Related news: The very hungry teenager
No question is too big or too flammable for these junior scientists, who packed flames, poison and perfume into an array of exhibits that threatened to eclipse all previous years for sheer hazard level.
Some observers noted the distinctly dad-inspired character of this year's experimentation, with fire, poison, snack food and toilet paper-related inquiries outnumbering safe science and perfume making by a margin of 4-1.
It might surprise you to learn the answer is not "hip hop." But possibly because they only considered alternative, country and classical. Who can say, really, which the bunnies actually prefer? They might have moved faster to get away.
Because in science, of course, every answer is the start of another question. Why won't Principal Killjoy allow a live demonstration of the flame-spewing sound wave tube? And whose job is it to clean up after the bunnies? Did it even matter whether the taste tasters were "spot on" or "far away"?
In the end, these questions would be left for the next crop of young scientists to unravel.
Except for the last one. That one at least, we can put behind us.
from the archives of scientific inquiry: Einstein's Mommy, School picture day in the elegant universe, Bottomless laundry pile may yield new insights into origins of the universe
The discovery a few days ago that a mouse had helped itself to some chocolate chip cookies, a handful of teabags and a couple of hot chocolate packets in the upstairs minibar did not seem like a big deal.
In our tropical past lives, we had rats in the palm trees, iguanas in the swimming pool, crabs in the kitchen and about 500 varieties of ants living with us year round, so we're not the kind of family that's going to get all freaked out over a mouse. Please.
Although to be perfectly honest? When I came upon the regiment of entree-sized crabs in the kitchen that day - I may have shrieked a little.
A mouse on the other hand, seems like a manageable problem. You know, as along as he doesn't plan to rev his little motorcycle up and down the halls at all hours of the night.
Then I discover that our mouse has been eating power bars in the boy's closet. I don't know what power bars will do for a rodent, but I can tell you the 16-year-old who lives on them is starting to put on some serious muscle. Also, he argues constantly and leaves wet towels on the floor.
My point is, we may not be dealing with an ordinary mouse. What's worse, as the result of a lifestyle that hovers somewhere between "haphazard" and "slovenly," but which we prefer to call "unconventional and creative," we live in what is essentially a three-story mouse buffet.
From the half-opened cracker boxes in the basement to the abandoned bowl of popcorn in the master bedroom, it is an all-you-can-eat, 24-hour establishment in pretty much every room of the house, except for the part where the table is. No one ever eats anything there.
So we may be in trouble here.
from the rodent archives: 101 Hamster Names
from the driveway archives: The Backup Plan
There's a reason the mint julep never really caught on in the Midwest.
Even before the bourbon kicks in at my Real Housewives of the Confederacy party, the conversation has already taken a turn for the deep south.
I'm not going to repeat them here. Let's just say the concept of "Midwestern modesty" died hard.
Also the ice never really melts in Chicago, so you end up with what is essentially a glass of bourbon with a little mint and sugar in it. Or what is known in the Midwest as a "weak drink."
The evening is organized as a going-away party/intervention for the woman known as "Mary," who is moving to Atlanta in a few weeks with all the wrong shoes.
Mary interprets my instructions to come dressed as an icon of Southern womanhood as an opportunity to dress as Napolean Dynamite. She never misses the chance to wear her "sweet moon boots" in public. Which are only a little stranger than the shoes she wears on any other occasion.
Still, it is only about five minutes before she is swearing like Scarlett O'Fucking Hara and we know that Real Housewives of Atlanta has its next diva.
Also, that no one will ever try to make a reality show based on Housewives of the Midwest. Because once you have heard the story about the breastfeeding mother, the boy and the hotdog, you are never, ever going to turn on the televsion again.
"I think I am going to like the South," Mary says, discovering an affection for Kentucky bourbon that had apparently lain dormant throughout a lifetime of Midwestern winter drinking.
"Oh sugar," I tell her, "the South is going to love you."
Photos: (Right) The face of the New South. (Below) The Fulton County PTA president; Real Housewives of the Midwest, footwear; Napolean Dynamite dance of awesomeness.
I'm pretty sure I will never refer to Trader Joe's as the "wine lovers' paradise" again. Okay "never" is probably not the right word. Let's just say "not this week."
My point is, can 14 days of non-stop wine drinking really leave your tastebuds so spoiled? Has "Mary" been serving swill all along or was it just a bad bottle?
Maybe I need to start getting invited into some others neighbors' homes. Not that Mary is the one who typically invites me. Usually it is the first grader who insists that I come in. Just because I give her candy and encourage her to use as much glitter as possible.
I wonder if there are other first graders out there whose mommies are serving better wine? Why didn't I remember to tear the labels off the bottles I loved in France? That would have been a useful souvenir. Instead my purse is stuffed with Metro tickets, wine country maps and leftover Euros.
I hope I can use them at Office Depot. It's school supply week and we are celebrating by spreading out our purchases over as many individual trips as possible. It really seems to bring the cost down.
I know what you're thinking: Like, how hard could it be?
Two, maybe three times a week you throw out a lazy pun and a picture of your kids, or a couple sentences of gratuitous sexual innuendo that might be considered "edgy" in the hopelessly moribund pages of a daily newspaper, but which by Internet standards have about as much edge as your grocery list. Which you are not above using as source material.
Sounds easy, right? But are you going to make waffles? Think carefully before answering. Because this is not a simple question. This is only the opening query in what will blossom into a full-scale deposition conducted by the 16-year-old who just moved himself into your office with the single-mindedness of F. Lee Bailey trying to get to the bottom of -- something.
Go ahead, if you think it's so easy. Finish your sentence. Complete a thought. Try to write a headline that doesn't have the word "waffle" in it, which F. Teen Bailey has just used six times in the same sentence to impugn your parenting, grocery shopping and time management skills.
He is relentless when it comes to breakfast.
"This is why I have to interrupt you 3,000 times because the first 2,999 times you don't get anything done," Mr. Bailey says. "Why can't you make waffles? Why didn't you just buy cereal at the grocery store? Why did you buy the stuff to make waffles if you're not going to make waffles?"
You could try arguing. You could try getting him to leave your office. But the fastest way to the bottom of the next sentence is through the kitchen. Yeah, you are going to make the waffles. It's just a matter of time. Call it a compromise, call it capitulation. Call it whatever you want. And then pour syrup all over the top of it.
My point is this: Someone is going to have to take over the ahem, daily operations here while I am doing research for my forthcoming waffle, I mean screenplay: It opens in a Parisian cafe where a young man is attempting to order waffles.
My fear is that my guest editor will spend the two weeks that I am gone giving you everything you actually want in a blog: Useful advice, oversharing, kittens wearing hats. Effortlessly correct pronouns in the objective case. I'll come back and you won't even have missed me. Whom or who might this be, you ask? Who or whom can possibly fill your shoes? And how long before kittens?
I'll let you know as soon as she agrees
not to post the road trip photos. Now, who wants waffles?
Greetings from Camp Too Many Kids, where another season has just opened with the traditional "breaking of the glass." It was just a drinking glass - nothing as dramatic as the 2009 Indoor Football and Pear Throwing Championships - but it is still early.
Summer camp is a beloved tradition in our posse in which one member gets to keep all of the children while other members languish in luxury hotels and exotic travel destinations. I get the nicest postcards!
This year's opening glass incident occurred in the driveway where the adorable teen girls known as the Whimsey Twins had set up a sunbathing station and mini bar and where our camp director had firmly recommended the use of plastic cups just moments before. Our campers, however, are sticklers for tradition.
Congratulations by the way, to whoever had Day 1, 2:16 p.m. Central Time in the broken glass betting pool! First blood, not coincidentally, followed at about 2:19 - just after the "no bare feet" directive was issued, and as tradition requires, ignored.
The injury, as always, was sustained by the older of the Whimsey Twins, a darling 14- year-old media executive whose capacity for finding sharp objects with her feet is unmatched.
She and her co-conspirator, 13-year-old Girl Kamikaze, show no interest in canoeing, archery or any of the other camp activities not actually offered here, but they have signed up for multiple spa sessions and a "Chicago Cupcake Tour," where they will eat their weight in cupcakes and then try to con me into taking them shopping for shoes.
The 16-year-old boys, on the other hand, have spent pretty much every minute so far visiting Camp Teenage Girls Across The Street. I do not even remember when I saw them last. Also, I have never enjoyed them quite so much.
But I know better than to be lulled into false security. At some point they will return, demanding money, Pop-Tarts and bacon and filling the house with the smell of their dirty socks.
We'll be ready.
from the Camp archives: How to Feed Four Teenagers for Two Weeks for Under $1 million from the Whimsey Twin archives: Putting the "pool" into "pool table"
There is also a waterfall, a koi pond and a wood-burning fireplace that doubles as a pizza oven. I discover these during a weekend garden walk through the neighborhood, where I realize that I have been hanging out in all the wrong backyards.
I am just kidding, of course. I love those goldfish cracker and $7 chardonnay afternoons in the backyard at Mary's house, where 15-20 small children are always trying to kill each other with sticks. It's adorable.
And I am really looking foward to scraping marshmallows off the back deck next week during my annual Teen Summer Retreat for the Children of Friends Who Can Still Afford Vacations.
Maybe I will let them roast another batch of those hot dogs on sticks they all seemed to like
throwing at each other so much last year. That was fun.
You really cannot top the combination of teenagers and fire for backyard entertaining. I think it was Zelda Fitzgerald who said that. This year, I will teach them how to make margaritas.
I may never even leave the
laundry room lounge chair.
It was not the kind of thing I should have delegated to teenagers probably.
Still, Mr. Kamikaze is not my father, so there's no reason for me to to feel bad about him spending the morning repairing my computer. Midmorning has him out in the driveway adjusting the basketball hoop for the girl and by late morning he is re-mowing the lawn to take back the swath of property that Boy, Esq. has been ceding to the neighbors a few inches at a time in a plot to shrink the backyard.
But today is Father's Day, possibly, and so we are here to pay tribute to Mr. Kamikaze as the sovereign of a small, volatile and highly demanding kingdom in the Midwestern suburbs. But first, the upstairs air conditioner is on the fritz and he will have to take a look.
We are a high-maintenance family, it's true. But would he have it any other way? We prefer to think not.
That does not mean his day will go unacknowledged. As part of a longstanding tradition, I offer to make one of his favorite meals, which I will reinterpret as a vegetarian dish, or tapas, or possibly by substituting wine and olives for all of the ingredients on whichever one of his mother's tattered old recipe cards he has pulled out in a rare outburst of hope.
You can hardly read them anymore. It looks like it says "spare ribs" but it could be tahini.
1. Wet glue on heartfelt, handcrafted tributes not as cute as you'd think.
2. Heartfelt, handcrafted tributes unaccompanied by real jewelry.
3. Teenager's heartfelt, handcrafted tribute looks suspiciously like a grocery list.
4. Non-handcrafted Mother's Day gifts obviously purchased by Dad.
5. Failure of sulky housekeeping efforts to improve condition of house.
6. Heartfelt breakfast tributes served too early.
7. Heartfelt, handcrafted breakfast tributes a little heavy on the "breakfast."
8. Orange juice? How hard is it to make a mimosa?
9. Williams-Sonoma Pop-Tart maker has the whiff of self-interest.
10. Middle schooler still making the margaritas too sweet.
from the archives of Mother's Days Past: All Over but the Vacuuming, Go ahead, Make Her Day, Tricking Your Husband into buying a Vacuum Cleaner on Mother's Day: Priceless
A story in today's New York Times describes the lengths to which some suburbanites will go to preserve the fiction: lawn painting.
Next thing you know they'll be telling us there is no such thing as an egg orchard, an omelette patch or a tree that grows in the shape of a duck.
from the suburban lawn archives: Lawn Bradys a threat to Midwestern yard maintenance