Friday, November 11, 2011

Get My Daughter's Science Fair Project From A Garbage Can

It was late at night.  Daughter's science fair was underway.  I propped my feet up on the coffee table to rest a spell and decided to flip through her science fair packet.  There on Page Important was some information in bold.

The science project needs to include at least 3-5 trials.

Kudos to the science teacher for trying her best to share this vital information with her students and parents. (Hello, it was in bold letters! What else could she have done to get me to notice?  Rent a billboard for me to read while I sat waiting in car line?) 

So, despite her best efforts, I missed it. 

It is also sad that I should have known this information without reading the packet since I did graduate from high school and even earned a college degree (which included an entire class aptly named "Experimentation.")


So, there we were thinking we were at the end of the experiment when in fact we were simply at the end of TRIAL ONE.  I emailed the teacher to ask if we could keep her scale for a few more days, confessing my blunder.  She graciously agreed.

Then I scratched my head wondering where else I could go to beg for crab shells and fish bones.  I couldn't go back to the original market and grocery stores because, somehow that just sounded, how do I say, pitiful?

Lucky for me, we have a string of grocery stores and seafood markets, so I thought of another Winn Dixie and a particular market I could visit.  I headed on my quest the next morning.

My first stop was Winn Dixie.  When I pulled up I saw a tour bus with a group of retirees. I walked in to a sea of sweet little ladies wearing fanny packs and browsing the bakery.

I wanted to run up to the bus driver and ask,"Hey, do you know you are in FLORIDA?" 

I mean, yes, Winn Dixie is a fine grocery store and they have regional importance, but if I were paying to be driven around the Sunshine State I would ask to be taken to, I don't know, the beach.  Or even to a shopping center that had outlets stores as opposed to deli turkey on sale for $4.99 a pound. 

I made my way to the seafood counter where I discovered that this Winn Dixie was not the crab people and they did not have any uncooked crab.  I purchased some chicken for the chicken bones, latex gloves, and more vinegar. 

Then I drove to the seafood market where I again gave my pathetic speech about my daughter's science fair project and could I just buy two oysters, one crab leg, and some fish remains? The young girl behind the counter was a bit confused about what to do so she asked her supervisor.

I overheard his instructions,"Just sell her two oysters, some crab legs, and give her a fish carcass."

The girl went to the back along with another young guy working the counter.  The girl came out with what was left of a red snapper and two oysters. 

Then the guy emerged with a dead crab.  With a huge smile on his face, he declared,"I found her a dead crab!"

His discovery meant that I didn't have to buy any fresh crab and could walk away with a free dead crab. 

Lucky me.

I paid for the oysters and the grouper I decided we should have for dinner, and walked to my car with the loot- two oysters, grouper fillets, a free dead crab, and a red snapper carcass still looking at me.

After picking up Daughter from school (Hey, honey! Look what Mom brought home this time!) I immediately came home and headed to the kitchen to clean the specimens.

Y'all.  There is a reason they keep that stuff on ice. 

I stood at the sink, cleaning, rinsing and removing crab meat from my FREE DEAD CRAB as Daughter held her little sandwich bags open for me to drop in the specimen.

I diligently worked except for one moment when I paused and said a prayer that next year Daughter would decide to grow tomatoes for her science fair project.  Hubs had to actually shuck the oyster for me since this particular market said they couldn't do it for me (something about it being illegal because they also are a restaurant and how it is a health hazard, blah, blah, blah.)

After all the specimens were prepared, Daughter continued with her experiment.  I am happy to report that Trial Two is underway.  There's an oyster shell, red snapper bone, chicken bone, and blue crab shell soaking in vinegar in my kitchen.

I suppose tomorrow she will continue on to Trial Three. Even if she never discovers the cure for osteoporosis, I have discovered ways to get free dead sea creatures. I've joined the ranks of stray cats everywhere.

Except for the faint odor of fish carcass on my hands, I am pretty proud of myself.


I really should put that in bold... 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I'll pass on the Filet-O-Fish, thankyouverymuch.

I am often amazed and amused at the things I do as a mom.

Sure, we anticipate things like changing diapers, cleaning up puke in the middle of the night, or "saving" spiders who sneak inside and need to return to the outdoors (as opposed to squashing them like a bug, er, arachnid.)

We know we will do all of those duties through the years, but once our kids are potty trained and can relatively aim for the garbage during a stomach virus, we figure the extremely messy tasks of motherhood are passed  us.

Then there is the science fair.

It is the monster of all monster school projects.  As soon as you breathe life into it, it grows and grows into an enormous creature full of deadlines and log books and crazy, long words like hypothesis  (which is an if/then phrase, in case you forgot.)

And don't even get me started on graphs.

This year Daughter was not required to do a science project.  However, some of the kids could volunteer.  Guess who raised her hand.

We've always taught her to go the extra mile, to do her very best, and to strive for excellence.  It makes you a better person.  It gives you confidence. 

It gives your mom a migraine.

Daughter selected a few possibilities for her topic. One involved dog training, one explored the senses, and the other was related to bone loss.

She picked bone loss.

Specifically, she chose to test what will happen if you soak bones in vinegar.  Apparently this is a common experiment, so the teacher helped her find a twist.  Instead of simply soaking a chicken bone in vinegar, the teacher suggested she try other bones, and even compare types of skeletons.  At the end of our talk with the teacher, Daughter agreed and decided she would test the effects of vinegar on endoskeletons and exoskeletons.

Did I mention she volunteered? I did?

The experiment itself is simple enough and is actually pretty interesting, since different types of skeletons contain different levels of calcium which, by the way, can be broken down for different reasons (like pH, hence the vinegar.)  Her study won't solve your grandmother's struggle with osteoporosis, but it could point to some interesting facts about bone loss.

Are you still here?

She came home from our meeting with the teacher all excited and I was actually relieved because this experiment was doable.  Simple.  Straightforward. 

Until yesterday.

Daughter chose a chicken bone and a fish bone for her endoskeletons and a crab shell and oyster shell for the exoskeletons.  The chicken bone was easy.  I have deboned a chicken several times in my life.  No problem.  So I bought some drumsticks. Easy Peasy.  (She wanted the bones to be uncooked, so that is why I had to search for fresh items instead of simply going through the KFC drive thru and keeping the leftovers.)

Chicken bone- check.

Fortunately for us, we live in Florida where seafood is abundant.  So I stopped at a seafood market. 

"This is going to sound odd, but my daughter is doing a science fair project involving fish bones, oyster shells, and crab shells.  We aren't eating the meat, but I wondered if you have any scraps? Or can I just purchase one of each item?"

The shop owner went to the back room where they put all the fish scraps and returned with one oyster, which he shucked for me, and the tail and backbone of a flounder.

Let me just tell you that the next time you order your flounder fillet say a quick prayer thanking the seafood expert who delicately removed the backbone and tail for you so that you could enjoy a nice piece of flounder next to your sea salt baked potato.

Because yesterday?  Yesterday I was given that very backbone and tail and let me tell you, it is nasty.  I've cleaned fish before, but there is something about being handed a clear bag double tied with the remnants of a dead fish inside. 

This is why they created Mother's Day, people.

The shop owner did not have any crab legs or any type of crab, so I made my way to Publix.  I gave my same sad story speech about being the dedicated mother who helps her kid with a science fair project even though there is a fish carcass in her car as we speak, and could he please hurry up because it is almost 80 degrees out there?!

Maybe I didn't say that exactly, but I did ask for an uncooked crab shell.  Publix only had cooked crab, so I got back in the car with my flounder fillet trash and drove to Winn Dixie.

As it turns out, Winn Dixie is not only the beef people, but they are the crab people, too. They had crab legs and I asked to buy a small one.  The butcher took pity on me, snapped a claw off a snow crab in the case, wrapped it in butcher paper,, and wrote "No Sale. Mike."

Thanks, Mike.

At this point I was beginning to feel like a stray cat wandering from store to store begging for scraps.  I made my way to car line, cranked up the AC, setting the vents to the floor to cool down the flounder, and sipped my Starbucks coffee- a mom's reward for her dedication.

Daughter was extremely thankful when she climbed in the car and learned I had gathered her supplies, even though the supplies were starting to reek.

When we got home, I showed her all the goods.  Because they were not cooked, I took on the duty of cleaning.  Daughter wrinkled up her nose and watched as I rinsed, pulled, cut, sliced, and scraped at endoskeletons and exoskeletons. Then she bagged and labeled them all, and placed them in the frig.

It was quite an afternoon, a learning experience.  I feel like I have bonded with the hard-working folks at seafood markets and restaurant kitchens.  God love 'em.  I bet they got their training from their kid's science fair project.