with a flat tire on the interstate because that's the way we roll.

2014 Properties

Terry has worked on three properties this year - one a condo to sell, one a condo to rent, and one a house to sell.  I don't have before and after pics of all of these because some photos are on Terry's phone.  The transformations are pretty incredible, though.

Here are a few pics from the condo we sold:

Here is one from the condo we have rented to three sweet gals.  This one totally went from trash to treasure:

Next is the house that is currently on the market.  This one had been vacant for five years.  The roof was damaged, and over 20 raccoons were living in it when we bought it.  

Friday, September 12, 2014


This year Noah decided to join the Guardians, which is a local speech and debate club that is part of NCFCA (National Christian Forensics and Communication Association).  I never dreamed that it would become such a big part of our school year.  Noah competed in tournaments in Memphis, Cleveland, Asheville and Baton Rouge.  Noah prepared an illustrated oratory on Lego and a humorous interp of The Frog Prince Continued.  He qualified for regionals in both of his speeches, and only missed qualifying for nationals by one spot!  Now he has been bit by the speech and debate bug and is planning on competing this next year in platform speech, interpretive speech, team policy debate and apologetics.

We both had a great time at the tournaments, which were intense 3-day events.  At least one parent must attend with each competitor, and the parents serve as judges along with judges from the community.  Competition begins each day at 7:30 am and ends at about 9:30 pm.  Fortunately, Noah loved getting to know the other members of our team - even getting a best friend in the process!

The kids hang out and relax between speech rounds.  That's one of Noah's favorite parts.

I enjoyed hanging out with other Moms, too, and made some great new friends.  At the regional invitational in Baton Rouge, there was a banquet at a plantation where most of the kids dressed up in period costume.  Not me, however.  Noah informed me that he would find that embarrassing.

If you are interested in watching Noah's speeches, they each take about 10 min.