Sunday, June 3, 2007

October Heart Conference & Recent Happenings

What an awesome week I had! The first week of robotics summer camp is already over. I'm trying to figure out how to put pictures up on my website ( The kids had such a great time and so did I! Alex is making new friends and really enjoyed working with the kids. All of the kids, regardless of age, did a nice job of being respectful and having nice behavior. That makes for a much nicer learning environment.

One unexpected thing happened this week. I received an email, and later a phone call, from Pepper Adair who is working in Florida with the American Heart Association Heart Heroes program. She contacted me to see if I would be interested in speaking at a conference they are putting together on October 6th. I'm very excited about this prospect!

For the last few years, I haven't been as active as I was in the heart community. For a number of years, I was speaking at a conference or event a year (sometimes more). I spent weeks or even months planning for these speaking engagements, from making all of the travel arrangements to writing and practicing the speeches and then finally going to the event itself. Since I homeschooled my boys, I had the liberty of taking one or the other with me. I would take first one boy to one engagement and then the other boy the next time. Because of this, Joey went to Vancouver with me, while Alex went to Nova Scotia with me. Sometimes I went alone (like for the Mother's Day event in Sacramento) and sometimes the whole family went together (like when we all went to the Ohio Conference before we flew out to Germany). It was a great way for my boys to get to travel with me, meet nice people and help me with Baby Hearts Press' mission.

However, I became concerned that I was allowing "heart defects" to rule my life. I was afraid that I was putting too much attention on that and not enough on living each day to its fullest. I worried that maybe my activities would negatively affect the boys; although, to that point, nothing untoward had happened. So I took a break.

For the last several years I've been so involved in homeschooling the boys, helping Joey with his acting ambitions and his swimming goals, helping Alex with the creation of a robotics team and trying to be an overall good wife and mother, that speaking engagements and attending heart conferences was put on the back burner. Since that time I have taken training to become a stroke and turn judge (for USA Swimming competitions), trained to become a robotics coach (for FIRST LEGO League/FLL) and become Joey's manager for his acting ambitions. Joey has made a couple of movies (mostly UT student films), he's been to a lot of auditions and he's risen to the state level of swimming, even being ranked in the top 1% of swimmers in the state of Texas.

Alex has gone to 5 robotics competitions as a competitor and he's had a nice success rate. The first year we participated, the team made 24th out of 76 teams. We were pleased with the results. The second year, the team made it to the quarterfinals before being beaten. The third year, the team won 1st place in the research portion of the competition! It was very exciting to bring home that LEGO trophy. This last year, the team did the best they've ever done. They won 3rd place in the robotic head-to-head competition and 2nd place overall. Had they won first place, they would have been eligible to go to the international competition in Atlanta. That's their goal for the competition in 2008. Right after FIRST LEGO League, the team extended their robotics tournament season to include Robofest.

Robofest is a totally different robotic competition than FLL. What was exciting about Robofest was that the boys got to make their own missions and they were able to create more than one robot to complete their missions. They won their state competition and then went to the international competition. That was a wonderful learning opportunity for them because they got to see so many robots made out of different kinds of kits and some that were made without the benefit of a prepackaged kit. It also showed the boys how they could make a stationary robot that could still accomplish some interesting missions.

In January of 2006, Joey asked again to go to public school. I decided that it was time to let him make a choice with regard to his place of education and I had already taken him to the college level in many of his subjects. He didn't really believe me when I told him that, but then I scheduled all of us to take the SATs in the springtime. Joey was 14, Alex was 11 and they both did great. Joey had the chance to go to college instead or high school. Because he wanted to be on the high school swim team, he chose to go to high school.

Last week Joey finished his first year of public school. I'm proud of him for doing as well as he did (all As for the year!), despite some anticipated problems. It was the first time for him to have some really difficult teachers to deal with. He learned that sometimes he would have to make changes, but he also learned that when the system just isn't working, sometimes you have be an advocate for yourself and find a different teacher. These are things he needs to be aware of for college anyway, so I guess it's better for him to be learning those things now while I'm here to help him negotiate his way through the maze of paperwork and bureaucracy.

With Joey in public school, Alex's and my homeschool changed dramatically. This last year was really a transition year for us. It was a science-intensive year for Alex. In addition to all of the robotics competitions Alex was preparing for and attending, he participated in Science Bowl, too. This is a special program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The questions were tough and Alex had to do a lot of studying. We watched movies, took field trips and did a lot of reading together to help him prepare for this competition. We also spent a fair amount of time on math, since that is part of the competition, too. What we discovered at the competition was that the higher you go in the Science Bowl competition, the more math questions -- and more difficult math questions -- there were to answer.

I'll have to write another post later describing what we plan to do in the fall because it's going to be pretty intense; however, I am also planning on working with Baby Hearts Press more this year, too.

Right now I'm making motions to change my business to make it more successful financially and to complete some long-overdue projects. I've hired my father to help me. I know if he's depending on me to do things, I'll get them done. Otherwise it's too easy for me to get distracted with robotics, driving the kids to their different activities, doing laundry, paying bills, etc. and nothing gets done for BHP beyond the everyday answering of emails, keeping up with the websites and processing book orders. Now I'm planning on getting some new material out there and I'm excited about that.

This October conference is another thing for me to be excited about. I have stayed active in Toastmasters and have continued giving speeches and working on improving myself as a speaker, but I haven't been out speaking very much.

I did speak as an expert in the heart community last year at a Federal Court. That was quite an experience! I'll have to write that up for another blog entry. But other than that, I haven't spoken much in the last couple of years to the heart community about the heart community.

I think that the rest of 2007 should prove to be very fun and exciting. In addition to planning for this conference (and it WILL take some planning since I'll be giving a keynote address, doing a few pull-out sessions and taking part on a panel discussion at the very end), I am preparing for a fun trip for the family. In August Frank and I are taking the boys to San Francisco. We're very excited about that. Frank and I went to SF a number of years ago and had a wonderful time. We knew it was a place we wanted to share with our boys someday. That someday is soon approaching and we are eagerly planning some of the sites we will take the boys to and some of the activities we'd like to do.

I hope any of you readers who live in south Florida and would like to attend this conference will contact me. The conference is mostly by invitation, but they will allow some others to attend, too. When more material is available, I'll have information online at my website:

That concludes this very hectic, yet exciting, week. I'm really enjoying blogging, too. It is a fun way for me to write, share and chronicle what's going on in my life and in Baby Hearts Press.

Have a terrific day!