December 17, 2008

Necessity = Mother of Invention

I've discovered a dual purpose for an old standard.

The other night, as we were getting ready for bed, I put on a pair of red satin pajamas that I a) love and b) am getting too paunchy for. Ted watched me, got a sly grin on his face, and asked, "Baby, are you feeling sassy tonight?" And with a completely straight face, I looked at him and replied, "I can't get comfortable when I sleep anymore. I toss from one side to the other at least 18 times per night. These pajamas reduce friction so I can swing my belly around easier." Ted's response: "Oh."

See, according to the equation F=M/a where "F" represents the net force of an object's motion, "M" represents the mass of the object, and "a" represents its acceleration, the relationship between mass and force is directly proportional. Therefore, if mass (my large fanny and larger tum-tum) increases, so must the force required to move that mass. If the force is a large one, acceleration is small (meaning the movement happens slowly - a fact all late-term preggers women know). That force/acceleration relationship is an inversely proportional one.

So to increase acceleration for the same amount of mass (because I'm only going to be getting bigger), I'd have to reduce the force. And since friction is the force that acts in direct opposition to the force of motion (think of sliding a heavy box across a carpet vs. putting it on a dolly), that's what I had to focus on reducing - hence the miracle of THE SATIN JAMMIES.

I should use this example during our force unit next year...

December 15, 2008

Giving thanks

I heard someone mention somewhere that "even though" Christmas is not Thanksgiving, we should still give thanks. I thought about that a while and wondered why we need a holiday of slaving away and pigging out just to say "thank you" to the Person who matters most. Shouldn't it be a daily event anyway? It was drilled into me many years ago that the Lord will not answer the prayers of an ingrate, and if you think about general parenting, I would hold that premise to be true. Who wants to keep giving and giving to a child who can't seem to muster up a simple "thanks"? What happens when we turn into that kind of spoiled brat?

Sometimes I find myself saying prayers and focusing a lot on asking, and that's when I have to pause and change my tune. By focusing on the thanking, I feel the Spirit deeper and I often forget what I was asking for in the first place because put in perspective, those things almost seem trite. If I'm able to see how much I've already been blessed, why pester The Man with more requests?! Let His ears wander to someone's prayers who's REALLY in need (and then help me find out what I can do in my human form to help that person - that's the "asking" part I should really be concerned with).

So in the spirit of giving thanks no matter how long it has taken me to write about Thanksgiving, here's a list (by no means definitive nor exhaustive) of things I was thankful for during that particular holiday.

I'm grateful for a husband who, since day one, has had an affinity for children. You can't tell here, but during the whole week, the kiddies flocked to and couldn't get enough of "Unkoe Teddy Beaw".

I'm grateful to have brothers who have proven to be such great dads. This one actually made Leah laugh, something Ted was UNable to do in the previous picture.

I'm grateful for the talents I've been given regarding all things sweet. It really comes in handy around the holidays.

I'm grateful for dang good-looking parents after raising 10 unruly children. My dad's health continues to amaze me. And I hope it's true what they say about growing up and looking like your mom. She's a knockout.

I'm grateful that our Thanksgiving has turned into a potluck of ALL the best things that people make. The O-mazing POtatOes and the biggest container of pumpkin cookies I've ever seen came from Sacramento, the salad (with BACON!) and cutest redheads came from Arizona, non-stop entertainment came last-minute from the booming metropolis of Tooele, I did the desserts and caramelized butternut squash (thank you, Ina), and my little sister did her VERY FIRST turkey. We were so proud. Here's the spread with Shannon taking credit for the whole thing.

My favorite is the random cans of cranberry relish. Hey, only the insane go ALL scratch on Thanksgiving. And I know who you are.

Next, I'm grateful that despite how much I keep growing, my cute Mr. Smooches wants to hug and cuddle me all the time anyway. Seriously, ALL THE TIME. I think it's because I keep feeding him. It sure isn't my cleaning skills..

I'm grateful that despite how much I keep growing, there's another Syphus who's growing more. Keep it up, Noah!! You make me look good, you little chubbo! This little porker is only 6 months old.

I'm grateful to have other wonderful women who are pregnant at the same time so I can swap stories and groin complaints without feeling guilty. Pictured here is Stacey, but huge thanks to Shannon, Christy, Melanie, Doris, Kerri, Sarah, Sherice, Natasha, Sachia, Niki, and now Rachel. I also have to thank my own mother profusely. The woman had 10 children, and NEVER ONCE has she said anything like, "Oh, you have no idea what it's really like," or "How can you even complain? You big wimp!" She very easily could, but instead she sympathizes whole-heartedly, offers suggestions on what might work, leaves lotion on my doorstep after I complained about itchy boobies, and then says things like "Ugh, I could never do what you're doing." Yeah, right! You only did this times 10, you crazy woman! I love you!

And finally, I am grateful for my dad's splendid gold robe that he only pulls out for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It wouldn't be the holidays without it.

December 12, 2008

End of a Long Journey

After two and a half years of taking night classes to be a teacher while I was simultaneously teaching as a teacher, I am now officially a teacher.


Thanks, state of California! You sure know how to make someone's day.

December 9, 2008

Crossing a Great Divide

I have been a bit off the radar lately, so I thought I would share with you part of what has been occupying most of my time.

It's not the baby (that comes later, as Cari keeps telling me).
It's not Ted (though that would be a wonderful alternative).
It's not even my night classes (though you'd think they would be a gimme).

My students take up most of my brainpower these days. If I'm not teaching them, I'm planning for them or grading work they've completed. I find myself making the day's plans while showering, driving, or even sleeping. Ted can testify to the number of dreams I had regarding "Density and Buoyancy" when we were covering that unit.

My job is all-consuming, and though I complain about the daily grind of it all and the politics surrounding the classroom (any classroom), I really enjoy what I do. I feel a great responsibility for these young, budding minds who may not have the opportunity anywhere else to get a quality education from a few teachers who REALLY care about their welfare. So now that my stack of grading has gone from 12" high down to 9", I found some time to report on my most recent activities.

Our latest unit was on Forces. You know, gravity, friction, pushing and pulling, etc. Any 13-yr old can think this subject is pretty dry. I'm well aware of that, so to spice it up, we began it with dropping raw eggs off a balcony to see if they would break. Each student had a chance to pack one egg in a milk carton with any packing material they wanted and predicted if theirs would break or remain intact. For our first round, without knowing much about what forces were acting on the eggs, we had a 21% survival rate. (We repeated this exercise after our study on forces came to a close, and our percentage of survival almost doubled - pretty exciting!)

Then we moved on to bridges. I LOVE BRIDGES. Pictures of them are great, yes, but DRIVING across them gives me thrills I "can't express in mere words" (a famous Dad line). In preparation for driving across particularly exciting ones (Golden Gate, Coronado Bay, that floating one in Seattle), I've even been known to pull over beforehand and select an appropriate bit of music to have blaring as I travel across - something that blows my skirt up as much as the drive across does.

In lieu of a unit test, I had my students research and explain the forces acting on the three major types of bridges: Beam (including covered and truss bridges), Arch, and Suspension. They came back from Thanksgiving weekend with models they'd built, and were totally excited about some of the bridges they looked up. I loved that they got into the project, and I hope that at least some of them will view these incredible homages to engineering as marvelous and awe-inspiring whenever they come across one in the future. I've shown some of my favorites below.

This one we saw, travelled across, and photographed during our trip through Oregon last summer. Oregon is chock full of cool bridges - one reason I'd move there. The plethora of Dairy Queen stops would be another.

The famous Tower Bridge in London. I travelled across it at night and loved it. How could you not??

The rest I've never seen in person but want to. This one is in Singapore, called Henderson Waves. I love it when designers put something snazzy in there.

The Seven-Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys. See, it's named "Seven Mile Bridge" because, well, it's 18 miles long.

A gorgeous arch bridge in the south of France, called the Pont du Gard.

If Ted ever whisks us away to Boston, I want to go across the Taxpayers' Bridge, named for...well...the people who paid for it. Thanks, people!

This next one is the longest suspension bridge in the world, connecting Kobe to Awaji Island in Japan. Imagine being on this bridge for 2.5 miles! My mom couldn't handle it. She gasps with fear when we go over the 105 to 110 North freeway overpass (and I love it! Wheeeee!!!) This bridge has the added feature of being built to withstand 180-mph gusts and earthquakes of Richter Scale 8.5 - that's pretty intense.

This bridge, called Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (or MMMBT for short), is a 4.6-mile long combination bridge-tunnel system connecting two Virginia communities across the mouth of the James River. So cool - just drive into the water!

I'm grateful to be married to a man who is filled with current event and general trivia knowledge. The other day he came home and told me about Dubai - how it is running out of its usual exportable goods and therefore coming up with alternate forms of money-making ventures. At the top of the list: tourism. This is the proposed mile-long bridge that would run through the city. I love the design on this one.

This last one is something I would never want to be on. It's a video of the Tacoma Narrows bridge (the first one), aka "Gallopin' Gertie" in Washington State. My students had to look up a failed/collapsed bridge in addition to their other research, and several found this one. Take a few minutes to watch it. This footage is shown in introductory physics courses in college as what NOT to do.

The wind that caused the collapse was only going about 40 mph, but the wind's resonance matched the natural resonance of the structure, causing solid concrete and steel to move with a periodic motion - hence the "galloping". We watched the video as a class, and aside from the typical pre-teen responses, most students were in awe that wind could do something like that. I agree!

I realize this is a bit off my normal type of post, but I hope you at least enjoyed some pictures. Contrary to what some students might believe, a little education never hurt anyone.

The Cooling Rack

Baked goods are only half the story...