I was spending the weekend at my daughter's house while she, her husband, and their youngest son went to a hockey tournament in Pittsburgh, where my grandson would be one of two goalies. My daughter said she had left a detailed list for her other two sons, but when I arrived all I could find prominently placed by the front door was a DVD on skateboarding, an army manual on leadership, and a book called "Christianity and Liberalism" by J. Greshem Machen, published in 1923. The two other grandsons weren't home from school yet, so I poked around the dining room table underneath hats and candy wrappers, dirty socks and old homework until I found a typed three page list of instructions. This was going to be a busy weekend, and that didn't include all the things that happened that weren't on the list.

I decided one way to keep my sanity was to start an informal science survey for the 2012 ScienceQuest. Little did I know it would begin at an impromptu tea party given by my daughter's mother-in-law, who lives one house away. Since she had also invited my mother, I felt obligated to attend, not knowing there would also be a hard-of-hearing stranger who kept getting confused by any comment I tried to make. After I noticed she repeated herself a lot about a dog she hated, and talked about her husband named Yurine, who was home watching football even though he hated it (I later found out he had died years back.), I figured she had some form of dementia or Alzheimer's. She alternately told me she loved my long hair with complaining it must be a nuisance to take care of every day. Now, I'm not someone who generally goes to tea parties, so perhaps I dressed wrong or didn't make the proper conversation. To make up for this, I ate a lot of pastries. Then my daughter's sister-in-law arrived with a fresh baked cake and three sick children. Time to take control of the situation.


Bethany, aged 7, is sitting on the floor, making things from paper with scissors and glue. I ask her what grade she is in this year in school and if she likes science.
Bethany: I love science!!! (then she does a somersault, as if to prove it)
me: Why?
Bethany: Because now I'm old enough to be in the Science Fair. Though it was going to be in March and they moved it forward to early April.
me: Do you already know what your project is going to be?
Bethany: (she contorts her little body into a frog-like squat) Oh yes, I have a partner and we're going to see what happens if you bake popcorn in the oven.
me: A real oven, not a microwave?
Bethany: Yes, (laughing) it will probably explode but my Mom has a Dyson vacuum, so I'm not worried.
me: Are you going to put the popcorn kernels into a pot, maybe with a top or something?
She hands everyone in the room a crudely made business card for a North Carolina travel agency that she owns in her imagination, with the offhand remark, "they're last year's design." Then she looks at me and answers, "well, it's science so we may try a lot of things."


Matthew, aged 12, is wrapped in a sleeping bag and onto his third Hot Pocket.
me: So, now that you're in 8th grade, you doing any cool science?
Matthew: (looking at me strangely) I'm only in 6th grade and I hate science!!!....well, I don't hate science; I hate my teacher, Mrs. Apple Bomb. She doesn't give you enough time to think.
me: What do you mean?
Matthew: She was talking about this equation and then she asked if anyone could solve it. She hardly gave us any time, but one girl raised her hand and answered but it was wrong and the teacher turned around like she was mad and started writing the answer on the board, but I had kept on working on it and I got it!
me: What was the equation about?
Matthew: I don't even remember; it's in my notebook upstairs but I was so excited I stood up on my desk and yelled, "I got it!!" (demonstrates on sofa, with both arms raised)
me: Sounds like you were pretty excited. What did the teacher say?
Matthew: She said I was right but now she hates me cause I stood on the desk.

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