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Lexile ludification November 23, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, younger son.
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A while back, I wrote about our first experience with lexile ranges.  The short story is that lexile ranges are indicators of reading levels that are determined by sentence length and word frequency.  While they may be a useful tool to picking out books for children, they don’t at all address the complexity of themes or topics addressed in the books.  My concern was that the library at school would try to prevent the younger son from picking out books that may be above his lexile range but are ones that he is nonetheless interested in reading.

It looks like that’s not a concern now.  The younger son recently got some new lexile ranges from fall testing, and they are apparently higher than most high school students.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find books for a kid in elementary school who is reading at high school level?  The teacher is adamant we find him some books in that range, but it’s extremely difficult to find ones that are emotionally appropriate.  There are several that are non-fiction, but let’s be realistic: they may not keep his interest.  About the only thing I did manage to find was the DragonSinger trilogy by Anne McCaffery.  Interestingly enough, these were books I’d been suggesting for a while as they were some of my favorites as a child.  There are some of CS Lewis’ writings in the list, also, but nothing from Narnia fits the bill.

I dug through my library and found a book I had intended to use for the older son: Some of my best friends are books.  (The older son was never in need of book suggestions, so it’s been sitting there unused.)  This is a book that suggests age appropriate materials for gifted readers.  I was glad to see that I was on the right track in suggesting several books to the younger son in terms of emotional content.  However, most of the books are still technically too low in the lexile category.

I don’t know that I feel good giving him books that he’s not emotionally mature enough to handle.  The older son has been combing through his library with suggestions of some of his favorite books.  However, even between the two of us, virtually everything keeps coming up short.  I’m contemplating telling the teacher that until younger son is ready to read War and Peace, we may have to worry more about maturity than lexile range at this point.  I would rather he read a good book than a difficult one.

 

Friday fun: The Rubik’s Cube November 21, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in math, younger son.
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As a freshman in college, I remember going to a toy and puzzles shop in Old Town Pasadena.  I became engrossed in a 3D puzzle display.  You know the horseshoes connected with chains that have a metal ring?  That’s the kind of puzzles in the display.  I spent an hour and a half looking for one I couldn’t solve because I decided that if I couldn’t solve it, I would actually buy it.  An hour and a half later, I’d gone through almost 30 and the store owner was giving me the stink eye, so I left.  My date was also rather annoyed, too, though apparently impressed with my puzzle skills.

The one puzzle I have never solved, however, is the Rubik’s cube.  The younger son just received one about a week ago, so I decided to go ahead and buy him a book to solve it.  I had one as a youngster, but was never able to solve it except through the brick removal-and-replacement method, which, while extremely efficient, kind of defeats the purpose.  I’ve decided, however, that it’s about time I learn how to do it, so this will probably be something we can do together over Thanksgiving.  I did some searching for a video tutorial, as well, and came across several as well as a lot of fun videos.

This was one of my favorites, and it makes me wonder what are some other unusual ways that people solve Rubik’s cubes.  While I think I could feasibly do it one-handed (at some point), juggling with the other hand is probably out.  I’ll have to see what the younger son thinks his chances are.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Places cats lie November 19, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in pets, photography.
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Wordless Wednesday: Caught in the Act November 5, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in pets, photography.
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Wordless Wednesday: True Happiness October 29, 2014

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Extra-dimensional conversations October 13, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in physics, science, younger son.
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The younger son occasionally has band lessons after school.  Recently, I picked him up and he said that his band teacher hadn’t been in her office when he was supposed to have his lesson.  The next comment surprised me.

You know, in an alternative universe, I forgot my instrument but she was in her office.  And then there’s other universes where I had my instrument and she was in her office and others where I forgot my instrument AND she wasn’t in the office.

Apparently he has combinatorics licked.

I was somewhat surprised at this response, so I asked him what he knew about other universes.

Not much.  I just know you use wormholes to get between them.

I responded that wormholes are supposed to transport you across time and space, but wasn’t sure if the strict physics definition allowed for travel outside of our universe.

Mom, wormholes transport you across dimensions!

This made me wonder if he knew about M-theory.  When I asked him what he knew about higher dimensions, he said,

Well, they’re really similar.  But after a short time, you notice differences.

I was confused, but he continued.

And some dimensions have aliens and some don’t.

Ah!  His definition of higher dimensions was basically an alternate universe.  He was working with the ‘sci-fi definition.’  I needed to change terminology, as we obviously were discussing two different things with the same word, so I said the world we live in has three spatial dimensions and time as the fourth dimension.

Time is a dimension?!

He understood and explained the concept of two dimensional space and then three dimensional space, but he was perplexed about time as a dimension.  My explanation was that you can move through time, but only forward.  With the spatial dimensions, you can move forward and backward, left and right.

I think I blew his mind at that point, so I figured we’d drop it and move on to Calabi Yau spaces another time.  In the meantime, I’m trying to decide if I should introduce him to Abbot’s Flatland.

The amazing, oozing Macrocat September 18, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in pets, work.
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There is a definite disadvantage to working at home.  In some cases, it comes in the form of a four-legged furry creature.  One that wants you to pet it.  While you’re typing.

Today that creature was Macrocat.  The following is a series of pictures I took while I was attempting to work.

mc1

Apparently the keyboard looked like a great place to perch and keep an eye on me.

mc2

Pretty soon, though, he was trying to run things for me.

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But when I switched over to something else, he got bored.

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He started to ooze over the keyboard a bit.

mc5

I tried to move him away, but he just turned his head.

mc6

Then a paw creeped up beside the first one.

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And he moved his head over again.  Actually, this is after I moved him off the table and he came back.

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And that wasn’t quite doing it for him, so he stretched out again.

Finally, he put his paw on the trackpad and put pressure on a key. The computer started making a beeping sound to protest, but macrocat thought the computer was purring at him and merely laid down and purred more loudly in response.

And that was the point where I finally had to banish him.

Running with kids…or maybe from them September 7, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, running, younger son.
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Even a couple years ago, it was hard to get a workout in once the younger son was home.  I was lucky in that the older son is a bit of a homebody and could watch his brother if Mike wasn’t around.

Now, however, I have a new dilemma.  The younger son has decided he’s over this “kid’s race” stuff and wants to start doing 5ks.  The older son likes doing 10ks.  I’m currently training for my second half marathon this summer.  How am I supposed to train with my kids??!  They’re not terribly motivated to train on their own, but they like going with me.  I suspect this is because I turn into a zombie when I run so the kids have my undivided attention and I don’t say much.  They can speak unimpeded for a long, LONG time.  On the other hand, they like doing races because of the freebees.  However, training with them on top of my own running is a bit too much, so I started to get creative.

This morning’s training run was 12 miles, so I decided to break it into a loop of three miles.  I did one loop by myself, ran the loop twice after that with the older son (who is starting to have a hard time keeping up with me), and did it one more time with the younger son (who apparently decided after a mile that we needed to walk…and my feet agreed with him).

This worked great because I also found out that this eliminated the need to find gas stations along my running route.  Unfortunately, gatorade bottles don’t sit nicely in my race belt.  Also, my husband wasn’t expecting me to try to give him a sweaty hug until the end (doesn’t everyone do this to their spouse?), and I was able to nab him mid-route.  He still went and got me some post-run celebratory ice cream, so I guess that was okay.

I just imagine that there were some people scratching their head as I walked past for the fourth time this morning…

Cooking up a storm August 31, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, food/cooking, older son, younger son.
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I have to admit that I think we’ve finally got the hang of this whole cleaning/cooking thing.  A while back, I mentioned that we’d gotten a housekeeper.  That lasted for almost a year, but then we decided that it wasn’t working as the housekeeper couldn’t keep up.  I suspect it’s because of the overload of fuzzy creatures.

We changed tactics: basically, we just pick a time every weekend to spend a couple hours cleaning (although it doesn’t work so well when we’re gone for multiple weekends in a row) and we all spend an hour or two working through the list.  Each item on the list is worth a certain amount, depending on the effort involved, so this is what the kids get for an allowance.  I think we spend 1-2 hours every week cleaning, and while the house is more cluttered than I like, it’s actually staying reasonably clean.  Also, I no longer have to spend tons of time instructing the kids on how to clean the toilet AGAIN since it has only been a week or two since it was last cleaned.  (Our biggest problem comes in the fact that every one likes to put the cleaning supplies in different places…)

In the past year, though, I found that I am sensitive to even tiny amounts of contamination in a lot of gluten-free foods, and this resulted in a shopping list that involved almost no processed foods.  The amount of time I spent cooking increased drastically, so I recently decided to try this same approach with cooking: the kids now spend about an hour in the kitchen getting dinner ready or helping with other things (baking bread, making snacks) 3-4 nights a week.

It’s only been a short while, but this seems to be working, too.  I’m not sure why I never tried this before, although I suspect some of it is that I was nervous about the younger son handling certain cooking activities, particularly those with knives.  (I have to admit that I still give a lot of those chores to the older son.)  He loves to bake, though, so as long as I get the ingredients out for him, he’s getting pretty good at following recipes.  He makes a pretty mean beer bread…(with gluten-free beer, of course).

I’ve been very surprised how positive their attitude about this has been, particularly since they don’t get allowance for this.  (It wasn’t quite pitched as, “You don’t help, you don’t eat,” but I think they understood that my frustration was almost to that level.) However, I uncovered another reason why this may be working: I suspect the real motivation is that they’re tired of waiting for me to make their favorite foods.  The baking, in particular, tends to be put off in favor of making dinner.  They must’ve realized that if they learn to do it themselves or help take care of some of the other cooking chores, they don’t have to wait as long.  I have to admit that if there’s something they really want to cook, I’m not inclined to say no.

The alpha and the hungry August 30, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in older son, pets.
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The older son mentioned at dinner that dogs equate food with love.  This was, of course, a response to Gigadog trying to stick her nose on the table to horn in on our Friday night pizza.

Wanna share that?  I'm kinda hungry.

Wanna share that? I’m kinda hungry.

I said that actually, he wasn’t that far off.  The alpha dog of a pack is actually supposed to determine what it is that the pack hunts for and, in a sense, is responsible for providing the pack with food.  Therefore, it sort of makes sense that food and love are equivalent in dogs.

After a brief pause, I said that Teradog was a prime example of a good alpha given he really knows how to look forlorn so that the human will provide the pack with food.  In that sense, he’s a very highly successful alpha dog.

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This prime newfoundland specimen is on the hunt for treats…

 

And you thought puppy dog eyes were all about being cute…

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