Monday, June 19, 2006


For Christmas my brother and sister-in-law got J and I a set of cds with every issue of the New Yorker ever. We were dumbfounded, and just gaped at it for a while, with our brains churning. We had gotten their daughter, our niece a set of “Boomwhackers” – plastic tubes in various lengths and colors that each produce a different note when struck. Or when used to strike something. They have a little holder so you can put them in tonal order, and a couple of little mallets so you can actually set them up like a xylophone. Or you can just grab one and start beating on things with it. The kids were really into this, so basically they were sitting on the floor hitting each other over the head with colorful plastic tubes. But they were really learning about the physics of music too – how plastic tubes of the same diameter and different lengths will produce different tones. It really is a very educational toy.

My brother latched on to this as illustrating the difference in our two families – “they peruse the New Yorker, and we’re sitting on the floor beating each other over the head with plastic tubes.” In truth, my brother and sister-in-law have way more class than we do. After all, who bought the New Yorker set? And who bought the plastic tubes? Everyone knows that there’s a natural inclination to buy things for others that you would like yourselves.

Another scenario to illustrate the point – one night at dinner we were discussing Mendelian genetics with the kids. No, really, I don’t remember how it came up – how kids can have different hair color than their parents or something – but C brought it up, we don’t just go around cramming lessons on genetics down the kids’ throats – if it comes up, we’ll discuss it. We have an easel with a white board by the dinner table, so if we need to literally illustrate a point we can. (shut up, we just do okay?)

So I’m going over green and yellow, round and wrinkled peas, then I start making Punnett squares. I’m using eye color as my example now, because my dad has brown eyes, my mom has green eyes, so I can map out the likelihood of their kids having either brown or green and use my brother and I as examples. (Can’t do that with J and I and the kids – we’re all bluish/greenish) And I can use capital B and lowercase b for the dominant and recessive trait, and pretend it’s determined by one gene even if that’s an oversimplification.

Well, somehow those B’s morphed from signifying brown or blue eyecolor to signifying the size of one’s posterior region. Instead of handing down Brown eyes or blue eyes, our imaginary parents were passing on Big Butts and little butts. This was all complete with little people with either big butts or little butts drawn on the easel to illustrate. And it actually worked better, because I only had one dry-erase marker so I couldn’t draw little people with different colored eyes. And of course the kids collapsed into laughter everytime I said “butt.” I don’t know how much anyone learned about genetics, but I learned that my family goes for low humor wherever we find it, the New Yorker notwithstanding.