Sunday, December 18, 2016

48 hours...

We're 48 hours into Christmas break and I'm ready to ship all three littles off to a relative for the rest of it.  My gracious they are loud and annoying and break things quickly. There is never a break from someone whining, someone demanding more.  More time, more interaction, more referree-ing, more help, more attention, more reassurance, more rounds of the game, more space next to one of us, more more more.

I'm all out of more, guys.  I'm exhausted and burnt out and grumpy.  I'm poured out and empty. I have nothing left to give.  And yet there they are.  Take. Take take take.

I have worked so insanely hard and constantly for 4 straight months with no breaks and now everytime I peek my head up, there's a child (or four) ready to suck whatever little bit of energy I had ready to offer. I love them so much but oh my gosh I need a real actual break.  Grades are due for the undergraduates this week and graduates January 4 and I will be grading stuff a few hours each day until then.  Coincidentally the kids go back to school January 3.  I'm eyeing January fifth for a full-fledged guilt-free nap-day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Every kid has a few words that are said in their own unique way.  Some of those are super persistent. We still have breakfrest and go to resternots, and draw a lot of triangulos.  Perhaps my favorite of August's are volocanos.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Silver Medal Mama

Snuggling the boys at bedtime tonight, one on each side, I sighed. "I feel like the most loved mommy in the whole world."

Jorge snuggled in closer.  August cocked his head.

"Mmm...probably not in the whole world.  Probably the most in this half of the world, though."


"I mean, Europe and Asia are really big. There are a lot of people there."

" think there are mommies out there that are more loved than me?"

"Maybe, like, one.  You are probably the most loved in like three-quarters of the world."

"Hm.  Well, ok. I feel like the most loved mommy in the whole world."

"But you probably aren't.  Probably second most."

Thursday, December 08, 2016

A few quick reality checks:

1. Falling down in a hard belly-flop while ice-skating at age 39 is a bad idea.  For a few days after the fall, I was darn near certain I'd broken a rib or two and even went to the MD (Julie does not like going to the doctor) and got xrays, but all seems on the mend now, so I guess just a bumped myself up a bit.

2. I lit my hair on fire tonight attempting to stop and smell the candles.

3. Since early May I've had the equivilant of 2 full time jobs.  A full time teaching professor usually has 3-4 classes per semester and some minor committee work. A full time research professor usually has 2 classes per semester, some minor committee work, and the expectation of doing research.  In the summer, teaching faculty usually develop a new course; research faculty do a ton of research.  Since May I spent all summer developing a new course and doing research. Since August I've been teaching SEVEN(!!!) classes, committee work, research, appealing my tenure (no news), doing the job market (Things UnBloggable), and helping to herd these 4 children toward maturity and self-sufficiency despite their apparent best efforts the whole dang time to crash this bus into every tree we pass.


Undergraduate classes ended today. Grading out the wazoo, but otherwise DONE with three of my seven classes.  Graduate classes have one more week, so lectures Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and even MORE grading and then done done done. Doooooooonnnnnnne.


4. No news on tenure.  The appeals are proceeding, but everything is slow and it will likely be late spring before there is any actual news. Meanwhile, the job market for professor positions elsewhere is happening right this minute and I'm having to figure out what to do when schools say "so, would you take a job here if we offered one?" um....... um.....   no? Can you just hold that for me until May? No? Um....

5. Some days I don't mind it as much but OMG she still doesn't hardly talk at all.  Tonight I heard her walking down the stairs chatting with someone on the phone, but any attempts at conversation by us are greeted with shrugs and mute wide-eyes like the d**n little mermaid who just can't possibly make words come out.  Even simple stuff like "do you know where Dad is?" and it turns out he's just outside or at the grocery and everyone knew that. Over it today.  Three YEARS next week.  Three years.

6. Did I mention that since late Sept I have worked 7 days per week every single week except Thanksgiving? That's 61 of the last 68 days I have had some kind of teaching or other student-oriented requirement in addition to daily grading, planning, organizing; plus data collection, data entry, data analysis; plus reviewing journals and planning conferences; plus job applications and interviews... plus Rob's working 2 nights a week so parenting solo on those nights and there is one more week of this insanity.  He's stressed, too, and we're just done with this.

7. Auggie had his eye exam; no news.

8. Katie made the school spelling bee team (or something like that) and will be representing her school at the city or county level or something soon. There was a lot of excitement; I'll get more details as the dust settles.

9. I feel like at this point there should be 10 things on the list.

10. Christmas cards are going to be late, y'all.  Merry Christmas anyhow.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Math geekout ahead.

August adores math.  He's an all-around nerd, but just blows us away in math.  Remember, he's six and only in the first half of first grade.

Tonight, as we were getting ready for bed, we got on the topic of square roots (as one does) and those are his favorite things for now.  Knowing how much he loves them, and how his current favorite thing is to figure out some really big ones (like 3600) by seeing that it's really 36*100 so 6 and 10 = 60...I had thought today about helping him learn to estimate roots between two perfect squares.  So, for example, the square root of 55 is something between 7 (49) and 8 (64).  But then I wondered to myself as I was driving home if there was a way to be more precise. Could we easily estimate a benchmark?

As it turns out, yes.  Here comes algebra, but hang on, because this is what Auggie is doing in his head.  I figured I'd start by seeing if there was an easy way to identify when a square was more or less than half way between the two obvious roots.  That is, could we quickly find the square of the value half way between two roots.

(n+.5)(n+.5) = n*n + n + 0.25.

So basically, if I know that 5 squared is 25 and 6 squared is 36, I can easily figure out that 5.5 squared is 30 (5-squared plus another 5) or 6.5 squared is 42 (6 squared plus another 6).  Technically both are also plus a 0.25, but close enough for an estimate.  So now if I want to estimate, say, the square root of 140, I might say "well, 121 is 11 and 144 is 12.  121+11 is 133 (my estimate for 11.5-square), so it's more than 11.5.  Something between 11.5 and 12."

Cool enough trick to impress the kid, right?  So I try to explain it to him and he keeps pointing out that the result I'm getting is the same as the average of the lower square and the upper square.  Like,
(121 + 144) = 265 / 2 =133.5

Or, more generically, that is calculating:

[n*n + (n+1)(n+1)]/2

Well that does seem like a coincidence, right?  Oh, except I then did the algebra, and the kid is right.  You get:

[2n*n+2n+1]/2 = n*n + n + .5

His method was always giving an answer 0.25 higher than accurate, mine was 0.25 lower.  Crazy!

(As I side note, I have always loved that (n+1)-squared is n-squared + (2n+1) so the next square is just this root times 2 plus 1 higher.  And this solution above is a direct relative to that but I'd never fleshed it out.)

So then (then!) he starts speculating about what 1/4 of the way through would be and was it always a close estimate and I figured, probably not, because the slope probably skews somehow..?  But then I sat down at excel and figured why not run some numbers?

Right?  Those are close and what's more, the errors follow a very specific pattern.  So out came the algebra again.

Auggie's method takes the lower number + some percentage of the range.  Like, 3.4 is 40% between 3 and 4.  So to estimate the square of it, it's 40% of the way between 3 squared (9) and 4 squared (16).  That difference is 7, 40% of that is 2.8, so 9+2.8 = 11.8.  The answer is 11.56.

Going the other way, the square root of 40: 40 is between 36 (6) and 49 (7).  It's 4/13 of the way between, which is a little under 0.25.  So it's around 6.25.  It's 6.32.  Not a bad quick estimate!

I had to play with the algebra to see what was going on.  let "f" be the decimal on the lower number.

Auggie's formula uses the squared values:
lower number + f (upper -lower)
nn + f [(n+1)(n+1) - nn]
=nn +2fn +f

The real answer when you square (n+f) is
(n+f)(n+f) = nn + 2fn +ff.

So the answer is always off by the difference between f and f-squared, or (f-ff) or (f*(1-f)), which is what's up with that pattern on the errors. That whole last column is the percentage times (1-%).  .1*.9; .2*.8, etc.

So when estimating something 40% between two roots, you just do 40% between the squares, then subtract back off (.4*.6) = .24 which is the exact adjustment I needed to get from my quick estimate of 3.4 squared (11.8) to the real value (11.56) above.

Dude.  I am going to look so smart when I can estimate squares and roots of any number to 2 decimal places in my head (or at least quickly on paper!)

Are you bored and lost and wondering where the cute stuff is today? Yea, this is 100% how my brain works all.the.time.

So after this amazing conversation, we start digging on cubes and cube roots and Auggie, entirely on his own, connects that 4-cubed and 8-squared are both 64 and I ask why he thinks that is and he goes on a 3-minute speech of pure poetry about how the numbers connect and fit and patterns and ratios and I just gobbled that boy up whole.  Every bit of it was accurate and complex and I wish I had my phone with me to record it because that speech will someday be the backdrop to a Field's medal slide show.

He's six.  I love everything about him, but this just makes me want to hang out with him all night long doing algebra puzzles.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hope: Tuesday

Hope, Day 2

Think about a time you hoped for something and started to think it was impossible. Did it help to talk to someone?  Did it help to have someone tell you to keep trying, or keep believing, or that they thought it would work out, too?

Today, think of someone you know that might not have much hope right now. Maybe they are having trouble with school, or having a hard time with another friend.  Maybe they want something that seems impossible right now.  Say a prayer for them or ask them how they are doing.  Listen to them and help them feel more hopeful!  Tell them you believe they can do it!

Share hope with someone today!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent: Week 1 HOPE

The first week of Advent is focused on hope. We use this word so casually in our everyday conversations, almost interchangeably with wish, want, think, assume...but hope is something specific.

"Hope” is the desire for something that is hard to get, but believing that it will happen someday. 

We have hope that love will stay strong, that we will live a good life, that people will know they are loved and cherished.  We have hope that we will do well in school, succeed in a job we want, learn the new things we are trying to learn. We have hope that our secret wishes will come true. We want these things, they are hard to get, but we believe that we can do them.

When we want something, we just desire something.

When we wish for something, we have the desire for something nearly impossible, but we do not believe it will happen.

When we hope, we put certainty on the eventual action.

I posted this mission to my kids today, for the first day of week 1 (Hope) of Advent:
There are many things you have hoped for in life.  What have you wanted more than anything and had it come true? These things help you have hope for more things in the future. Did you hope to visit someplace? Hope to learn a new lesson? Hope to find a friend that appreciated who you are? Hope to do something that you'd always wanted to do?
Think of something you hoped for in the past that happened or something you are still hoping for.  Who in your life is helping you reach this goal?  A teacher? A friend? Your family? Who encourages you to keep trying, to believe in yourself, and to keeping having hope?  Today, do something nice for this person and say a prayer for them. Tell them thank you!
We had a nice talk at dinner tonight about hopes for our schoolwork, personal lives, jobs, and friends. We talked about the differences between hope and wishing; hope and knowing.  I even talked about the definition of trust that was recently shared with me by a researcher who studies the role of trust in social exchanges: making ourselves vulnerable with the expectation of a positive return from another.  Trust requires hope. Hope requires confidence.

Of course, translating this to the Christmas season quickly turned into hopes for various toys and candies and things.  The rest of this week is going to be focused on recognizing the hopes of others so that we can support their hopes, too. 
Wishing you all a season of hope, love, joy, and peace.