Sunday, December 5, 2010

about the journey

Okay. Yesterday was unbelievable.

We had to get up before the sun yesterday—to get to Sydney in time for the Lego League tournament. My son groaned his way down the stairs, took his pillow and snoozed in the car—but it didn't take long before excitement kicked in.

Because this was going to be a BIG day.

The opening ceremony was at 8 am. Which is, like, crazy early! But the place was already jumping.

There were over 50 teams. Costumes, hats, posters, banners were on display.

(The kids' banner. Funny thing was, the officials misspelt the name,
so the whole day we were Project Becuphalus. And no-one could pronounce the name. Hysterical)

One team was wearing morph suits. I didn't know what a morph suit was until yesterday. But basically it's an all over body suit, all black, and it literally looks like you have no face. Spoooooky! They were one of our team's favourites.

faceless dudes

Music blared, and kids pulsed nervous energy. People made opening type announcements, and they even got an Important Diplomat from Denmark to give a speech. Big stuff!

Then came the challenges, which came back to back to back.

(get it? back to back to back… ? sorry!)

First was the kids' Research Presentation. It involved a funny skit (imagine a Rapper Pancreas being interviewed, and you start to get the picture) then two little scientists with lab coats and clip-boards presenting the project solution. The kids rocked it.

Then they zipped off to present their robot, which could do many, many snazzy things, like…well, really awesome things that only the kids can explain! I didn't get to see this part, because as the competition deepened, pretty much only the coach could go into the interview rooms. And he had to stay SILENT and STILL. It was up to the kids entirely.

The third challenge was teamwork. You know that saying, that Homeschoolers aren't socialised? They don't know how to work together? Because they're always cloistered away in their homes, mostly stuck at desks, not another peer in sight?

Pishposh, I say! (I've always wanted to say that, and now I have, it sounds ridiculous!) As a team, the kids had to work out how to be an echidna (and in a later call-back, design a logo for next year), in two minutes. No pressure! The kids nailed it.

NEXT came the robot competition. Now, this was big and public. It was in a huge theatre, tables on the stage, everyone watching.

The kids' robot had to complete all these challenges, like release a lego syringe, cart lego figures from place to place, repair a lego bone, and stint a lego heart, all in two and a half minutes. That's less time than you spend brushing your teeth!

And they had to do it while competing with another team on a board right next to them, with people cheering, commentators commenting, music blaring, people crowding in to watch. Again, the kids blew us away.

Suddenly, they were doing well. And not just your regular, hey, the robot didn't go crazy and crash into every single obstacle on the board. Or, hey, no-one fainted from nerves. Or bonus, no-one threw up on a judge. But WELL.

Like, kind of winning.

This robot and the two kids running it, and the team standing beside them cheering it on, flew to the top of the ladder. Suddenly they had other teams crowding to see them compete, coming up to say hello, and congratulating them. Suddenly, they were this mysterious thing—CONTENDERS.

Should I cut a long story short? I might, because—you know—I've got a plane to catch!

They won.

First they won a poster award (which the kids promptly gave to their team-mate who'd spent an entire day making the poster).

Then, they WON the National Robot Challenge. The National Robot Challenge! Which went down to the wire, with play off after play off 'til the last, nail-biting, 2.5 minute final against a Melbourne team. It felt exactly like we were standing inside the movie Karate Kid. (The original of course, 'cos that is just the best).

the final playoff

(And after that final, our kids and the Melbourne team sat together and chatted through the entire closing ceremony. Instant friends.)

And then…


Which means the whole thing. All the challenges (which were first judged separately at a State level) judged together: the robot performance, teamwork, robot design, and research presentation.

They won the whole thing.

There was jumping. There was incredulity. There was almost fainting (but no throwing up). There was a TROPHY.

(or should I say, there were trophies?)

And now they get to fly overseas, to compete at an international tournament, in either Scandinavia or the US (they get to choose). They will represent Australia. NUTS!!!


Afterwards… after we'd peeled ourselves off the roof and hugged and taken photos and said our farewells and begun the drive home, I got to thinking. As I do. I got to ruminating as I drove, as my son was caught in his own thoughts, as the rain began to come down and the night deepened.

This is what I took away from the day:

These kids were amazing. Amazing in how they worked together. How it wasn't always fun or easy, but they saw it out. How they went so hard, for a whole day (TEN straight hours), totally going for it.

And going for it wasn't about going for a win. It was about meeting the challenges head on, doing their best, being awesome friends, laughing (a LOT), getting incredibly excited, eating a lot of sugar, and then, somewhere along the journey, finding that the quality of their work was being recognised.

To me, the tournament was the icing on an amazing cake. (And I love cake, so it's going to be my analogy for the rest of this post!)

Winning the tournament, was a candle on that icing. A big candle sure, involving future fund-raising and major international travel, but not the cake.

The cake was this:

My boy and his friends having a blast, a truly happy day, from the beginning—well before any prizes were being wonall the way to the end.

The cake was my boy spending the day with people he cherishes, seeing something out to its completion, having an adventure, and being IN THE MOMENT.

The cake was taking the journey with an open heart and finding as much joy in it as possible.

Which is beautiful. It is all you can hope for.

And now…

well, we have a plane to catch!


  1. OMG! How exciting! That is so fantastic AND it sounds like you better get used to that flying business! hehe! Have fun lovely! Hugs xoxoxox

  2. WOW and WOW!! I bet that was just amazing. I know the energy in that room was great!
    Congrats to your boy! Maybe the US Finals will be in Alabama. :grins:

    Fly and be happy.

  3. Thank you, Karisma! Thank you, Karen! Thank you, Yeshe!

    Joy and energy and wings and pure light—that's what fills me right now.

    Life is extraordinary and beautiful, isn't it?

  4. Your kids team WON the NATIONAL competition?!?

    Holy Crap on a Cracker, Helena! That is just too cool for words!

    I guess it's a good thing you are working on your flying issues, if your kids are going to be international superstars!

    Really great job, congratulations you guys.

  5. Thanks for the write up :-) Not bad for a bunch of rookies. Obviously homeschooling is detrimental to their learning and development :-P

    For the record, The Netherlands are not part of Scandinavia :-)

  6. Congratulations to your DS, Helena and to the whole team!!

  7. congratulations
    that's a BIG deal ! .. (I love Lego)
    really something !
    ... and yes - what you described is so true .. even if they did not win - they were winners together with all those other kids who had wonderful time being creative ... but NOW since they won ... it means a start of new adventures .... fantastic

  8. holy cow that's super awesome! congrats to them =D

  9. Congrats! So excited for your team of kids.


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.