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Team WhyMommy Virtual Science Fair

There was a point in our lives when we were ALL scientists. We couldn’t help ourselves, we were born with a natural sense of curiosity and would investigate anything our minds and hearts desired. And then someone put the label SCIENCE on it and maybe some boring teacher droned on endlessly on it in a classroom or subjected us to a poorly written text book and that curiosity was drilled right out of us.

And then, if you are really lucky, you’ll meet someone in your life again like Dr. Susan Niebur (or like me, you’ll meet her as her alternate identity, “WhyMommy” and not realize for the longest time that her real-life identity is an ASTROPHYSICIST) and she may re-ignite your love of science.

I actually met Susan in an alternate world — seriously — in 2007. We “sat” near each other in a “conference room” at a BlogHer Conference  in Second Life, a online 3D world.  From that virtual world, we watched a live stream of the conference that was going on in real life in Chicago.  We typed a few words between each other and I think we even “danced” at a Second Life dance club and that was the last I thought I’d ever see of WhyMommy.  (That sounds far more tawdry than I mean for it to!)   I hadn’t even launched my blog yet and never thought I’d run into her again.  I looked at her site and it was then that I realized Susan was coping with a rare form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer – a breast cancer that does not come with a telltale lump. 

Imagine my surpise a year later when I joined the DC Metro Moms Blog group and one of the first people I met at a real-life gathering was WhyMommy!  It took my mind mere seconds to connect the name with the person I had met in another world and I was so happy to see her looking so well — she had beaten the cancer!  Since then, I’ve seen Susan at a few other gatherings, and I was thrilled beyond belief when she agreed to come as a “Celebrity Scientist” to speak at a Junior League of Northern Virginia fundraiser to explain the important role museums, particularly those that allow kids to have hands-on experiences, play in children’s lives.  It was her moving speech about the impact of a museum visit at the tender age of 3 in shaping her ultimate career path to be a NASA astrophysicist that helped raise several thousand dollars for the Children’s Science Center.

And that’s what I love about Susan — her pure passion for science and her willingness to share it with anyone within earshot.  Unfortunately, that night she was also in pain.  A knot of pain in her back that was causing shockwaves of pain throughout her spine, which she found out only days later, was the sign of a re-occurrence of her cancer.  She fought through the pain to come to the fundraiser, and yet this pain quickly became the beginning of a new journey. 

Today Susan is having surgery to remove some nodes that are affected by the cancer — and I won’t even pretend that I can do a good job of explaining things, all I can say is that she has a scary journey ahead of her to fight the cancer once again.  And she’s the mother of two small kids.   And she has a ton of friends around her who wish they could take up the fight for her — but we can’t.  We feel helpless to do anything but keep saying encouraging words to her.

So there’s two things we’re doing today.  First — we’re going to encourage people to join the Avon Army of Women – a massive research project of ALL women — cancer-free, with cancer, cancer survivors.  Please go sign up, and then look for a study you can participate in sometime this year (new studies open up all the time).  Some are as simple as filling out a form.

Second, since Susan is NOT all about cancer, we are holding a virtual science fair!  Today, all over the blogosphere, Susan’s blogging friends are remembering how fun science can be — with our kids or even on our own.  As it happens, my son is having his Mad Science birthday party this week, so science is in the air in the Java household.  But today, in Susan’s honor, we played with magnets!

For the first experiment, we studied the laws of repulsion.  Take a toy car (it helps if it has wheels with a good bit of height) and strap a magnet on top with a rubber band.  Take another magnet and figure out which end has the opposite pole and because opposing poles repel rather than attract, you can make the car move forward simply by holding the magnet close to the back of the car.  (This is why you need a high wheelbase — so the rubberband doesn’t drag on the table).  JavaBoy thought this was “Coooool!”

The second experiment makes a great magic trick for an audience.  Drop a paper clip (make sure it is a metal, non-coated one!) into a glass of water, or if you are really coordinated, a water bottle.  Ask anyone if they know how to get it out without getting their hands wet or spilling any of the water. 

Then, whip out your handy magnet and run it along the side of your water container and you will be able to pull the paper clip right out of the water!  This is due to the laws of attraction — if you have a strong enough magnet, you can attract the paper clip to the magnet, even through glass and water.

You don’t have to be a NASA astrophysicist to appreciate science.  (You don’t even have to know one, although I recommend getting to know Susan, even if it is only through her blog!)  Go check out what some of Susan’s other friends are doing today and try some things out with your kids.  If you have a local science museum, plan a trip!  And if you don’t have one (like those of us in Northern Virginia – and that’s a post for another day), then find out what you can do to help bring one to the area!

Perhaps one day your little one will be the scientist who rids us of this awful disease called cancer. 

Susan — we’re all pulling  for you today!  I’m going a little heavier on the prayer than the caffeine!

Better Than a BlogRoll…

I learned about Babble.com’s Top 50 Mommy Bloggers list when fellow Silicon Valley Moms Blog network member Jessica Gottlieb was named to it (she’s part of the LA Moms Blog, I’m part of the DC Metro Moms Blog).  In fact, the original Silicon Valley Moms Blog made the cut as well (congratulations, Jill!)  There are a lot of other familiar names on the list, blogs I have been reading and some of them are women I’ve met at BlogHer or traded tweets with on Twitter.  But there are also some I didn’t know — and that’s what I love about the blogosphere — when you accidentally bump into another kindred spirit out in cyberspace. 

Babble recognizes that although the Top 50 are certainly noteworthy, that there are a lot of terrific bloggers out there, and they are letting readers nominate them, and then give a “thumbs up” if someone has already nominated a favorite.  I think that’s pretty darned cool!   So often you see the same names rise to the top (with good reason), and this is a nice effort to broaden the horizons.

A lot of the names on that list are already some of my favorite blogs, and some are going to become new favorites.  Amongst some of my current favorites are Sarah and the Goon SquadToddler Planet, Jodifur, and Wife And Mommy all of whom I have the pleasure of having met in person as well as reading their blogs and they are terrific women as well as terrific writers.   As I scroll through the list, I see more that look intriguing and I’m going to find some time to check them out and you should, too!  (Not that I want you to stop reading here, of course!)

And yes, I’m thrilled that not only did someone include Caffeine And a Prayer, but people other than my husband and mother-in-law gave it a thumbs up!  Thank you!  It means a lot!  If you feel strongly enough about Caffeine and a Prayer to add a thumbs up, it may encourage others to check it out.

In the meantime, I recommend checking out both the Top 50 list and the reader-nominated list — there are a lot of fantastic writers out there worth reading!  One of these days I’ll get around to updating my blogroll…

Beauty School Dropout

I burst into laughter when I walked into the Beauty Salon room of Bethesda’s Playseum and saw this scene.  It immediately brought back memories of endless hours of playing with my Salon Barbie as a little girl (although mine did not come with creepy hands to manicure) and seeing this tableau sent my imagination spinning off in a million directions.

Were these two friends who came to the faux salon hoping to get matching hair-dos and something went horribly, horribly awry? 

Was the doll on the left the victim of some awful Mean Girl scenario?  ”Sure, come to the salon with me… I’ll make sure  you get an AWESOME blow-out just like mine!  Ken, and all the football players will be sure to notice you at the big game!” 

Or perhaps the doll on the right (let’s just call her Muffy) brought the doll on the left (let’s just call her Agnes) into the doll salon as an intervention after finding her locked in her dorm room, downing Red Bull and Vodka, hair hanging in her face, listening to her I HATE HIM playlist of top 25 breakup songs on her iPhone.  Muffy became concerned when Agnes kept tweeting nothing but a nonsensical stream of letters and numbers every 4 minutes and sending TwitPics of her poorly manicured toes.  Why yes, this salon appointment is just what Agnes needs.

On the other hand, perhaps Agnes, is merely the mother of a newborn, and Muffy is merely her very annoying friend who still has time for things like sleep, meals, and…  personal hygiene. 

Maybe it’s a photo shoot?  Agnes is the “Before” model.  Muffy is the “After” model.  But for some edgy magazines, MUFFY may be the “Before” model and Agnes is the “After” model, sporting the new, hot, 2010 look, “Windblow, Mystery Woman look!”  “Straight and groomed is sooooo out,” says the Beauty Editor.  “Women today want to look mysterious, unpredictable.  This hair says, ‘Hey, I may be a CEO, or I may be have just escaped from an asylum — you are just going to have to take your chances.  When I walk into your company’s boardroom, I may be about to make you a million, or you should call security — 2010 is all about taking risks!’  That’s what this look is all about!”  And then the Beauty Editor cackled and smeared more lipstick on her forehead.

I came back to reality when my little girl asked for a bottle of nail polish so she, too, could add a layer of polish to the creepy hands, which delighted her endlessly.

What scenarios come to your mind when you look at poor Agnes?

Are You A Name-Mangler?

nametag copy

I admit I’m terrible about remem bering names when I’m first introduced to people, but I’m a real stickler for learning whether a William is a Bill, Billie, Will, Willie or the full William. I cringed when I realized that at a conference this past week I called a Katherine, “Kathy” by mistake — it had been a few months since I had seen her and I only knew her amidst a sea of other Junior League officers, but I’m sure she hates being called Kathy as much as I hate when someone calls me by my full first name instead of calling me J.J.

You can read more about my weird hang-ups about the importance of getting people’s names right in my latest post at DC Metro Moms Blog: What’s In a Name? Everything.

Photo credit: © istockphoto.com/Jill Fromer

Sometimes I Get A Little Dark and Twisty

Motherhood isn’t all Jell-O and cute drawings on the fridge you know… it’s fraught with a lot of don’t-go-there thoughts. Especially for someone who not only watches lots of crime TV but has been a crime reporter and has seen some of the worst humanity can do.

You can get a glimpse of the dark corners or my maternal mind in my latest DC Metro Moms post, “Not on the School Supply List” today.

A slightly less dark and twisty post is my rant about DCMM post on Sunday about HOV lane cheaters.