Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mad Science Halloween Spooktacular

Katie is mad for science.  Last night Will and I took her to the Mad Science Halloween Spooktacular at Roeland Park Community Center in Johnson County, Kansas.

Jetpack Jason demonstrating various fun science experiments
Mad Science Halloween Spooktacular at Roeland Park Community Center

The community of Johnson County has traditionally been known for its high education standards.  We've got good public schools, many highly educated parents, and a great public library system.  Beyond education, the community is known for being kid-friendly, period.  Lots of parents who work in the Greater Kansas City area reside in Johnson County because it's such a great place to raise kids.

Whenever we go to kid-centered events, we usually have to fight the crowds.  We had a different outcome last night.

To keep track of all the kid-centered events, I've signed up with Katie's school district to receive email notices about upcoming activities.  When I first read the flier they sent me advertising this Mad Science Halloween event, I noticed it said the first thirty kids through the door get an extra surprise.  I made a mental note to get my butt into gear after work so we could make it on time.

My mental notepad must have a glitch.  The thing hardly ever works right.

We were late.  Not by much, just ten minutes or so, but still, on the drive there, Katie lamented, "I'm sure glad I'm no longer a kindergartner or else I'd be crying that I didn't get to be one of the first thirty kids to win an extra surprise."  Our big second grader has long passed the crying phase and has moved on to the guilt-trippy, passive-aggressive comments phase of children not getting their way.

"We don't know how busy they'll be.  Maybe we'll get lucky and be one of the first thirty," I offered.

"It said the first thirty kids through the door.  Not the first thirty people.  We're not that late.  You might very well be one of the first thirty kids to show up, Punkin," Will said.

We pulled into the community center parking lot.  There were maybe ten other cars parked there, at the most.

"Wow, if this is it you'll definitely win an extra surprise," I said.

And she did.  As far as we could tell, we were it.  Those ten other cars must belong to the science instructors running the program.

Two women in lab coats with the "Mad Science" logo and their name stitched on them were chatting as we walked up to register.  When they saw us approaching, they both smiled crazily and shouted, "Hello!  Welcome!"

"Am I one of the first thirty kids to win an extra surprise?" Katie asked.

"Oh yes!" one of the Mad Scientists said and reached into a bucket to pull out a box full of fun little Halloween decorated toys: a kaleidoscope, a spinning top, and an eye patch.

"Yes!" Katie shouted triumphantly.

She was instructed to grab a handful of candy and some fake plastic vampire teeth.  She happily complied.

She rode "the haunted hover board" and checked out a science experiment about air pressure involving two hair dryers and a bucket of plastic, bloodshot eye balls.  Then it was time for Jetpack Jason's show.

Jetpack Jason demonstrating various fun science experiments 
Mad Science Halloween Spooktacular at Roeland Park Community Center

Katie is pictured on the left.  She was so excited throughout the show she kept squirming around and contorting her body into odd poses, as if she were Frankenstein's Monster getting shocked alive.  As you can see, a couple of other kids eventually showed up.  

Whenever Jetpack Jason would ask the audience to answer a question or to volunteer to assist him, Katie's hand was the first to shoot straight up.  By then there were three other kids in the audience, so Jetpack Jason kept saying, "Hold on, Katie.  Let's give somebody else a turn."  He finally got two of the other kids to begrudgingly assist him.  After those kids served their tour of duty, Jetpack Jason let them go and let Katie go wild.

Jetpack Jason: "How do you think we'll get this egg into this narrow jar?"  Pause long enough to survey the audience to see if anyone else wants to take a stab at an answer.
Jetpack Jason: "OK.  Katie?"
Katie: "Shove it in!"
Jetpack Jason: "OK.  Let's try that."  Tries unsuccessfully to shove the egg into the narrow jar.
Jetpack Jason: "Anybody else got a guess as to how we can get this egg to fit into the jar?"
Will raises his hand.
Jetpack Jason: "Yes!  Splinter?"
Will: "Fire!"
Jetpack Jason: "Yes!  Fire!  That's right!"

After demonstrating that experiment, any time Jetpack Jason would ask the audience to answer a question about what they should do to get the other experiments to work, he'd look around at the silent audience, give up and say, "OK.  Katie?" and Katie would shout out, "Fire!"

What she lacks in knowledge she makes up for in enthusiasm.

You should have seen her when another Mad Scientist demonstrated "The Exploding Pumpkin" which really just looked like a Throwing Up Pumpkin.

Katie, front row
Everyone else, in chairs way back here
Mad Science Halloween Spooktacular at Roeland Park Community Center

Katie had a blast.  I've never seen her experience such prolonged joy.  We were there for 110 minutes, til they were packing up and shutting down the place, and Katie was smiling, jumping up and down while clapping, or standing still with her mouth agape nearly the entire time.

Katie doesn't like big crowds of people.  Neither do I.  But I was sad to see so few kids show up.  

"It's a Saturday night," Will pointed out, "and lots of parents go to adult Halloween parties on the Saturday night before Halloween."  

"I think one of the games of the World Series is on tonight too," I said, trying to think of excuses for why the event didn't draw the crowds we were expecting.  

"Yeah, or some other big event going on the in city.  One we just don't know about," Will said.

Katie didn't care.  It was almost like she had the whole place to herself.  She didn't have to wait in line to participate in any of the activities or experiments.  She had the attention of a dozen grown ups who love science and love kids who love science even more.  She didn't seem disappointed more kids didn't show up.  Since her two best friends moved away a few months ago, Katie complains to us a lot about not having many close friends, other kids with similar interests and enthusiasm for things as she does, but when it comes down to it, she seems fine doing her own thing.  She's learned to adapt to her only child position in life.

I told her once, "You'll have to be your own best friend."
She looked at me like she was surprised I said something so wise and said, "Yeah, you're right."

My lessons are not usually so easily received by her.

No matter how much I say, "It's no big deal," one lesson Katie has definitely not learned yet is how not to be a sore loser.  I think because she's had fewer opportunities to compete with her peers, having no siblings and having few friends with similar interests, she hasn't learned that it's really no big deal to lose a game or a contest.  As the youngest child in a big family of smarty pants, I'm totally used to losing.  And it's really no big deal to me.  I'm just happy when the big kids let me play.  But not Katie.  She'd rather not participate than take a chance at not winning.

She certainly didn't have the opportunity to learn this lesson during the Mad Science Halloween Costume Contest. As one of only three kids participating in a contest with a prize for first place, second place, and third place, Katie was guaranteed to win something.  When they announced it was time for the contest, I asked Katie if she wanted to enter it and she immediately said no.  When I pointed out to her she was guaranteed to win something, her eyes lit up and she ran to get a place in line before the judge.

Mad Science Halloween Spooktacular at Roeland Park Community Center

Will and the other participant's siblings joined the winners of the Halloween Costume Contest.  I love how Andy Kaufmanesque Will looks in this photo above.  Sonic's brother Mario looks like he thinks Will is not just a mad scientist but an actual crazy person.  I love it!

The awesome minion won first place.  Sonic won second.

Katie won third place for her Donatello costume.  She beamed when the judge handed her the prizes: a Mad Science t-shirt and a $50 gift certificate to Mad Science Camp!  I did not burst her deliriously happy bubble by reminding her that third place in a contest with three participants is, well, actually losing.  No.  Much of my job parenting involves stepping back and letting Katie experiment with life on her own.  One of these days she'll learn it's not about winning or losing.  It's about being an active participant. Often, just showing up is what counts.