an amber-colored ornament ball hanging from a Christmas tree

Christmas 2017 Leads to Science!

The ear­li­est bits of this web­site date to 2003, fif­teen years ago. That’s near­ly half of my life! I keep telling myself that I need to tend to this site (cur­rent­ly called Dammit, Rick!, but who knows what it’ll be called next time I post here), but for the past few years, I’ve been objec­tive­ly lax in cre­at­ing mean­ing­ful content.

(Wait, have I ever pro­duced mean­ing­ful content?)

Any­way, we’re fresh out of the 2017 hol­i­day sea­son, and my daugh­ter enjoyed her sixth Christ­mas, at our house and else­where, with some awe­some gifts, such as the fan­tas­tic My Lit­tle Pony Can­ter­lot castle.

I can’t deny that when it comes to toys, she’s not at all want­i­ng, and to total­ly par­ent-brag, she’s a pure joy to go shop­ping with: it is absolute­ly rare for her to get the “I want! I want! I want!” atti­tude, even in aisles filled with her favorite things!

What is going to define this year, though, is not an abun­dance of toys, but sci­ence! That’s right, sci­ence! My mom gave my daugh­ter two real­ly amaz­ing gifts which I’m eager to get up and run­ning: an ant habi­tat and a car­niv­o­rous plant garden! 

We’re going to need to order ants at some point, but we’re going to have to wait until slight­ly warmer weath­er hits so that the ants aren’t sit­ting on the porch freez­ing while I’m at work. Although, now that I’m think­ing about it, it could be more inter­est­ing to catch our own ants. The instruc­tions that came with the habi­tat claim that it can sup­port a colony of ants with a queen, but that claim seems high­ly dubi­ous giv­en the size of the enclosure.

We attempt­ed to set up the car­niv­o­rous gar­den ear­li­er today; how­ev­er, we hit a cou­ple of snags.

  • Accord­ing to the instruc­tions, these plants are rather per­snick­ety and require dis­tilled water. We did­n’t have any on hand at the time, but hav­ing pro­cured some dur­ing a quick gro­cery run after din­ner, I hope to get start­ed on at least half the gar­den tomor­row evening.
  • I say “half the gar­den” because one pack­et of seeds requires a sev­er­al weeks long peri­od in the refrig­er­a­tor as part of a process called strat­i­fi­ca­tion. These are plants which ordi­nar­i­ly sprout dur­ing the fall and so must be “tricked” by spend­ing some time liv­ing with the milk and ketchup.

Gar­den­ing, of course, is the domain of the patient, and the car­niv­o­rous gar­den is look­ing to be no excep­tion to that. My daugh­ter shows true excite­ment at the prospect of set­ting it up, though, and I would­n’t trade that for anything!

Those were the two big sci­ence projects I knew about going into Christ­mas, but oh my good­ness, the amount of sci­ence and cre­ative activ­i­ties that she now has is astound­ing! A “fos­sil dig” kit, a vol­cano kit, a gem­stone kit, a crys­tal grow­ing kit, a book on a hun­dred or so things to do before grow­ing up, a scrap­book­ing kit, a “dad­dy and me” mem­o­ry book, a num­bers puz­zle book, a book of sci­en­tif­ic activ­i­ties for kids, and so much more, includ­ing a small hand­ful of fan­tas­tic learn­ing books found at Good­will around Christ­mas­time as well, one of which has page after page of the sys­tems of the human body in beau­ti­ful detail.

For a few  years now, she has said she want­ed to be a vet­eri­nar­i­an (a “pet doc­tor,” orig­i­nal­ly, before she knew the title), and while I won’t pre­tend that her pre-first grade hopes will define her life, I know that as long as she has a sense of won­der and awe about the world around her, she’s a sponge for all the sci­ence I can throw at her.

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Rick Beckman