Welcome to The Mom Scientist. Here are some things you might have missed since my last post.

In the last almost-a-year, I left school, got completely divorced, and got a part-time job at…school. The classification of my particular job requires that I NOT take classes while I work, so while I was looking for work, starting work, and doing work, the “I for Incomplete” on my transcript converted itself into an F for Calculus I.

I’m okay with that. When I have time, if I have time, and when I’m working a different job classification at some point in the future, I can take calculus again and let the new grade overwrite the old grade. Or, I could…not. It is just not the biggest concern in my life right now. At any rate, actually learning calculus would be more valuable to me than any grade I would earn in a class.


I have put off writing this post because I was really hoping that things would have turned out differently, and I could happily and triumphantly report that not only had I passed calculus, I had aced the final, gotten the best grade in the class, and received extra credit for pointing out some glaring flaws in the Principia Mathematica. Alas, that was not the way things went.

But the way things went tonight was pretty cool. My youngest boy had his first sleepover tonight, but I had all the rest of the kids at home. And I was in a good place to tackle the cleaning, reorganization, and redecorating of the kitchen. So I was moving furniture around, throwing out stale snacks, and looking up microwave carts online when I noticed that the background noise had become almost conspiratorial.

“Do you know where the vinegar is?”
“Yeah, there’s a whole GALLON of it here!”
“I’ll get the boxes of baking soda.”
“MOM! Do we have any food coloring?”

I had stockpiled the household chemicals for a big foamy blowout over the summer, and we’d not gotten around to it. Until tonight, apparently.

First, they dragged the recycling bin into the driveway, poured in six packs of Mentos, and shook up a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke and added that, too. The resulting mix didn’t do much except run through the bin’s drainage holes and start flowing toward the foot of the driveway, but they were excited about it and followed it for a while.


Next they got a large plate and apparently covered it with baking soda. I think they moved their venue to the bathtub before pouring vinegar on the plate. (They never did find the food coloring, thank goodness.) They also combined vinegar and baking soda in the bathroom sink, which may have loosened up the crusted-on toothpaste. They used the whole gallon of vinegar and all four boxes of baking soda; I could HEAR the reaction two rooms away.

They also did something with cornstarch that used all my cornstarch. After that, I offered up my container of stale instant tapioca. That’s probably what clogged the tub drain.

I’m not upset about the tub drain at all (even though the trap is probably filled with pudding). They had a blast, nothing was truly harmed, and we’ll probably learn something about chemistry while we think of ways to get the drain unclogged.


I kept thinking about an anecdote I had read in at least one book about the scientists who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s. They used to say that there were two types of scientists — those who got chemistry sets as kids, and those who took apart radios. And I remembered a story about one young scientist whose mother calmly took the flaming trash can outside and set it in the snow. Science was important then, and having a scientific kid meant that the next generation’s lot would probably be better. You gain nothing by saying No, Stop that, and What did I tell you? except the deaths of curiosity and imagination.


Most of the time, my kids want to watch videos and play video games. When they’re feeling creative, they design video games, write stories, and draw comic books. But on those special nights when the stars line up just right, they want to make stuff explode, and I’m going to be the one who lets them.