Ben and I went to Gettysburg for our anniversary in September. We had a lovely time.

I inadvertently booked us a small apartment instead of a hotel room. It was pretty swanky. We had a living room/kitchen area, a full walk-in closet, large bathroom, and a bedroom with a bed so tall it came with a set of stairs.

Every day, the staff would bring us some sort of fresh baked pastry (made in house), a plate of fruit, and fresh orange juice. In the evenings, we got cookies or chocolate.

The only downside was the bar next door that got a little loud in the evenings. But if you're a heavy sleeper like me, totally recommend.

We spent the weekend walking all over the battlefields playing ingress. We also went on a haunted history tour. It was a little less history than I would have liked though. Next time I think I'll try one of the other tours.

Overall I enjoyed myself. It was a nice, low stress weekend trip. :)

Full gallery can be found here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk7xVdZd

Highlights below the cut )
My costume makes me so happy, I just want to parade around town in it for everyone to see.
Sometimes when my classmates ask me for help with their code, it's so bad I have to print it out and stab it to feel clean again.
Exciting news! My car is no longer a death trap!

The parts finally came in for my car! It took two days to do the repairs, but now I no longer have to worry about my car shutting off at high speeds.

I can drive without worry again! Yay!
I had an exciting weekend with [livejournal.com profile] taraisagoddess. :) She drove down to visit me! (And made crazy excellent time on the roads.)

On Friday, we met up with Dani and her offspring to catch the last weekend of The Big Maze at the National Building Museum. The view from the center of the maze was pretty cool.


The maze itself didn't take long to do, so we also checked out a few other exhibits in the museum. They were neat, though I feel like I would have gotten more out of them if I was interested in architecture.

Still, I got to get a really good top view of the maze, so I think it was worth it!


Afterwards, we took the metro to the zoo to have lunch. The plan was to picnic next to the pizza playground while Dani's kid played. But they got rid of the tables near the playground! In the end, we ate at a pavilion nearby and skipped the pizza altogether. Which kinda made it silly to walk allllll the way down the hill in the first place. Oops.

Then we began the long trek back up the hill, stopping here and there to look at the animals. I FINALLY got to see the baby panda! She's so cute and FLUFFY!!! She was eating food and climbing rocks. I was pleased.

By that point we were all tired, so we hopped on the metro and went back home. The next day, Tara and I mostly vegged out and watched movies on the couch with a little bit of Ingress gaming before lunch. In the evening we roasted marshmallows over an open fire which was a most excellent way to end the day.

On Sunday, we went to the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Center and saw cool things like the Discovery space shuttle and an imax movie about Hubble. I do like that museum, but I really wish they had more information about the exhibits. It always feels a bit like I should know what all this stuff is already.

In the evening, we took Tara to the Alamo Drafthouse to see Guardians of the Galaxy again. She doesn't have a cool theater like that at home. We ordered sooooo much stuff. Our waiter was just constantly running back and forth.

The next day Tara had to leave, which was sad, but we are discussing plans to go to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival together next month. That would be fun! I hope it all works out, cause I had a ton of fun this weekend. :)
Last year at the beginning of the semester, I began knitting a llama purse. I worked on it primarily before class and during class breaks. I FINALLY finished it this week! I'm feeling pretty awesome.

The pattern was super hard to follow because it was not written very well, but thanks to the massive amounts of help from [livejournal.com profile] taraisagoddess, I was able to figure it out! :)



Ravelry page for details
Doctor prescribed Noname some antibiotics last weekend. She is starting to finally look better. They ran a bunch of blood tests because they were afraid it might be cancer. But it looks like it's just a super nasty UTI. I'm glad. I'll take UTI over cancer any day!

In other news, I am going to Disney World!

Ben's mom wanted to do a big family thing. Originally it was going to be a cruise, but it evolved into Disney. Personally I think they will all wish they had gone with a cruise after I am done with them.

We're going in December, so it should look nice with all the pretty decorations. A little bit closer to the big holiday glut than I'd like, but it's manageable.

My parents decided to crash the trip too. I have no idea how that will play out.

Tentative Itinerary:
Day 1 - Travel day
Day 2 - Sleep late. Dinner theater in the evening. I'm thinking Hoop Dee Doo.
Day 3 - Magic Kingdom. Dinner at Kona Cafe.
Day 4 - Epcot. Dinner at Via Napoli.
Day 5 - Islands of Adventure. Parents arrive in evening.
Day 6 - Universal Studios
Day 7 - Late character breakfast at Ohana. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the evening.
Day 8 - In-Laws leave.
Day 9 - ?
Day ? - FLEE!
Bratty kids got me sick.

Somehow my immune system managed to hold out until Sunday evening. Since then, I have been in bed feeling miserable. Today is the first day I feel well enough to actually sit at a computer.

I have spent the time alternating between sleeping and watching Nightmare Next Door, a tv show about real life small town homicides and how the police solved them. By season 5, the show was incredibly repetitive. Also, I have no idea how crimes were solved before dna testing. (Protip: If you are attacked, dig your nails into the attacker. It's practically gift wrapping the attacker's dna for the police.)

While I've been sick, poor noname has developed a uti. I need to drop off a urine sample at the vet tomorrow morning. I wish I could take care of her sooner. I feel so bad for her. She keeps going out to pee and she looks so miserable.
Robot camp is OVER! *whew*

That was not an experience I ever want to repeat.

Although the observations on how parenting affects kid behavior was kinda interesting. The kids with better parents were even smarter than the others.

So the first two weeks of camp were located in an extremely affluent part of the region. Most of these kids had one workaholic breadwinner and one stay at home parent. Overall, kids were the most spoiled, bratty creatures in the world. They didn't like to work together in teams to share the work or listen to other people's ideas, they didn't like to sit still and listen, and they were extremely rude to the teachers. This group also had the larger number of allergies, special diets, and learning disabilities. (On pizza day, the camp had to order FOUR gluten free pizzas, compared to just one at the second location.)

The second two weeks of camp were located near my house, which is more middle and lower-middle class. Usually both parents work. If one parent is home, it's either part time or a work from home situation. Aside from a few exceptions, these kids were a million times better behaved than the previous kids. They understood the concepts of teamwork and sharing. They were more respectful to the teachers. They could sit still and listen for at least a couple minutes at a time. And while there were some allergies and learning disabilities, they were fewer and the kids with them seemed much more responsible about it.

For example, last week a kid with adhd came up to me and told me he sometimes had trouble paying attention, but it helps him to walk around a bit to regain focus. He asked me if I would let him take a walk around the building when he needed to. Of course I said yes because he had asked so responsibly. So a couple times that week, he would let me know he was getting antsy and we'd take a short walk together around the building. Then he was fine. He'd immediately jump back to work with his team. Compare that to the kids from the first two weeks that would just run around ballistic and break things when they got antsy, and then use their adhd as an excuse for why they did it.

Another example was peanut allergies. This week we had a kid with a severe peanut allergy. On the first day he introduced himself, told us about his allergy, told us he had his epi pen, and asked where he should put his bag in case we needed it. Then during lunch, he would clean his lunch table before sitting down to eat. He was extremely responsible about his allergy. Now compare that to a kid from the first two weeks. He also had a severe peanut allergy, but he had to sit in his own private room to eat lunch because he couldn't (or perhaps wouldn't) clean his own table and he kept moving his backpack around the classroom constantly so we never knew where his epi pen was. He had the teachers stressed out all week.

It was just so drastically different! And these kids were all the exact same age group.

I'm guessing the kids in the second location probably spend more time at camps and aftercare programs, so they are getting more exposure to 1) how to behave in public, 2) how to behave in groups, and 3) educational programs to help reinforce things they've learned in school.

In other news, my parents don't understand why I don't have baby rabies after this experience. Clearly they have forgotten what children are like. The best part of my day was going home.
I'm going to be cautious when I say this because it's only day 1, but this week's kids seem to be a million times better than last week's kids.

Aside from a small handful that are always goofing off (and thus never paying attention), most of the kids seem to be fairly interested and excited about making robots. There's even a few groups that got so into it, I had to come up with new challenges for their robot to do. They had done everything on the objective list, everything on the challenge list, and everything on the bonus challenge list.

So hopefully that will mean a good week!

Plllleeeeeease let it be a good week. Last week's kids made me cry. No exaggeration.

But hopefully I have demographics on my side! The past two weeks were kids from fairly wealthy families that typically had a stay at home parent. This week and the one after are kids with parents that both work. So theoretically these kids are going to be better socialized and more familiar on proper behavior in an outside of the home setting because they go to daycare/aftercare.

Friends who intend on breeding: PLEASE socialize your children for the sake of the people that will attempt to educate them.
Life on my medicine is so much better than before, I don't even know how to describe it. The thyroid stuff crept up so slowly, it was like a slowly heating up crab pot. Before I knew what was happening, I was being boiled alive. But now everything works again! I think maybe my dose needs to be increased slightly because I'm still not at my former 100% energy levels, but I feel like I'm probably around 95% energy levels, which is still pretty good.

I was also put on a very low dose of antidepressants temporarily because of some of the thyroid symptoms, but at this point I'm a bit afraid to go off them because they have done MAGIC for my social anxiety. For the first time in my life, I am able to walk up to people and start conversations. For example, the other day, I asked a total stranger if I could pet her dog and then talked with her for a short bit about her dog breed. I could never have done that before.

I can even wave hello to neighbors without waiting for them to wave first!! And after 3 years of living here, I finally asked my next door neighbor what their dog's name was. (Killer.)

Part of me feels weird and sad and stupid about needing to adjust my brain chemistry to function like a normal person. But I try to remind myself: there's nothing wrong with fixing something that was broken. Just like my thyroid wasn't working right, my "being able to talk to people" part of my brain wasn't working right. And it's ok to fix something that is not working. So I think I will ask my doctor to keep me on the antidepressants for the near future.

Maybe I can reduce them slowly over time as I get more practice talking to people. The pills do make me EXTREMELY sensitive to light, so it would be helpful to at least reduce the dose if I can manage it. But that's been one of the only side effects I have experienced, so I am willing to carry a hat or sunglasses whenever I go out if need be.

The other side effect? I have to use a pill organizer now! I feel so old! Between the vitamins my doctor wants me to take and the medications that need to be taken at different times, I had to get a fancy organizer with multiple cups for different points of time during the day. I'm so old. T_T
I have survived week 2. I wasn't really sure I was going to make it. I nearly broke down on Wednesday.

But here it is Friday and I am still in one piece! Woo!

Today was extra tough because the parents were there to watch their kids compete. One team's robot stopped working properly. We're not sure what exactly happened. I suspect it was because the kids changed the design of their robot at the last second.

So there was stress and crying.

We did our best to help that team recover the best they could. And we tried to cheer them up by reminding them of the fun they had during the week plus the fun they would have later in the day. It seemed to be working until one of the girl's mom showed up.

This mom was one of those super intense helicopter moms who could not believe we didn't stop the entire event to help her daughter. She didn't think we were doing enough and at one point even accused us of racism because the only two black kids (her kid and another girl) were paired together. Seriously? We paired them together cause they seemed to get along really well the first day and looked like they were on the way to becoming friends.

So anyway, every time we would get this girl calmed down, her mom would come over and say things to rile the poor kid up again. It was if she WANTED the kid to cry all day. I don't understand it at all.

Another group also had a disappointed, crying child, but that kid's mom reassured him that he tried really hard and she was still proud of him. He stopped crying pretty quickly after that comforting and then was fine the rest of the day. What a difference good parenting makes.

There were a few other very nice parents too who came up to me and thanked me for teaching this week. I like those parents. And the parents of the two kids that I gave extra on hand help came up and told me how incredibly grateful they were for the patience and understanding I had with their kids. So that was nice. :)

Oh! And one student brought me a gift! One day this week, I had stayed late while her parents were running behind schedule. I noticed she had an astronomy book, so we got into a long conversation about space. She was so happy to have someone else to talk about that stuff with that she insisted on bringing me a gift today. It was a cute bath bomb in the shape of a robot. I can't decide if  I should save it because it's so cute, or use it in the tub this weekend because I'm so tense and tired.
The new session of robot camp started on Monday and we have a whole new set of kids. When I want to be polite, I say they are energetic.

Some short stories:

1.
Robot camp takes place in a public high school. We share the building with several other camps. During our snack time yesterday, the soccer camp was beginning to serve their lunch. Unlike out camp where the kids have to bring their own food, the soccer camp has their lunches catered. So they were all lining up to receive their food.

One of our kids walked straight over to the soccer camp and got on their line. Thankfully some of the other kids told us, and we retrieved him. One of the teachers explained to him why it was wrong (not our camp, stealing, etc.) and we figured that was the end of it. We are shockingly naive. He tried two other times!!! One time he noticed we were watching him and quickly turned around. The last time, he managed to get back on the time again while we were distracted by another kid. Once again, a few other kids let us know and we retrieved him. He had a long talk with the principal after that and was warned that she would call his parents if there was another problem.

2.
During lunch, one of our kids left the cafeteria. I quickly noticed another kid following him. Neither kid has asked permission to leave, so I followed them. They went into the bathroom, so I waited outside to remind them to ask next time so we know where everyone is at all times. Suddenly I start hearing screaming and banging from the bathroom. So I had to walk back to get the male assistant and have him go inside and find out what they were doing.

The first kid who had left had sincerely had to go to the bathroom. He was screaming because the second kid was climbing up the stall to peek in on him and banging on the door. The first kid was reminded about asking before going to the bathroom. The second kid was given a warning that we would call his parents if he could not behave.

3.
A little girl in the class has no interest in teamwork, programming, or legos. What she does like to do is hover over me and tell me every single thing that pops into her head. Every. single. thing. It's like being trapped in my own personal hell. I really don't know what to do with her today because in addition to the constant chatter, she cannot stop moving. She is constantly jumping around and dancing around. I was allowing her to help me judge catapult robots yesterday, but since she could not keep herself from jumping onto the challenge mat, that's just not going to work today.
And now I have survived the first week of lego summer camp. *whew* Just three more to go.

Things I have learned about children:
- They don't have any concept of an inside voice.
- This is likely because they have no self awareness at all.
- They are stupidly trusting.
- They are also extremely stupid.
- In the sense that they don't try to find a solution. They just want to be told the answer.

Yesterday was their competition day. There was a catapult competition, a maze challenge, and a sumobot battle. The kids liked the sumobots best, but the parents were most impressed by the maze challenge. I personally felt pretty proud when the parents gasped at how well their kids' robots traversed through the maze. The day before, I had set up a code clinic and helped walk the kids through their programs to troubleshoot any issues. About half the kids had been seriously struggling and I had to really hold their hands through the entire programming process. But I got them all done just as the bell rang for them to head upstairs for the competition.

I think I did a really good job considering a really really dislike children. I just put on a happy face and repeated to myself, "Be kind...be kind..." every time a kid started acting up. I'm also getting better at catching them thinking about acting up (I've discovered it's fairly obvious when they are plotting evil), and putting a stop to it before it gets out of hand.

The hardest part is always having to be "on." You can't rest for even a second around these kids. The instant you take your eyes off them, someone is standing on a chair, throwing legos, or hitting someone else. Sometimes I'm afraid to even blink.

And the INANE things they want to tell you about! One kid regaled me for a good 15 minutes with his story about his trip to the lego store to buy a batman set. FIFTEEN MINUTES. Covering every single detail, including which store, who was with him, what they did on the way there, the other lego sets he didn't choose, and so on.

But overall, I feel good about myself for accepting a challenge and reasonably triumphing. And it definitely reinforces my desire to never ever have kids. My favorite part of the day is when I get home and I can decompress in the calm and quiet. This weekend is going to be glorious. All I want to do is nap in my backyard listening to the wind through the trees and the chirp of neighborhood birds.
I have survived two days of teaching lego robots. It was not as bad as I feared, but it is very very exhausting.

I'm really thankful for the two teachers in the classroom. They know what they're doing and that makes everything so much easier. Today when the kids were acting up and not listening, one of the teachers started a game of "If you can hear me, [touch your nose/wiggle your fingers/stand on one foot]" until she had everyone's attention. I thought it was brilliant.

I've been given a lot of opportunities to give lessons in the class myself, which is terrifying but also good practice in public speaking. On the first day, I taught the students good practices for writing programs (plan it out before you start coding) and how to use the lego software. Today I talked about being a scientist and recording your data. Tomorrow I'm going to talk about rubber duck debugging.

This first week is a bit of learning what to do as I go along. Hopefully next week will go smoother and then I won't be so tired every night.

But so far, so good! There's been no complaints about me and I think I'm doing a pretty good job!
I started training for my summer job on Wednesday. I will be an assistant at a STEM summer camp focused on building lego robots.

The first day was introductions and then setting up the classrooms. We also received our camp t-shirts so that we will look official on the first day and for tournaments. (The only two days parents will be around.)

Yesterday we signed contracts and reviewed the rules of the camp. Then we went over the software for programming the robots as well as the basics for building a chassis-bot.

Today we practiced building and programming robots. The teachers also planned out their teaching strategy for the week.

The teachers seemed to appreciate my feedback and have been including me in a lot of their planning. So that's nice. I enjoy being useful and appreciated.

The person in charge of the camps also mentioned trying to get me more money. I would definitely appreciate that!

The camp starts on the 7th, so I have a full week to try not to panic. I've had kid-related nightmares for the last two nights in a row! Anyone have tips on being around 4th and 5th graders?
I'm in the New York Times today! Excitement abounds!

In the print edition, I'm on pages 1 and 5, with extra pictures. My small consolation for having a car that could kill me at any moment.
Last week, after yet another failed attempt to get an appointment to repair my car, I vented on twitter about how insane and frustrating the whole GM recall thing has been. (For those that doesn't know, GM cars will spontaneously stop on the highway and kill you due to a faulty ignition switch. No, they don't have good switches to repair the cars with. But they might have some...someday.)

Then early this week, a reporter from the NYT messaged me, asking if I could talk to her about my GM recall experience. She was writing an article about the frustration people are experiencing. I definitely could share that! So I shot her a quick email with my basic story plus my contact info if she had any questions. She called me later that day for a full interview.

The next day, she asked if I would mind having my picture taken for the article. I slept on it, or rather, stressed over it wide awake all night, before telling her that was ok.

So today a photographer came by and took a million pictures of me with my car. I dressed up and everything. The photographer was very nice and gave me plenty of direction on how to pose. I hope I did a good enough job. It would be kinda exciting to have my picture in the paper. My tiny 15 minutes of fame.

I wanted to be a reporter when I entered college. This may be the closest I get to seeing my name in the NYT.

And maybe, just maybe, GM will see the article and fix my car already!
Had another doctor's appointment today. They took more blood to see if my medicine needs to be adjusted.

The doctor said normally she's not happy to give someone a positive diagnosis for something, but with hypothyroidism it's a good thing because it's so easy to treat.

Other than that, it has been a slow day. I was trying to do some more rails programming, but I got stuck and I can't figure out what the error message is telling me. I hope Ben can help me when he gets home. He left work not too long ago so he should be here any minute now.

I wanted to do a lot more rails programming than I achieved. I start another python course this week and I wanted to have rails out of the way so I could switch brains and focus on python.

Plus I purchased a couple online courses (on sale! $5 for the whole package! woo!) on web design and a few other programming miscellaneous things that I'd like to work on this summer.

At the rails girls workshop, they suggested programming a bit every day. I am really going to try to do that. I have no excuses. Work doesn't start until end of the month so I have plenty of free time. I just need to stay dedicated and focused. No slacking off. Or sleeping all day. I can do this!

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January 2015

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