When I was young, we didn’t have cell phones! We had to tie strings onto cans …

I find it highly ironic that I live in a house in which 75% of the inhabitants actually enjoy science, and of that 75%, I willingly married 33.3% of it and gave birth to the remaining 66.6% with my own science-hating loins.

I liked math, if you couldn’t tell. At least I did until I took calculus and discovered that somebody replaced most of the numbers with letters. I hope he got into a lot of trouble, whoever he was.

I like my numbers and letters kept separate. My world makes much more sense that way.

Science was never my thing and really, the only memory I have of any science class is one from high school, when Doug Nubert got into trouble for goofing off and was hauled up to the front of the class where he was instructed to draw the external reproductive organs of a human male on the chalkboard.

I learned a lot from that particular class, not the least of which was that Doug had a high opinion of himself. A high, rather large, grossly distorted, and clearly excited opinion of himself which was disturbing on so many levels, I can’t even list them all here.

So, I don’t do science. When the science fair comes around in these here parts and Helena excitedly jumps up and down and all around, Nate’s the one on call. He loves the stuff. He probably got his affinity for science from his father, who was a high school teacher of the subject for many, many years.

I don’t think my father-in-law made his students draw self-portraits of their nether regions, though. At least, I hope not. I’m not going to ask him. Some things I’m better off not knowing.

Nate helps the girls plan, diagram, measure, build, compute, assemble, test, hypothesize, troubleshoot and problem solve. He’s excellent at all of those things.

I bet I’d be excellent at all of those things too, if I knew how to do any of them.

I am excellent at giving Helena free reign as she writes out her predictions in handwriting that gradually slants to the right, all the way down to South America, while I cringe, bite my tongue until it bleeds and staple my eyelids shut. I have mastered those skills to an art form. We all have our strengths.

Zoe participated in the science fair only once with a project on dry ice. She was in fifth grade so the slanted handwriting wasn’t an issue and I didn’t cause myself any bodily harm but Nate did have to use one of his kidneys as collateral when purchasing the dry ice. Then we had to jump through 37ยฝ hoops and pledge Nate’s other kidney to meet the requirements for bringing the ice onto school grounds.

I thought it went well. Then again, I still wear sweats from the eighties, so there you go.

Did you know that when you fill a test tube with dry ice and place a balloon over it, the balloon expands?

And did you know that while people are otherwise distracted by a hands-on exhibit of dry ice and water and swirling smoke, they couldn’t care less about a balloon on a test tube?

And did you know that the balloon doesn’t care if anyone is paying it any attention?

And sooner or later, it explodes with a *BOOM* that echoes through a gymnasium like a bomb?

And that when there is a *BOOM* in a gymnasium filled to capacity with adults and children, both the adults and children will scream and run for the exits and there will be panic and mayhem?

Isn’t it amazing what you learn at a science fair?

Poor Nate. He really did like his kidneys. Dialysis? Not so much.

They don’t allow dry ice in our science fair exhibits now.

But at least we can say we were trend setters, albeit for a brief period.

Helena has participated in the science fair for three years now and this year, she partnered with her friend Gianna and presented the Tin Can Telephone Project. Helena ate Italian wedding meatball soup every day for almost a week in order to get three pairs of cans for her project.

One set was connected by twine, one by string and one by fishing line.

Turns out, the cans connected by string worked the best, so long as the string was pulled tight. Don’t ask me why. It has something to do with sound waves and vibrating can bottoms.

The last sentence is why I’m not in charge of science fair projects.

I could have asked Nate for a thorough explanation but that would mean calling him at work and periodically shouting

  • WHAT?
  • DON’T LIE.
  • FINE.

Plus, I didn’t feel like pulling out flowcharts and subtitles and my Dictionary of Nate Speak.


Here’s Helena in front of their display. I’d show you a picture of Gianna but I didn’t get her mom’s permission because I didn’t know I was going to write this post until ten minutes ago.

Isn’t she cute? Helena, I mean. Giana is adorable too and if I was better at time management, you wouldn’t just have to take my word for it.

Even when she’s 82 and shuffling along in her walker, she’ll always be my little peanut.

Helena, I mean. Not Gianna.


You can’t see it in this picture, but immediately to her right is a display on … get this … tin can telephones. By boys.

Two projects on tin can telephones right next to each other.

Now, if Doug Nubert’s self-portrait had sparked anything other than disbelief and a slight case of HOLY CRAP, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT in me, I might have been intrigued by the very concept of science. Or pornography. Or really gross anatomy. But we don’t have time for a random tangent on either of those subjects so I’ll just stick to science, OK?

Maybe I’d have grown to actually like science, enough to volunteer to head up a science fair committee at my kids’ school twenty five years later. Then there would have been no possibility of having identical projects in such close proximity to each other because that scenario would have set off all of my anal-retentive, quasi semi-compulsive alarms and made my skeleton jump out of my skin and run shrieking out the front door. You can’t have a science fair if the committee chairperson is but a pile of dermis in the school foyer. See Board of Education By Laws,ย ยง102-A.

No science fair means no identical projects in the same vicinity. Problem solved.

But Doug’s multi-colored chalk rendering of Ode to All Things Genitalia did not spark anything in me other than a decidedly strong aversion to Doug. Therefore, I did not volunteer to head up any science fair committee twenty-five years later and thus, Helena’s and Gianna’s tin can telephones came to share the same third grade hallway real estate as those of Colin and Jason.

But Helena and Gianna didn’t let it bother them. For a couple of minutes, it became a friendly competition between the girls and boys as to who could get the most spectators to try out their phones. Then they realized that they were actually speaking to each other and there were witnesses. So they immediately proceeded to ignore each other, stopping every so often to talk smack about the others’ cans.

Not really. I just wanted to say “talk smack.” I like that phrase. Makes me feel … not 42.

So anyway, the girls just rolled with it and didn’t let the fact that the cooties immediately to their right were stealing a bit of their thunder and I think that’s because:

  • boys smell
  • their telephones were wrapped in bright, colorful construction paper and looked pretty, while the boys’ telephones were wrapped in remnants of the Green Giant variety and looked not pretty.
  • boys smell

I have to admit that while science makes my eyeballs roll up into my brain, I’m grateful that my kids enjoy it. I’d love to see them grow up and use what they’ve learned to better the world somehow.

In the meantime, I’m fedexing 1/2 of a tin can telephone unit to my mother. Hopefully I’ll never again have to hear I CALLED YOU ON YOUR CELL PHONE. WHY ARE YOU ANSWERING ON YOUR LANDLINE?



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22 thoughts on “When I was young, we didn’t have cell phones! We had to tie strings onto cans …”

  1. Avatar

    Wow, Doug was actually *instructed* to draw such in front of the classroom??? Badidea. *lol*

    Helena’s an awfully cute peanut, and you’re an awfully cute blog writer, that’s all I have to say. Who knows what genetics had to do with that anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    I have a happy bunny magnet on my fridge. I love happy bunny. He makes me…well….happy. Anyhoo, the magnet says “boys lie and they kind of stink”. My boys just love that magnet! Haha…parental paybacks. And so, since it’s in writing both in your blog and on the magnet, it must be true. Boys smell and/or stink. Another reason girls rule!

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    I tell my kids that science fair projects are their problem, not mine. I never did a good science fair project. Now, on social studies projects, I rock the house. Ditto for term papers – the English degree comes in handy. However, Science is like Greek to me [no offense]. I just don’t get it. Ditto for Latin. Heck, I can barely use my cell phone.

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    okay I am laughing so hard that I am rocking like a baby. The thought of oversize personal areas of a guy…I shudder with those weird goose bumps that you get when you know you are about to let loose anything you have eatten in the last 24 hours.

    Now, Helena is really cute! so, cute in fact give her a high five for a terrific project from the mean parent crew way across the country from you.

    Well, I like science the forscenics part that is. It totally intrigues me. Did I just use a valley/surfer lingo? OMG..somebody find my gatorade and turn me back in to that cool rocker mom..can you tell I was in the 80’s/90’s brew growing up too. I still won’t tell my age…southern bells just don’t discuss that.

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    I like science, but I don’t like science projects. Rather, I don’t like recording all the science project info and making the displays. The experiments are cool, but the work to make them presentable is boring.

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    My son has been away at college for 8 months and it still smells!
    Your last line about your Mom cracked me up. If you haven’t watched it already, you much rent “Mother” with Debbie Reynolds. There is such a funny part in there, regarding phone usage.

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    oh my goodness, you crack me up! i happened to like math and science, but only separately. one day i walked into physics class and found someone had put math and science together in a blender and THAT messed with my world. i dropped it after a semester and felt so much better. helena is cute as a button! and i love that she wore a cuter version of a white lab coat for such a special occasion.

    if half a tin-can phone shows up on your doorstep, it may be me hoping you will talk for five seconds with continued hilarity. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    You should know by now that whenever you use the term “When I was young . . . .” somewhere in the conversation you MUST also mention the FACT that not only did you have to walk to school 9 days a week, it was 28 miles (one way), in 3 feet of snow (at least) and UP HILL both ways.

    I happen to know this because it is in my copy of the “Mommy Manual” that we each received upon giving birth! I can’t find it right now, but I know it’s in there . . . now where did I put that damned Manual . . . . .

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    Can you even imagine if Doug were in the classroom today and were instructed to render such punishment on the blackboard? It would be headline news and someone would have taken a picture with their cellphone and would have posted it to Facebook and then Doug would have filed a sexual harassment suit against the teacher and the school and the district and the superintendent and then one of the girls who was in the class would have filed a sexual harassment suit against Doug and then through the course of legal discovery it would have been disclosed that Doug and the science teacher had been conducting a long term affair and had a love child on the way and then…oh,wait….that may have been a movie I saw on Lifetime last week…my bad…


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    Ok, next time you post about Doug and his rather inflated sense of self, put that in the first sentence so I know not to take a drink of coffee while I’m reading about him. My poor monitor goes through hell when I’m on your blog. ROFL

    The first thing I noticed besides how cute Helena is was how pretty her cans were decorated. That doesn’t sound right does it? LOL Her tin cans. No way the boys could compete, poor things. LOL

    And she is awfully cute!!!

    Have a great day Andy!

  11. Avatar

    He … he he … boys smell.

    I also like my letters and numbers seperate. I also like my potatoe separate from my peas, but peas in risoto is just FINE!!! Just so you know!

    Bright blessings!

  12. Pingback: Posts of Note: Laugh Out Loud « TodaysMama

  13. Avatar

    very interesting and helpful as we are about to make a tin can telephone and didn’t know which was best to use, string, fishing line or twine. so thank you for doing the experiment for us helena!! from me & my 11yr old son jaycob ๐Ÿ™‚

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