Monday, September 1, 2014

Green Legos and Big Ideas

Yesterday I took Adi to the Lego KidsFest in Dallas. Our favorite part by far was the area sponsored by Honest Kids juice. They had a virtually unlimited supply of green 2x4 standard bricks. It was pretty amazing to see what people could build with just a single color and shape. I think it gets back to the core of what Legos should be. All the kits that contain specially shaped pieces that can really only be used for one thing seems like a limit to creativity.

Our first project was a house. When we were working on the roof, this girl came up and asked if she could help. 

After that we walked around to see the other exhibits, but finally came back to the green Legos. For a little while we helped another boy with his pyramid, but then moved over to a table to start something new. We experimented with a zig-zag shape, but then decided to try for our own giant pyramid. We used the same pattern that we came up with for the house roof, which used two brick wide layers and was much more stable than just single brick wide layers.

Adi said from the beginning that we would need help to build it, but we started the ambitious project anyway.

It was pretty amazing to me how fast you can build when you don't have to hunt for the right piece. You just grab a handful and continue the pattern.

After we built a few layers, a brother & sister came to our table and were talking about what they would build with their dad. We invited them to help us and they jumped right in. The dad took on the role of acquiring more bricks when our bucket started running low.

Next an 11-year-old boy asked if he could help. From there other kids just walked up and started helping without even asking.

At one point there were so many other kids working that Adi got pushed out and wasn't able to work for a while.

As it got near the top it started cracking. I think some layers didn't get put together exactly straight. (Next time we attempt a large Lego pyramid we'll add some internal support structure as we go.) As the layers got smaller and more out of square, it got very difficult to continue without breaking what had already been built.

So we took a group picture and abandoned the project.

Adi and I stayed at the same table and started working on the next thing. It was fun to hear people's reactions as they walked by. No less than three kids stopped at different times and said, "I have to finish this!"

On the drive home we talked about what we learned from all of this. Here's what we came up with:
  • If you want people to help you, then your idea has to be big enough so that there is room for lots of people. With a small project, there's just not enough space to include others.
  • You will probably need to start by yourself even when you don't know who will come to help.
  • Be prepared to step back and let everyone else work on your project.
  • If your idea is really big, people will keep working on it even after you leave.

We also talked about how we could start a Lego kids group that meets regularly to build together, but where would we store all those green Legos?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Window seats and the meaning of life

My favorite seat on an airplane has always been the window seat. I love being able to look out the window and see what we're flying over or through. Have you ever flown 30,000 feet above a thunderstorm at night? How about over fireworks? Or a pod of whales swimming in the ocean? Those are some amazing sights!

Trying to figure out where we are based on the mountains, lakes, rivers and other landmarks is great fun. Sometimes when I fly into Seattle, I can see the buildings where I went to high school. (The school has moved since then.)

On our family vacation this year I flew home by myself so I could go back to work while my wife and daughters stayed with friends. I was already missing them when I boarded the first of 3 flights that would get me home. As I sat down next to the window I realized it had been a long time since I've had the window seat. I saw a few cool things that I'd never seen before like a power generating windmill farm in the middle of the sea and clouds that were perfectly formed above an island while everywhere else was clear.

When each of our girls were little, we've had good success when we bring her car seat on board the airplane. She gets to sit in a seat she's comfortable and familiar with and we can be sure she's securely buckled in. We've even done this when she's under 2 and not required to have her own seat. Trust me. It's way better than trying to hold her on your lap for several hours -- especially when she's 23 months old! More than once I've carried a sleeping girl off the plane while she's still strapped into her seat.

I believe it's a safety regulation that dictates a car seat must always be placed near the window. So, now that I'm a dad I don't ever get to sit in the window seat. And you know what? I'm more than OK with that!

Even before we had kids, my wife preferred the aisle seat, which meant I was in the middle seat to be next to her.

The joy of having a family and traveling together far exceeds whatever pleasure I may have received from watching the clouds go by.

Viktor Frankl in his book Man's Search for Meaning (p.113-114) says:
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

I've often said that I like who I am as a husband and father much more than I liked myself as a bachelor. I know my life has immeasurably more meaning now that I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters that I'm responsible for.

In addition to responsibleness, Frankl describes love and sacrifice as other ways to find meaning. I love my family more than words can say and I would sacrifice anything to make their lives better. Even if that means giving up the window seat.