Beaten by Children

Each Friday evening I take a class in Mandarin at the Chelmsford Chinese Language School. After that class, I go to chess club, while Naomi studies Chinese Folk Dance. I wrote this at the end of last year.

Carissa is quietly contemplative. She keeps her body movements still, with a level of concentration that seems incongruous with her age. She looks disarming. Yet she plays chess with such aggression that I find myself doing nothing more than react to her constant attacks the entire game, with no chance to implement a winning strategy of my own.

Jeffrey is “all boy.” Every time he makes a good move, his whole body shakes with elation. He laughs with glee every time he puts forth another reveal, or forces me to choose which of two pieces I am going to have eaten by his.

I am 42. They are both just seven years old. In addition to their age, they have one other thing in common: They absolutely destroy me at chess.

But the children weren’t the only ones who learn and improve. I go back every week, and I get better.

Building a Future with LEGO: My Nephew Andrew Roberts

(Excerpt from the Community Advocate Newspaper, Friday, February 3, 2012, article by Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer.)

Marlborough – Prior to November 2011, Andrew Roberts worked for County House Research performing in-court background checks. By the end of November, though, he retired to pursue his lifelong passion, building Army tanks with LEGOs.

Lego tank and APC, designed and built by Andrew Roberts.
A sample of the many tanks that can be built with Andrew Robert’s LEGO kits.

Roberts’ love for LEGOs began at age 5 when he was given a big bucket of the brightly colored building blocks as a gift, and he has been playing with them ever since. About two years ago, Roberts heard about a man who was building World War II tanks out of LEGOs. Intrigued, he decided to build his own LEGO tank which he then put on eBay – and it sold. He made another and it sold as well, snowballing into something bigger than Roberts could have anticipated.

… Read the full article at the Community Advocate Newspaper site.

Andrew Roberts poses with a Lego M1 tank he designed and built.
Andrew Roberts has made building with LEGOs a full-time business.

To see or purchase any of Andrew’s sets or instructions, visit his eBay store:

See You Later, “New Dad”

Five years ago my Mom remarried at age 80, several years after the death of my father. “New Dad,” as I generally referred to him, was George Fortini, a sweetheart of a guy who proved (along with Mom) that being crazy-in-love and romantic wasn’t just for young people.

The five years he and Mom had together were marked with many of the typical struggles of octogenarianism, but they took care of each other with love, grace, a large amount of very good-natured ribbing, and constant delight with what God had given them. George demonstrated that God’s grace was just as attainable and life-changing as falling in love still was.

Mom and "New Dad"
Mom and "New Dad," George Fortini

Their story of finding each other has brought a smile to the face of every one of the many people with whom I have shared it. Their obvious, genuine affection has been just as inspiring.

Most of our family attended their wedding. Mom and George were neighbors, and a path had been worn into the front lawn between their two houses. (George refused to move in with Mom until after the ceremony, insisting that he wanted to “do things the right way.”) New Dad was always grateful that our side of the family accepted him as readily as we did.

How could we not?

Late last week, George was admitted to the hospital with some internal bleeding from an ulcer. Efforts to stop it were unsuccessful. He was moved to hospice on the weekend, and passed away quietly and peacefully, while holding his daughter’s hand, at around 10:30 last night.

Although our reunion in Heaven will come, now we feel the sorrow of missing him especially sharply.

How could we not?

From We to Me

An involuntary divorce is, quite frankly, a terrible event. I doubt that will surprise anyone. There are dozens of expected perils and adjustments. It is tragic, and painful beyond belief.

But that pain does, eventually, well and truly end. One adjusts. Balance returns. Life becomes fabulous again.

But occasionally, there are bits of adjustment that are just plain odd or unexpected.

The one of these, with which I struggle constantly, is whether to use the plural first person pronoun, we, to describe events in the past that were performed when there was a we. Do I say, “We always wanted a daughter, and had the name Naomi chosen for many years,” or should it be, “I always wanted …”?

As the time passes, I still find myself waffling on this one. Some weeks I strongly lean toward, “I will describe things as they were,” and other weeks I think, “No! I have to be clear that I’m single. What if some unmarried Nobel-prize-for-science-winning* supermodel missionary gal is eavesdropping on this conversation and mistakenly thinks I am married?”

Anyway, these are the kinds of post-divorce things that nobody talks about.


*No, the Nobel Prize for Economics does not count. (I have standards, you know.)

(And, yes, I know that I am not using parallel structure in the title. The rhyme seemed more appropriate.)


We became involved with Minecraft early in its beta development cycle. Frankly, it’s been amazing and fascinating. We operate our own server at home, modded with Runecraft so we could make teleporters (generally it’s up from early evening until the morning), and have started to add more users to the system. There are still some open slots, if you’re interested in joining us.

The new addition of powered rail boosters has gotten us rail-and-rollercoaster-crazy.

My Little April Fool

When I got home yesterday, I discovered that NaNi had put her snow day time to very good use.

R2 looks a little different. But he does have a huge smile.
"Dad, please lifted up the helmit."
Under the helmet ...
NaNi did some redecorating.
"Hay, you. Kiss me, please."
"No. Well, just one. I love this!!! Happy April Fool's Day. I love you, Dad. "Thank you for the kiss, you kind Jedi."
I love the details. Lipstick attached to the phaser.
... and matching shoes.

Dance Macadam

Naomi had been very, very sick for almost 10 days—double ear and ear canal infections, that we finally got under control. Even though she stayed home from school, she hadn’t had a fever all day, and I let her go to ballet. (Isaac took care of her while I was at work—my first day back in the office in a while. I am very grateful that Transparent Language has such excellent work-from-home infrastructure.) So I went home, got her ready for ballet (tights need help), and off we went. Gate City Ballet is pretty much on the same street as my job, so I normally drop her off, go back to work, and pick her up at the end.
Naomi with her artwork.

On the way to ballet, we stopped at the school department offices, where one of her pieces of artwork is being displayed. Naomi was thrilled to see it.

Naomi's Art on Display at the Nashua School System Offices.
Naomi's Art on Display at the Nashua School System Offices.

We got to ballet (on time, even—everything in Nashua is close and convenient), and she exclaimed, “My ballet bag!”

I said, “No problem, you can see if they will let you start in your stockings,” and I went home to get the bag. I picked it up, and realized there were no tap shoes in it. So, I hunted around her room to find tap shoes, and put them in the bag, and delivered them to ballet.

“Dad, these are my old tap shoes. They hurt my feet if I wear them.”

I laughed. “Okay, I’ll be back in a bit.” Back to the house … play the “find the real tap shoes” game—not as easy as finding the wrong pair. Back to the ballet studio. Along with a sweater she forgot to pack.

I hold up the correct shoes and the sweaters. Naomi beams and blows me a kiss.

I am in Heaven.

It's two years old, but this is still one of my favorite ballet photos of NaNi.
It's two years old, but this is still one of my favorite ballet photos of NaNi.


If I were to lose you today
I would lose …

The one who mothered my children
The one who was my only lover
The one who laughed at my jokes
The one who tolerated my inability to get my socks into the hamper right-side out
The one whose smile always brightened my day
The one who cut my hair
The one who prepared my meals
The one who shared my poverty
The one who shared my wealth
The one whom I have laughed with
The one whom I have cried with
The one whose illness tested my faith, showing me that it was okay to let God know I was really angry with Him
The one who received all my love notes
The one whose every success I applauded
The one who left clumps of hair everywhere in the house
The one safe driver in the family
The one who encouraged me when I did crazy things like ride my bike in the snow
The one who I could eat ice cream with
The one who made a million double standards
The one who was my water-fight and snowball target
The one who was my Snugglebunny
The one with whom I have shared a Caribbean sunset
The one who made me change my clothes when they do not match
The one woman I have ever kissed
The one who kicks my butt as my personal trainer
The one with whom I can watch chick-flicks
The one who supported me when my brain would not work right and I did not know what to do
The one who taught me how to exercise
The one who couldn’t stay awake for reading Starship Troopers
The one for whom I have prayed
The one who tolerated and tried to understand my anxieties
The one who was my Queen of Sarcasm
The one who made me not afraid to walk down dark alleys
The one who always froze me with her feet in bed in the winter
The one who prayed for me when I most needed it
The one who recognized all my Star Wars quotations
The one for whom I have bought flowers
The one who trusted me with her secrets
The one who always beat me to the bathroom
The one who my family liked better than they liked me
The one for whom I asked God
The one who pampered me when I was sick
The one whose drinks I could sip and then make “that face”
The one for whom I always thanked God
The one by whom I defined the word beautiful
The one who got me to eat mostly healthily
The one whom I did not see Hyannis with on our honeymoon
The one whose adventure dreams I always envied
The one with whom I could talk through any decision
The one who let me decorate with Lego
The one who always ignored my advice about computing
The one who has made my vacations worth taking
The one who realized immediately that we needed to live closer to work
The one who kept our children safe when I was not cautious enough to do so
The one whose laugh always made me smile
The one who made me think “Wow!” the first time I saw her
The one who was my friend for years
The one whose voice was the most beautiful one in the world to me
The one whose body I always longed to touch
The one for whom I lived
The one whom I love.

Nichelle is moving out today, pursuant to her intent to divorce me. I wrote this a couple of months ago, after a conversation we’d had. Nichelle’s decision was unilateral, and has been the most heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced, but there’s nothing I can do to prevent it.

Goodbye, my darling. Know that I love you, unconditionally and unceasingly.

Rope-Climbing Lego NXT Robot

This is the rope-climbing robot myself and ASD student Joe Cole worked on, as a competitor in the “Robolympics” program I developed after Robot Sumo was done this year.

We were hoping to modify the base to allow it to compete in robot drag racing, but there simply wasn’t enough time.

Ours was the only team to successfully complete a robot that would climb the rope, although two other teams came close. There’s a red Lego Astromech droid on top of a pole that triggers a touch sensor to reverse the robot (usually) when it gets to the top of the rope. If I’d had more time, I’d have replaced that with the ultrasonic distance sensor.

Adam White’s stripped-down speed demon completely dominated the robot drag racing event. No one stood a chance against him.