LEGO Labs

(A guest post by CJ)

Several years ago, the Kalamazoo Public Library started a LEGO contest – what could you imagine and build with LEGOs inside a 12”x12” space?

The question stuck with me, and for the last couple years – whenever I was playing LEGOs with the girls – I’d also think about what I’d like to build. I imagined a sort of LEGO lab headquarters. It would be a place where mini-fig mad-scientists would work to create exciting new forms of mayhem, er, technology.

And for my birthday this year, I decided to take the time to build it.

I started the weekend before my birthday. I knew it was going to take me a full week to get it done since I was making it up as I went along. There was a fair amount of building, demolishing, and then re-building as I realized that I needed to add this or that brick in the middle of an already built wall or desk.

And I couldn’t have gotten it done without Mark and Lucy. Lucy was enthralled with the process – she helped make several of the desks and the more elaborate scientific consoles. She also handled the ‘casting’ – she made almost all of the mini-figures that occupy the lab. Mark offered himself up as my chief minion – I’d ask for this or that piece and he’d go find it for me while I kept building. And then he went above and beyond to create… well… you’ll see.

We had so much fun that we decided to take photos and share with all of you. So without further ado…

Welcome to my vision of LEGO labs!

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The first floor has a receptionist, waiting area, and café for both visitors and employees. When you first walk in the main entrance, you can see the LEGO mural by the café.

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The receptionist is a hardworking and friendly student from a local college.

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She oversees the waiting area, which is stocked with the local newspapers and pretty flowers.

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The café is small but serves a variety of hot and cold items.

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Here are a couple of hard-working lab assistants taking a lunch break together. Anyone can pull up a stool and chat!

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And yes, that is a restroom door behind them.

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You can’t see the sink, but it our staff clearly know the importance of washing their hands! (We’re especially proud of the grey hand-dryer over the counter and the toilet paper by the toilet!)

If you go up the stairs to the second floor, you’ll encounter the mechanical lab area first. They have a fully stocked tool bench (including a vise) and are working on creating a small robot that can help people during a natural disaster.

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Meanwhile, another scientist seems to be working on our more powerful computer. We’re don’t remember what he’s working on, but it seems to involve birds and the physics of flight perhaps?

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Over in the corner, it looks like our chemist is analyzing some compounds under the microscope. She’s a little short, so we built a step-stool for her.

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A short walk up the stairs, and then you’ll arrive at the third floor. (Uh-oh… it looks like this lab tech is busy looking at her tablet while she’s walking on the stairs! I hope she doesn’t get hurt!)

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Initially… I only had plans for half of the third floor. And Mark decided to take his minion-skills up a notch and build something to serve as his application for Chief Assistant Minion.

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WOW! Well, I couldn’t turn this down, so we immediately added it to the top floor. Rumor has that it may have initially been called a ‘death ray’ but since our LEGO Lab is one of scientific exploration (not bent on world domination), we adapted it into an especially powerful telescope. Right now I think they’re working on seeing Pluto.

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Lucy really outdid herself in building the consoles for the telescope and our next area. So many levers and lights!

And finally, the last area of our lab is where we are engaged in some exciting new research on humans, er, mini-figs:

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As you can see, this is some pretty complicated machinery with a very advanced control panel. We insist that all visitors stay behind the red line for both their safety and that of our test subject.

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As you can see, we have a special secure containment unit where we bombard the mini-fig subject with blue-purple lightning to see if we can stimulate the development of super-mini-fig powers. (Mark wants me to call it a transmogrification chamber, but really… we’re trying to sound scientific here)

Thank you for enjoying our tour of LEGO labs!

Gem Poetry

A poetry collection, by Lucy Gilbert.

Tiptoe Walk

Tiptoe walk, tiptoe walk.
I need to spell that out with some chalk!
No! No! Don’t do that!
She needs to learn to walk, flat!

 

 

New Shoes

Green, Red, Purple, Blue.
I need new shoes and it’s true.
Which should I pick and which should I choose?
I will go with the Red and Blue!

New Shoes

 

 

Tick, Tock

Tick, Tock,
It’s the clock.
Tick, Tock,
I think I’ll go.
Tick, Tock,
Stop clock!
Tick, Tock,
The clock is my foe.

Tick Tock

 

 

Star

Star, star, shine your light,
shine your light bright tonight.

Make it shine where everyone can see,
so we can make a wish upon thee.

So star, star, shine your light,
shine your light bright tonight.

Star

 

 

Friends

They are nice, kind, and fun
All the way ‘til the day is done.

Sometimes they can be mean,
but you can cheer them up with a jelly bean.

They are nice, kind, and fun
All the way ‘til the day is done.

Friends

CJ & Katherine go to Shuto-Con 2017 (Part 1)

[A guest blog by CJ]

This past fall, Katherine discovered that one of her favorite online artists, Crayon Queen (a.k.a. Loverofpiggies), would be coming to Lansing’s Shuto-Con in March 2017. Shuto-Con is a convention celebrating anime, gaming and cosplay. When I asked her what she’d like for Christmas, Katherine answered that she’d REALLY like to be able to go to Shuto-Con and hear Crayon Queen (CQ) speak. Kat’s been a huge fan of all CQ’s online comics for years, and she’s learned a lot about the process of (and persistence needed for) online comics from CQ’s Tumblr/blog.

So for Christmas, Mark and I made Katherine a ‘gift certificate’ to attend the conference, and Lucy decided that she wanted to help Katherine create a cosplay for the conference. (For those who don’t know, cosplay is essentially dressing in costume as a character from a movie, book, game, or comic.)

Lucy hams it up as Kat opens her Harold Gloom cosplay gift and looks appropriately gloomy.

Katherine immediately recognized that we had given her the first few pieces of clothing needed to make her very own cosplay based on one of her favorite CQ characters: Harold Gloom, a hobo candy magician from CrayonQueen’s comic Gloomverse.

Here’s a fan-art picture that Katherine drew of Harold:

Kat's fan art of Harold Gloom of Gloomverse

Harold has the magical ability to make a seemingly infinite amount of candy, and he also has little talking pieces of candy (called Lemon Kids) that occasionally pop out from under his hat. So while Kat worked on the actual clothes for her cosplay, I worked on making a Lemon Kid purse that she could fill with candy canes to pass out at the convention. If she’s going as a gloomy hobo candy magician, she should be able to make candy appear on demand, right?

Plus, we made a Lemon Kid that could sit on her shoulder.

Katie looks down at the Lemon Kid on her shoulder

In the days leading up to the con, Katherine was filled with the kind of nervous excitement that typically accompanies weddings, spaceship launches, and fan-girls getting to meet their heroes. The morning of the con, we were on the road by 7 a.m. The Shuto-Con Facebook page warned us that they might sell out of Saturday passes, so we wanted to get there when they opened at 9 a.m.

We had a little adventure on the way to the con (which may be shared in a separate blog), but we finally arrived there just before 9:30 and soon had our day-passes in hand! We immediately went to a nearby bathroom so that Katie could get into her costume. (It was a busy place, as several women had the same idea. I actually helped a female Deadpool zip up the back of her hood so her hair wouldn’t get caught in the zipper.)

Eventually though… Harold Gloom was ready to enter Shuto-Con 2017!

Katherine stands by the Shuto-Con Photoshoot sign

[Full-disclosure – this pic is from later in the con, but it fits the story best here!]

The convention hall with the artists wasn’t scheduled to open until 11 a.m., so for the first hour we just walked around and enjoyed admiring everyone else’s cosplays.

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Lucy loves Pokémon, so I had to get a photo with Pikachu!

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Look – it’s Jack Frost and the Tooth Fairy (from Rise of the Guardians)!

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Say hi to Hiro and Baymax from Big Hero 6!

We had only been walking around for about 10 minutes when suddenly another teenage girl squealed and literally ran over to Katherine.

“Ohmigosh! I’ve never seen anyone dress up as Harold before! You look so awesome! Can I please get your photo?!?!”

Katherine briefly mimicked a deer in headlights, and then she said “Sure” and struck an appropriate gloomy-Harold-like pose. The girl briefly chatted with Katherine about how much she liked Gloomverse and asked if Katherine knew that Crayon Queen was at Shuto-Con. Yep – that’s why we’re here!

As we continued through the lobby, we saw several people dressed up as characters from RWBY (an American anime that we love), and we discovered that there would be a RWBY-themed photo-shoot at 11 a.m. We decided to wander down that way and found a LOT of people doing some pretty awesome RWBY cosplays.

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And that’s only about a quarter of the RWBY cosplayers! I’ll post more photos on the next blog post, but Katherine and I were both amused at this shot with several people dressed up as Qrow. He’s something of a black sheep character who is always drinking so we were amused to see that one of them actually brought a flask to use as a prop.

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By the time we were finished taking RWBY photos, the convention hall was finally open… which meant that Katherine could go meet Crayon Queen in person.

It turned out there was a line at CQ’s table, so Kat initially tried to hide behind me. It didn’t work very well because the other CQ fans in line saw Katherine and immediately began to exclaim and point: “Look, it’s Harold from Gloomverse!”

That, of course, caught Crayon Queen’s attention, and when she caught sight of Katherine, her whole face lit up. As we patiently waited for our turn at the table, Katherine picked out which poster and pins she wanted to buy with her own money, and I agreed to buy her a Gloomverse book as an early birthday present. Once we were at the table, there was some mutual fan-girling going on as Katherine shared how much she liked CQ’s work and CQ admired Katherine’s cosplay. Katie was too shy to ask, so I popped the question – could we get a picture?

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And the answer was yes!

Elated at having successfully spoken with CQ, Katherine decided to try visiting the table of another of her favorite online artists – Alexis Royce, who writes Evil Plan and Sire. We not only got to meet her, but when she found out that Katherine was a fan of Evil Plan, she gave Katie a button of Tal A. Kinesis from Evil Plan to go along side the Harold button we bought at CQ’s table.

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With the two ‘must-see’ artists checked off Katie’s list, we then browsed the rest of the artists’ hall, the gaming hall, and made a few more loops of the general convention center to check out more cosplays, the combat area, etc. etc.

When we got in line to eat lunch, Katherine suddenly grabbed my arm and pointed urgently at someone in the nearby crowd. At first she was so excited, I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but then she slowed down her speech and explained that someone had decided to cosplay as another one of CQ’s characters, UnderFresh Sans. Katherine went over to her and the two girls had some mutual squeals over each other’s costumes and then we got a picture of the two of them:

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Later in the day, Katherine would also confront the great Papyrus from Undertale and they would engage in a brief battle of puns – a skele-TON of puns, as Katie would say

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After lunch, we attended a workshop on creating digital art. The speaker, Yhasmin Wilder of Boymonsta.com, was very informative and also quite hysterical to listen to. For part of the workshop, she showed us how she used digital layers upon layers (so many layers!) to create fan art for the characters Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir. Since Lucy is a big fan of Miraculous Ladybug, we stopped by Ms. Wilder’s artist booth afterwards and bought a poster for Lucy – and got it autographed on the back by the artist!

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(Check out our next post for photos of people cosplaying as these characters too!)

We did some more crowd-watching and then had some dinner. The big event for us, though, was CrayonQueen’s Q&A panel. After dinner, we went to sit outside the panel room about 45 minutes ahead of time to make sure we got in. Kat used the time to get in a little drawing.

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Yes, all those people are waiting for CQ’s panel! The crowd all clearly loved CQ – many of them were Patreons of her work – and CQ felt comfortable joking around with all of us. The questions ranged from silly to serious, from probing questions about backstories of characters to hypothetical “what if” questions that made the crowd gasp and/or break out in laughter.

CQ warned everyone that she wouldn’t spoil anything big in the stories to come, but she had lots of fun taunting the fans with hints and half-truths. And then to crown the night off, the crowd got to see the first few pages of her newest and latest comic, Lucidia.

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Katherine actually did ask a question of CQ – and so did I. Being a teacher, mine was fairly predictable – what advice would CQ have for young artists out there and the adults who are trying to support them? She shared a few tips, but the one that surprised me was that she encouraged all artists to learn to draw with good posture and to take care of their bodies (CQ shared that she learned that the hard way!). Katherine proved herself to be a true CQ fan because asked a hypothetical question about how one characters in her new comic, Lucidia, who had also been in one of CQ’s earliest comics, Mortifer would react to meeting some of his old companions from Mortifer while in the world of Lucidia. That made CQ stop and smile, but she wouldn’t reveal any spoilers!

The panel eventually came to an end, but before we could leave the con, another girl (who was cosplaying as Toriel from Undertale) shyly came up to Kat and asked for her photo. I offered to get a picture of the two of them together, and I swear Toriel almost did a happy dance right then. Over the course of the day, Kat had actually been recognized by quite a few people and had her picture taken at least 6 or 7 times.

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After that, we went home with sore feet and happy faces. It was a somewhat stressful drive back (yucky roads, no working shake machines at any McDonalds, and an apparently drunk or distracted semi-truck driver on I-94), but we made it THERE AND BACK AGAIN! (Not exactly a hobbit’s tale, but definitely an adventure nonetheless!)

Stay tuned for another post with just a bunch’o’fun pics.

It was a dark and rainy night…

It was a dark and rainy night… when a witch appeared. 
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At first I was afraid, but then I saw the Gryffindor crest on her robe, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  Then I looked closer at what she was carrying – a stack of books? 
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Ah, now I recognized this young witch – she must be Hermoine!
And apparently her Muggle father had agreed to take her trick-or-treating tonight despite the horrible weather:
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Meanwhile, though, the night was far from over.  I discovered a hooded figure in our dining room. It bore a striking resemblance to the character Johnny Ghost, from the VenturianTale YouTube series called “PIE” (Paranormal Investigators Extraordinaire).
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She said that she was not there to hunt down ghosts but to do something far more terrifying:
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Write an essay for English class!

I asked for it

A few days ago, Lucy was working on her first-grade homework at the table. I happened to look over from my work, and I saw that she had skipped a word in her answer.

“Lucy, did you mean to write ‘Max lost in the park’?”

Lucy sighed and flipped her pencil around to begin erasing the entire sentence.

“Wait, Lucy, you don’t have to erase it all. You can just insert the missing word with a caret.”

I expected her to ask me what a “caret” was, but she didn’t. Instead, she just wrote the missing word right above where it should have gone… and then she wrote something else below it.

With a mischievous grin, she slid the paper over to me, and then I saw what she had written.

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Lucy had inserted the word along with the drawing of a carrot.  Just like her mama had suggested!

Natural Rhetoriticians

Natural Rhetoriticians: that’s what you get when you mate a philosopher & English major…

Our children know how to argue. Let’s face it… when their mom was an English major and their dad was a philosophy major, they are surrounded by words.  We are constantly explaining and persuading them why their parents’ way is best.  It’s not surprising that they’d turn the tables on us and try to persuade us why their way is best!  Of course, with kids, their arguments are only limited by their imaginations…

Some examples…

Lucy & CJ were kicking a ball back and forth in the front yard. Lucy wanted CJ to look away so that Lucy could kick a ball in the goal without her mom blocking it.

Lucy: Mom, there’s a pretty flower growing behind you!

CJ shakes her head.

Lucy: Mom, there’s a bee flying behind you!

CJ [shakes her head again]: Nah… it’s not so easy to get me to turn around…”

Lucy [throws her arms up in the air]: Look, there’s a grass monster, OK?!?

 

Lucy: But I don’t want to go potty…

CJ: [Trying to get her to go before we left the house] But sitting there for a minute won’t hurt you.

Lucy: Yes, it will – it will eat my butt!

Evolution of a Smile

A guest blog co-written by CJ & Lucy

At the end of April, Lucy lost one of her top teeth.

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She was very excited (as you can see).  Lucy was already working on getting the next tooth to be as loose as possible.  She took great pride in wiggling that one tooth out between her lips and smiling with just that one tooth poking out, snaggletooth style.

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A month later, she lost another tooth… but not the one we expected:

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As you can see, Lucy still had one tooth hanging in the middle.  Mark christened this her ‘jack-o-lantern’ smile.  Lucy loved it.  LOVED IT!

Finally, on June 7th, that hanging tooth FINALLY came out.

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How it came out was Katherine, her sister, knocked it out on a walk. She was tickling Lucy and then accidentally knocked it out. (Her parents may have been heard muttering something about “The first rule of fight club…” but we can neither confirm nor deny that here.)

A few days later, Katherine got some new adjustments to her smile as well:

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Yep, those are braces!  Right now she is sporting alternating orange and teal bands (her favorite colors), but she’s thinking that she might switch to her school colors for cross-country season.

In the meantime, our house is full of smiles…

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Guest Post: Shoes

So, my mom hates it when I don’t pick up my floor, especially my shoes. She even nicknamed them the “killer shoes”, because of her tendency to trip on anything in her way. Then one day, she cracked…

Shoes on Door

Yup. Definitely not getting those in the way anymore. Took me a LONG time to get them down.

Guest Post: Best. Anniversary. Card. EVER.

A few months ago, Mark and I were looking at the calendar to decide how to celebrate our anniversary. When we realized that Iron Man 3 would be coming out the day before our anniversary, suddenly the decision became very easy. My parents were kind enough to offer to take the girls for a sleep-over, and Mark and I planned to enjoy dinner at a grown-up restaurant, a fun movie, and some time with just the two of us.

And then, on Friday morning, Katherine woke up very sick (throat & ear aches) and Lucy sported a very runny nose. While disappointed, neither of us were horribly upset – we just agreed to reschedule our anniversary celebration for sometime this summer and take in some other popcorn flick.

After that decision was reached, though, Mark’s face suddenly brightened and he announced, “But I have the perfect card to cheer you up!” and he ran out of the room and brought back an anniversary card that he had made for me:

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Oh. My. Goodness.

The joke, part 1: First I chuckled. I have always loved Mark’s cartoons with his Dude character – especially when the Dude doing a face-palm expression. And using a welding torch to light a candle? Total silly overkill and very amusing. Definitely tickling my funny bone. Boy, I thought, does my husband know me! And then, I looked closer…

The joke, part 2: Those are WEDDING CANDLES!!! Ohmigosh, those are OUR wedding candles!!!

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CLARIFICATION: For those of you who did not attend our wedding 17 years ago, we had a little… ah… technical malfunction… when it was time to light the unity candle. When we lifted the tapers over the center candle, the tapers dripped wax so heavily that the center wick became coated and would not light.

Now I was really laughing hard… Wow, it would have been funny to light our wedding candle with a welding torch!

I decided to put the card out on the kitchen counter, and I smiled every time I passed by it all morning. And then, after a few hours, I was struck by a yet another revelation. I had to immediately call Mark up at work when I abruptly realized:

The joke, part 3: That’s ME holding the welding torch!

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It’s a girl-Dude-ette with bows on her antenna! Whoo-hoo! And that, honestly, makes sense since I ended up having to pry up the center candle and tip it over to remove the excess wax before we could light it. It took a while to get the candle to light, and I can still remember the palpable tension in the church at that moment, but then I stuck my hand out to Mark and we shared a good, firm handshake. Mission accomplished, right? Laughter filled the church and we had finally achieved FIRE! Er, UNITY, I mean…

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Sweetheart, here’s to not just 17 years of creative problem solving, but also 17 years of laughter! Sometimes very delayed laughter, but definitely the joyful laughter of the happily-ever-after variety…

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– CJ