Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

There are many things I like about this clip. I like the admonition to trust in the curiosity of children. I like that another adult in this world is saying, let them pick the petals off the flowers! I like the message of say “yes” more. I like the “strewing” example…leave out the binoculars. He also couples “get out of their way” with “help them explore.” It’s not a stop-parenting thing, it’s actually a different approach to parenting…it’s a help them approach and a stop stopping them approach.

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Today we watched the space shuttle get a piggyback ride from a jumbo jet. The girls played “wild cats” in the park and we had a picnic of Surfer Specials (bean burritos and orange bang and horchata) with our friends while we waited to see the space shuttle fly directly overhead. Had we known the exact route, we would have gone out to the end of the pier so that we would have possibly had a better (from the side) angle, but it was pretty incredible to have it fly right over us. The photo below was taken by my dad (the girls’ grandpa).

After lunch and seeing the space shuttle in the air for the very last time ever, we hung out in the courtyard at home and took turns on the swing. We took a trip to the grocery store and when Daddy came home we went out to dinner for fish and chips, tacos, lemonade and a jalapeño margarita (for Mama).

We tried to watch Jimmy Neutron, but the girls and Flower and Daisy (their stuffed animal cats who were covering their eyes too) found the chicken-headed alien space ships too scary, so we finished off the day watching a cool documentary on evolution (Evolution: Things You Need To Know, BBC).

As our favorite Winne the Pooh book says, “what a wonderful day its been. Tomorrow, let’s do it all again!” Except maybe, I want to do different wonderful stuff.

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For Christmas, our 5yo received an ant farm. Its one of those classic kelly green rectangular framed pieces with the flat farm scene smashed in between the plastic windows. It took us a little while, but we finally ordered those ants. Its pretty awesome to wake up hearing our daughter exclaim from her room that she’s going to get up and see what her ants have been doing. She counts them in her collection of pets. “5 caterpillars, 23 ladybugs, and a lot of ants.”

The day they arrived, I had just pulled the car up to our driveway when the mailman zoomed to a halt right in front of us. He jumped out and ran up to my driver-side window and motioned for me to stay put. Out of breath, he explained that he had a package for us. It was much earlier than our mail is normally delivered so I thought it must be one of those special a.m. deliveries. It wasn’t. With wide eyes he gave the reason for not waiting to deliver it until later, “it says ‘live creatures’ on it.”

We spent the afternoon reading and re-reading the directions, letting the ants calm down in the fridge, filling the farm with white sand and a bit of water and adding a couple crumbs of bread. After a while we were ready to put the ants in their new home. Since then, they have been steadily digging their tunnels.

That night, while we had guests over, someone pulled off one of the little caps on the side tunnels. A single ant escaped and you would have thought a venomous alien tarantula was loose. “Watch out! Everyone back! Get away from the table! Aaaaahhh!!” Okay, I admit, it was mostly me freaking out. And, I’m pretty sure it is my fault that the kids were at all concerned. But, you should have seen all the warnings on the packages that: “THESE ANTS WILL BITE!!” (for yet another explanation for why we have a “respect” for biting ants see this post from our other blog).

As if I wasn’t already at my max ant-absorption point, the other night we watched a documentary about ants. It was one of those documentaries where you knew that most of it was staged and that the story was mostly, if not entirely, fiction. What I liked about this documentary is that it presented ants in a different light than every other way I’ve ever heard anyone talk about ants before in my entire life.

In the past it was, “go to the ant you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise” or something super positive about their cooperation (always in opposition to our human ability to do the same) “compared with ants we are hellacious at cooperating” (see this post for that full quote).

In addition to being fascinating, I’ve also found watching ants to be a little depressing. To be honest, especially now that I am a mom, I feel like I am moving around about as much as they are. Maybe I am not lifting 100 times my own body weight, but I’m pretty sure my physical exhaustion at the end of many days rivals those tiny creatures. So, its not that I am feeling inadequate or a sluggardly.  I think that what depresses me is the level of self-sacrifice, the martyrdom and the individual meaninglessness. The message of no individual ant matters…not their desires, not their needs, not their lives in comparison to the future of the colony and the queen is drilled home every time I watch ants (and this happens to be what the documentary focused on as well). It also confuses me when people hold ants up as creatures to be emulated. When I look past the cooperation that’s going on, I think their lives look like rather miserable lives for a human being to strive toward.

The documentary magnified ants and used enough human terms to make me feel like I was in their world. When the workers slowly killed off rival queens by starving and then dismembering them one by one, I cringed and looked away. When they fed them to their own larvae I gagged. Thank goodness all our girls had fallen asleep by this point.

As we put the kids in their beds I kept imagining myself as a giant-headed nurse-ant caring for the eggs, larvae and pupae. When I crunched my baby carrots and hummus, somehow still immersed in an imaginary ant world, I felt like a psychopath. It took me a while to get to sleep and of course I had weird insect ridden dreams.

This morning I overheard this conversation from the playroom,

5yo: “You can’t be a princess! You have to be a worker.”

3yo: “I’m not going to be a worker ant.”

5yo: “Then we can’t play ants!”

And that is fine with me.

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“Compared with fish we are bad at swimming, compared with birds we are stiff at flying, compared with cheetahs we are ludicrous at running, compared with ants we are hellacious at cooperating. Yet we are the most successful species of our time. We have overrun and overturned the territories of all these other animals because taken as a whole, by learning from the generation before us, we can do a fair job at all of their skills at once. As the evolutionist Ernst Mayr has written, we have ‘specialized in despecialization.’

…We fill more ecological niches than any other animal.

This is what allows us to carry on the epic learning game we call science. Science formalizes our special kind of collective memory, or species memory, in which each generation builds on what has been learned by those that came before, following in each other’s footsteps, standing on each other’s shoulders. Each generation values what it can learn from the one before, and prizes the discoveries it will pass on to the next, so that we see farther and farther, climbing an infinite mountain.”

Jonathan Weiner, The Beak of the Finch; A Story of Evolution in Our Time

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Last spring we took our first real RV trip, ending up as far north as San Francisco. While we were there, the girls and I visited the CuriOdyssey Museum at Coyote Point. One of our favorite exhibits was the magnetic gear wall. 

My husband came across this video over the weekend on gears showing the kinds of movements and timing you can get with different shapes.

Well, the video has sort of renewed my interest in gears and I’d like to have something for us to play with here at home. Based on their interest while at the museum last year, I think the girls would have fun with them for a while too. I’ve seen these refrigerator magnet gears in a shop once, but what I really want to do is make something ourselves. I’m contemplating making one with peg board from the hardware store at some point. I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do this, but its on my mind and I’ll let you know if we come up with anything.

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Today there were extremely high tides and extremely low tides. We’ve visited the Cabrillo tidepools on other occasions, but since we were here in San Diego and we have the National Parks pass AND the tide was going to be super low, we decided to head over there. We weren’t the only people with this idea in our heads apparently.

We waited about 25 minutes in a line just to get into the park area. We were lucky, very lucky, to get there right as they were opening up the road down to the tidepools. When we got to the bottom of the road, we were the fifth car into the parking lot where there were 5 open spots. Our sister and brother-in-law were not so lucky (as were many other people). I was grateful to not have to hike up and down the long, long hill.

After slipping into the water a few times in her not-made-for-slippery-rock-navigating shoes, our 4yo started singing a song about how she didn’t care for these rocks and stuff and wanted to go back to Bampa and Nonna’s. She only wanted to see a starfish. On our way back to shore that’s exactly what we found. Whew!
I enjoy coming here. I was a little surprised that our 2yo remembered our last trip to Cabrillo. On our way back to the car she asked if I was stung by a bee again like last time.

Great parking, a starfish and no bee stings, so many things to be thankful for  on this Thanksgiving weekend trip to the tidepools.

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2 legs + 2 legs + 2 arms + 2 more arms equals…

“We’re a squid-octopus!”

Today we went to the tot lot by the pier. We hung out there longer than I used to last. Much longer. After our first trip across the U.S. I came to appreciate playgrounds in a way I never thought I would.

The earth movers are still pushing one side of the beach to the other. While this work goes on we can’t play on the actual beach during the day…just near it. 

The baby isn’t much of a baby anymore. She’s growing up.

We met a few new friends. The girls met a 5yo who lent them her shovels. When she asked for them back in order to lend them to another child my girls gave them back with long faces.

I met a family with an 8mo who moved to town a few months back. A few minutes after a brief outburst from our otherwise happy and busy 2yo, the wife asked what we do for discipline and specifically whether or not we spank. Based on the way she said it and the other things we talked about, I was fairly certain that she was pro-spanking even though I have no idea if she’s spanked her 8mo. I explained that we try to avoid punitive discipline as well as reward/praise discipline techniques and use other methods that don’t decrease intrinsic motivation. We also discussed, briefly, using discussions with older children and redirection with babies. I’m not sure that I was the greatest voice for non-violent/unconditional/attachement based parenting, but at least I didn’t change the subject.

After our new friends left, my 4yo started hopping around making claw prints as she went.

“What kind of frog am I? I lived when the dinosaurs lived!”

“I don’t know.” I didn’t know.

“I’m a Paleobatrachus!” Thank you Dinosaur Train.

Soon, they began making trails that led to t-rex, alligator and paleobatrachus tracks. Its nice to know they are remembering our recent field trip across America and specifically the stop at Dinosaur Valley State Park which was one of my personal favorites.

After hanging out at the playground we headed up to the pier to say to Slick who is not a seal (as the sign says) because he has ears. 

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