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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Birds in Ohio
April 11, 2013 - 7:16pm

One man leaves New York going West at 100 mph. Another leaves Chicago going East at 120 mph. Where do they meet? The answer is, of course, jail, since they are both driving much too fast.

This joke occasionally shows up as a “free” problem on my math exams, and typically draws groans when the students learn the answer. However, it also reminds me of some very fond memories of times spent with my mother working either algebra or geometry problems during the years I was in school.

When I think back to those years, I have many memories of working math homework problems with my mother, never knowing who was enjoying solving the problems more, me or my mother. My daughter, who is also good in math, does not seem to enjoy solving problems quite as much as I did. We do, however, have other things that we like to do together. While we have a few months to go until we can splash in the public pool together, as the weather gets nicer, we have been taking long walks together and noticing the various birds in the neighborhood.

I admit that I am not much of a bird watcher, but several events have caught my interest recently. We live in a neighborhood with large trees, some of which are at least one hundred years old. These tall old trees grow high into the sky, creating a wonderful environment for birds. We are therefore surrounded by the sounds of birds in at least three seasons, with recent chirping alerting us to the fact that the long Cleveland winter, always a challenge, will soon be over. Indeed, the sound of birds in our neighborhood is so common that I remember once delaying calling for a repair on my refrigerator because I thought the sounds it was making were simply the birds from outside our kitchen windows.

Three events involving birds caught my attention in the past few weeks. The first happened when my daughter noted a Cardinal in a short tree outside our front door. “Look, mom, a Cardinal,” she proclaimed, although I had to look closely to see the swatch of red in the bare tree. Such a sighting was made all the more significant by the fact that the local high school mascot is a Cardinal, as is the state bird of Ohio. The second unfolded as we began to hear a “rat-a-tat-tat” from high in the trees. When the sound persisted, it became clear that there was a woodpecker in the neighborhood. With the help of some neighborhood friends, we looked to see if we could see the bird, but the best we could do was to find a nest that we suspect belongs to our noisy neighbor.

Finally, one day not long ago, I noticed that traffic at a major intersection had stopped short. I wondered what the problem was, until I looked more closely and noticed a wild turkey standing in front of a car, preventing it and the cars behind it from progressing through the intersection. I was surprised to see that it was almost as tall as I am. As reported by a local paper, it seems that a wild turkey had taken up residence near the intersection. Apparently some of the neighbors have begun calling the turkey “Mr. Gobbles,” and some even claim that the turkey wishes people ate more ham for holidays. My daughter and I saw the turkey together just a few weeks later. She was thrilled to see it, and quite proud to tell my husband all about it. Alas, she is not as excited about solving math problems with me, which makes me think that I need to find a past time to share with her that she will enjoy in her own right. Bird watching comes to mind.

Does anyone have any suggestions about starting a habit of bird watching? I already have a pair of binoculars, but was wondering what more I need to do to get started. I don’t know for sure that bird watching will become a pastime that I can share with my daughter over the next few years. I do, however, suspect that she will always enjoy looking for birds more than she does solving problems about when (and where) two drivers meet.



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