How much salt is in the ocean?

This week’s family fencing was lovely. And before my son’s lesson, when we picked up our friend, his little brother gushed to me about his first performance on stage. He’d worked hard and will be in his very first musical, and he talked about dress rehearsal and the costumes and his role. And I loved every minute of it because that’s another bug I love to see children catch. Theater and fencing in one day? Heaven.

So I thought about what’s important to share with my children. Making memories and building traditions and exposing them to what’s important: how do we choose, given limited time and limited resources? My answer has always been to plan in advance and prepare carefully. But life is getting way too messy for that.

We’ve always been a science-y family. When Peanut got lice, he was so excited because he wanted to see them under the microscope. When he asked which weighed more—orange juice or milk—we experimented to find out. But I’ve gotten away from experiments because I have no time to prep. I have client work and Board work and friendships to cultivate and a novel to edit and December to surmount. I can’t manage science, too.

Except I can.

So when Peanut asked how much salt is in the ocean, we looked it up. And we concocted simulated ocean water: 3.5 tablespoons of salt to 1 liter of water.

Then, in two separate containers, we made a saturated and a supersaturated saline solution: two jam jars, one with hot water and one with cold. We just kept adding salt, a teaspoon at a time, until one solution couldn’t hold any more.


We added another teaspoon to see if anything surprising precipitated out. And then we kept going until the second jar hit its salt maximum.


We watched over the next hour as the hot solution cooled to see if it would shake any of its salt out or if the cold solution would suck up a bit more.

Everyone tasted the solutions. And spat them out in horror, answering Peanut’s question about why you can’t just drink ocean water if you’re thirsty. (Butter made every guest that evening taste some, and to his delight, they were all horrified, too.)

And then the kids got bored. But I kept the solutions (and not just because they had several dollars’ worth of sea salt in them.)

The next day when they were getting on each other’s nerves, I asked them to find tiny objects. Ad we floated them in tap water, ocean water, and hypotonic saline. Bread ties, sunflower seeds, dried macaroni, plastic lids, flashlight parts.


Maybe I can actually work this in. One small step at a time.

Keep Your Hands Inside the Ride at All Times

This morning, Butterbean came padding into our room and climbed wordlessly into bed between us. I moved the covers so he could snuggle down, and I promptly ignored him.

I’ve trained him to expect to be ignored in the early morning. If he wakes up and it’s light out, I tell him, he’s welcome to come to cuddle. But if Spouse and I are sleeping, he needs to settle down with us and try to sleep, too.

The “trying to sleep” is always in vain, of course. The kid, like his brother, just began sleeping through the night at age 3.25 years. And when he wakes up at 6 a.m., he’s completely done sleeping. Done. Revved, raring, rambunctious. Usually he wakes his brother with knock-knock jokes or wakes me screaming about covers he can’t adjust. Or sings to himself for a few minutes.

So a quiet ten minutes or so is the best I can get from him, and I gleefully take every second.

This morning he waited only two minutes before he whispered to me.

“When the sun goes down at night, do the clouds go away, too?”
[wide grin inside that exhausted exterior failed to show]
“Nope. The clouds float above us in the air and they stay in the night and in the day. If there are no clouds, the sky stays clear. And if there are clouds, they drift along with the wind just as they do in the day. Because the sky is still there at night. We just don’t see as much because we’ve turned away from the sun.”

And before I fell back to sleep for another two minutes, I died of the cuteness.

This morning was like the moment you’re next in line at the roller coaster. The boring part of the waiting is done, you’re the special one who gets in next, these delicious moments are all about “any second now”. Just before your turn the whole ride seems exciting and new and full of promise. Not jerky and nauseating and whiplash-y and quick and emotionally draining.

Three is a challenging age. Three is screaming and fits and rage and no impulse control and crazy and “can I listen to that song for the 1,095th time?” Three is an exhausting roller coaster that lasts two years or so, pausing infrequently to allow gulps of air before continuing on, terrifyingly quickly and without seat belts.

But at least once a day, Three is so intensely cute it makes my brain think we’re on vacation on a tropical island with nothing but clear warm water and bright blue skies. Every few hours, amidst the crazy and the angry and the are you kidding me, we have a moment of recalling how freaking edible children can be when they are little balls of wonder and exploration and joy.

Mmmmmm. Waking up to silently padding feet and a cuddle and a science question?

That is the pure bliss that Three occasionally brings. And oh me, oh my it’s tasty.

Delicious little pat of Butter.

Holiday Gift Abuses

I just posted a link to Jonathan Liu’s phenomenal list of the best toys of all time that included a stick, a box, string, and dirt.

Then someone on that Twitter thing showed me this and I was undone.

Seems these days girls don’t have to get their science in the kitchen. Science for girls is now…in the bathroom. Baking is so 1950s. In 2012 we exfoliate.

How long will it take before girls get their science in the lab, like the so-called boys’ science kits offer?

Science kits are great gifts, even though almost all science can be done with regular household ingredients and a grownup who can read. But apparently girls can’t be interested in science unless it’s Barbied. And they can’t forget what’s important: being “pretty.” Ugh. Read Peggy Orenstein’s post on these horrifying “spa science” and mani/pedi appeals to girls that seek to either trick them into doing that abhorrent-and-boyish-activity known as science or dumb it down enough that “even girls” can find it fun.

Yuck. Hope any child in your life interested in science gets the chemistry and physics set, not the one branded for their early objectification.

Children for fun and profit

Just kidding. They’re only sometimes fun and rarely offer profit.

But having kids is kind of fun once they have interests, since the engaged parent learns stuff they’d never care about otherwise. For instance, I know the name of every stinking truck on the planet. Thanks, Butterbean.

Peanut and I were talking about animals, and I had to do some research to answer his questions. Here you go. Enjoy. Tell your kids. You’re welcome.

(Source: Interwebs, various sites. I’m not in grad school anymore, yo, so screw MLA and APA citation requirements. You’ll take what I give you and you’ll like it.)

(Fine. If I say Harvard’s database of bionumbers, will you shut your coffee hole?)

(NB: the Interwebs are full of liars and cheats, so tell your kids this information only if you’re used to telling them stuff that will get them mocked by the smart kids at school.)


The most plentiful species on earth is an ocean dwelling cyanobactiera called Prochlorococcus.
The most plentiful animal species is krill.
Half the global biomass is prokaryotic bacteria, a shocking amount of which are subsurface.
There is more cattle flesh than humans flesh by about 50%.
And there are 108 ants (which is only three times the total biomass of humans, except in my house, where those little effers outweigh even me.)
And the aquatic crustacean copepods constitute the largest animal biomass; though krill have more animals, the copepods weigh more.

So speaketh the Interwebs.  Please, for the love of Sleep, do not cite my blog for a paper you’re writing for school.
Because I’m not a scientist? Okay, sure. Use that one.
Because my research is shoddy now that nothing matters and nobody cares? I’d prefer you kept that between us.
Because I made up half this data? No. I didn’t make it up. I just didn’t cross check it or proofread it or really pay much attention beyond getting it posted so I can go to bed.


Evolution, science, and ignorance

If you have a PhD in science, you may speak about science curriculum and theories. If you have a PhD in theology, you may speak about religious curriculum and doctrine. People who fit either or both descriptions are welcome to talk with each other. If you are some schmuck without an advanced degree in science or religion, you may sit down and shut the frack up. And listen. Because you do not have the science or theological knowledge, nor the critical thinking skills, to be in this debate. Shhh. Listen.

Now Texas is joining the group of states that should be told to “feel free to flee” the Union if they insist on devaluing education and science. Mobs don’t determinine curricula; those who know what the hell they’re talking about do. In science class we teach science. In theology class we teach theology. In English class we teach English. If you want me to teach computer programming in my English classes, I will. But code ain’t in English, and science simply isn’t subject to the same principles that faith is. Whole different ball of wax.

Texas isn’t going all Kansas on us, but it’s not looking good, either…