When my daughter went to summer camp for the first time, an older kid taught her how to tie her shoes. The next week she learned to whistle. Over her first summer, she also learned how to change into her bathing suit in a port-a-potty, and how to eat a peanut butter sandwich at the beach without getting a mouthful of sand.
As a teacher, I am used to a world of order and structure, so to me, summer camp seems like a madhouse free-for-all. The teenagers are in charge, and the whole scene is powered by sunscreen and popsicles…
The first time I saw a placenta, I was about three years old. It was on the ground in a field and a cow was eating it. It was a red, gelatinous mass and the cow was lapping at it like a kid licks frosting off a birthday cake.
When you grow up on a farm, you experience the big life events, like birth, sex, and death differently than other people. I used to go to the slaughterhouse with my mom and color on the butcher paper with crayons while she wrapped our steaks and roasts. …
Hypothetically speaking…sort of.
Sometimes, choosing who you’re going to have sex with can be tricky. But at least today, in 2021, we’re pretty much limited to having sex with other people — other Homo sapiens.
Today I was talking — over Zoom — to my high school biology students about evolution and our early human ancestors. Teaching remotely can be pretty dry, so I’m always looking for ways to engage them.
After we watched a youtube video about how many humans today, especially those of European and Asian descent have Neanderthal DNA, one student piped up and told me that…
Even the toughest helmet can’t protect you from everything.
If cities are made of blocks, suburbs are made of loops. The house I live in with my husband and our kids is at the end of a cul-de-sac that connects to a half-mile loop of pavement. In the decade we’ve lived here, we’ve covered the loop thousands of times.
At first, it was just with our dog for daily walks. Then our daughter was born we graduated to a stroller and then a red Radio Flyer wagon. …
What’s the worst smell you can think of? Skunk? Brussels sprouts? Sour milk?
For me, it was a mixture of Coca-Cola, coffee, Gatorade, and rotting bones. The smell was so pungent it clung to my hair and clothes for hours after the air had cleared. I was a student teacher in a regional high school in Vermont, and I had asked my students to do an experiment on bone density. They each chose a liquid to soak a chicken bone in for a week.
I knew the acidic liquids would leach the calcium out of the bones and make them…
Meat is a commodity. Kids aren’t. So let’s grade meat, not kids.
When my friend Peter was in college, he failed a physics test. Most of the class had failed it too, and the mood in the room was one of disappointment and misery.
But one student, after seeing that he’d gotten a 99%, headed straight for the professor’s desk. He argued that his test had been graded unfairly and that he should have scored 100%. After several minutes, the professor acquiesced and gave him the point back.
With a serious expression and a resigned tone, he commented, “So the…
Not a metaphor. Also, very important.
In college, I worked in an entomology lab. It was in a one-story brick building with one long hallway and about twenty locked doors on either side of the hall. In the rooms were insects and experiments. Not just a few insects, but hundreds of thousands of insects. There were cages of mosquitoes, beetles, flies, and wasps. They lived in cages and were fed a steady diet of milk, blood, and feces.
The important people in the lab were researching West Nile Virus and farm diseases. I was not important. As a work-study student…
Why feather earrings are optional at my house.
Last week we ate dinner at our kitchen table. Our four-year-old dined like an osprey, ripping into his food and spreading scraps onto the floor below. My daughter Harper pushed her food around on her plate like she was making an art installation. My husband gave us the play-by-play of his day as our dog circled us all, looking for crumbs or an absent-minded pat on the head.
But I wasn’t paying attention to any of them.
Instead, I was focusing on the shabby condition of our table. One edge had deep…
Three little things and three big things.
I haven’t seen my daughter in a week, which is unusual, since she’s 10 and she lives with us. She’s at summer camp for the first time and the only communication we’ve had from her is a letter that ended with the phrase ‘I Miss You 0%.”
If I was an insecure parent, I might worry. If she hadn’t also included phrases like, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life,” I might worry. But I’m actually glad to hear that she doesn't miss us.
Raising a kid is a big…
A good book is one you can’t stop telling people about, don’t you think?
I just finished reading A Libertarian Walks Into A Bear by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling and I’ve been telling everyone I see about it.
The book is a well-researched, true story about a rural New Hampshire town where freedom-loving libertarians and free-food-loving black bears keep intersecting in comedic and horrifying ways.
In the late 1990s, an online group of libertarians decided to make Grafton, NH their home. They were attracted to its small population, cheap land, and low taxes. …
I like big words and I cannot lie. Small words are ok too.