I decided to put aside my worries about the wooden stirrer sticks and plunge into Step One of my Experiment. As any good scientist (or cook) knows, this would be the Gathering of the Materials. The stirrer sticks were the last item on the list, so I started working at the top, hoping that some solution would present itself by the time I got to them.
Well, actually, I jumped down to the next thing that bothered me, which was the rubbing alcohol. I was hyperventilating just ever so slightly over the fact that it had to be ice-cold, and also over the instructions that said to pour it down the side of the cup. Now, does that mean the INSIDE of the cup, or the OUTSIDE of the cup? And why do we have to pour it down the side of the cup? What will happen if we don’t? Because, you see, with my track record, it’s innocuous details like this that can cause the entire experiment to be a failure.
Before I got to the paper-bag stage of this hyperventilation, however, there was the whole 90% thing to investigate. Just as I had suspected, the rubbing alcohol I had on hand was only 70%. I stopped my ice and side-of-cup hyperventilating and rubbed my hands together. This meant I needed to do research. I’m good at research.
I marched straight into the room in which my husband was watching the end of this week’s episode of Dr. Who, frantically motioning for him to pause it, and blurted out, “Our rubbing alcohol is only 70%! Where do I get 90% rubbing alcohol?”
I don’t know why I thought my husband would know the answer to this question. He is a systems analyst by trade and an artist and musician at heart. The only time, since I’ve known him, that he has dealt with chemicals was when we had an above-ground pool for a few years.
However, I have been married to my husband for 23 years, so I have developed an instinct about what kinds of facts lie in his mind. And sure enough, I was right. He calmly assured me that the local CVS would probably have this solution. I looked it up online and the website inventory bore him out.
It did give me pause when I realized that their alcohol was 91%, not 90%, but after a quick search of the Internet, which revealed that most other places sold 99%, I decided that 91% was close enough. And wondered why in heaven’s name anyone would need four different percentages of rubbing alcohol in their life.
I then grabbed my keys to drive the handful of blocks to the drugstore.
Yes, well, I have four offspring. So obviously, that didn’t happen.
After having a brief conversation with the 20 year old about the contents of the fridge, the job market, finances and the best way to gracefully back out of an accidental date, I noticed that it was almost time for the Shakespearean play the 19 and 14 year old were attending to let out. Although we had agreed they would walk home, it was getting dark and cold, and I would be driving right past the theater on the way to the drugstore, so I texted them and offered them a ride. The 12 year old noticed that I had keys in my hand and wanted to know where I was going.
“To the drugstore to buy alcohol,” I replied, but before I could clarify, the husband asked what was for dinner. Glancing at the clock again, despite the fact that I had already checked it just a moment before, I saw the time with new eyes and realized I needed to start cooking. I began pulling out ingredients to make tacos, but discovered we needed cheese and refried beans. The 12 year old helpfully pointed out that if I just bought the alcohol at the grocery store, I could buy the cheese and beans at the same time.
“No, ” I replied distractedly, since I was in the middle of the particular bodily contortion necessary to light the oven, “I have to go to the drugstore because I need stronger alcohol.”
The 12 year old looked like he wanted to protest my drinking problem but didn’t feel comfortable having that conversation with his mother.
I still had not received a text from the girls, so I told the men I was going to the drugstore, hoping the girls would text me while I was out so I could pick them up on the way home. The 12 year old insisted on accompanying me. He was apparently really worried about this drinking problem.
On the way to the drugstore, I pulled into the parking lot of the college on a whim, and pulled up in front of the theater just as the doors opened and the audience spilled out. Words cannot describe my glee. I will be riding on this particular Mom-Win for at least a week.
The girls piled into the van and I explained to them that we were on a mission for alcohol, cheese and beans, and that they would just have to come along for the ride. They were so relieved that they didn’t have to walk home, they didn’t complain. We had the conversation about not being able to go to the grocery store because of the need for stronger alcohol as we pulled into the parking lot of the drugstore, and the 19 year old insisted on coming into the store with me. She too was apparently worried about her mother’s newly formed drinking problem. The younger two sat in the van and discussed the latest Percy Jackson novel.
As we walked through the store, the 19 year old gestured toward the liquor department and said, “I think you’ll find it over there, Mom,” but I kept heading to the Health department at the back of the store. “Wait…,” she said slowly as she followed me. “What kind of alcohol were you looking for anyway?” Somehow I managed to keep a straight face and a casual demeanor, and just as I grabbed the bottle of 91% — the LAST one on a very empty shelf — I calmly said, “Rubbing.”
She hit me. She said some very ungenerous things as well. It was Mom-Win Number Two. I will be insufferable for at least a couple of days now.
Against all odds, we also found two cans of refried beans and a bag of shredded cheese at the drugstore. Which brought the Mom-Win Total to Three.
I sailed home, laughing all the way at the faces of the children when I showed them the bottle of rubbing alcohol. I plan to teach them the word “equivocation” tomorrow, so this will serve as a good example. It will also teach them about jumping to conclusions and the foolishness of thinking that their mother would have a drinking problem. Or at the very least, that if she had one, she would DISCUSS it with them and bring them along to purchase the booze. I think they sense this, because when I put the alcohol in the fridge to chill, no one took the opportunity to make the obvious comments.
The tacos were delicious, even more so because they were cooked in large part by the husband and the 14 year old. After dinner, the husband lit a fire in the fireplace and sat with me to watch the YouTube video about the DNA Extraction. (I think he is secretly a science teacher at heart. He loves all things scientific. He should be teaching my Biology classes, but he keeps insisting he has to show up at work. Pshh.)
We watched two perky scientists smash strawberries and carefully measure soap and salt and water into a bag. After which, they took a bottle of room temperature 70% rubbing alcohol and poured it directly into the middle of the cup of strawberry juice.
And I still haven’t touched my strawberries. I have to get over The Great Disparity of The Directions And The Video first.
Incidentally, I looked up the green stick things that go in the lids at Starbucks to stop spills. I haven’t found an official term for them yet, but I have found that they are referred to, in the vernacular, as “little green sticks,” “splash sticks,” “little green stick with a wide bit at the end,” and my personal favorite, “little green swizzle stick-stoppers.” I also discovered that there are a good number of bloggers who can’t get over the irony of the color, considering how much extra plastic waste they represent, and feel the need to write about it with varying degrees of vitriol.
And also that someone has taken the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra to a whole new level and has made earrings out of them. I am not making this up.
—to be continued—