Science

Glue Sticks Galore, a Love for Lists and Our Sense of Smell

August 17, 2017

There is something about lists that I love.  I think it is the ability to check a little box beside an item when it is completed, or to mark a line through it.  Success!

Last night, I rattled off a list to my husband of a few things to get at the grocery store.  ‘Text them to me’ he said as he walked out of the door.  Upon his return, I was mid-sautee of a fantastic dinner recipe (you can see it here), when I inquired as to the location of the chicken broth.

A man, who is such a good man, looked back at me with eyes much like those of a creature caught in the headlights of a car.  He may have then blinked.  I am not sure.  What I do know is that he then hastily walked towards the door much like the animal who jogs off into the woods after breaking from a headlight trance.

Thankfully, we don’t live too far from the grocery store, so he was back in a jiffy.  And my sautee was none the wiser.

I wonder if he went through the same check out line. 😉

Anyway, I like lists (my husband does not at all, which makes the above wandering story even more perplexing).

One of my favorite lists in the whole wide world are school supply lists!  I do not free myself from digging through the bins of glue sticks and the cascading stacks of spiral bound notebooks at Target by buying the PTO supply package in advance, which is designed to make my life easier.  No.  Way.

I love going to the store to buy back-to-school supplies.  And, if I have to go to more than one?  The more the merrier I say!

School Shopping

I love the sound the notebooks make when they drop into the cart.

Cart and School Supplies

I enjoy looking at all of the binders and notebooks while fondly recalling my Trapper Keeper with the puppy dogs on the front.  I love wandering through the school section trying to find the blunt-tipped Fiskar scissors while my children hang precariously off of the cart making it nearly impossible to steer around the other moms, who don’t seem to have the same joy in their hearts at that same moment that I do.

School Shopping

And, even though they offer pre-sharpened pencils (fancy!), I am so tempted to procure the unsharpened ones instead just so I can bask in the smell of freshly sharpened pencils!  And, maybe even bite one and reminisce about elementary school.

Did I say to much?  Did I stray too far with the pencil fantasy? 😉

(You know you know what I am talking about).

The smell of pencils and freshly minted notebooks evokes a fond memory of the excitement of starting school.  And, as it turns out, the olfactory sense connects to parts of the brain that other senses do not.  More specifically, the olfactory bulb connects to the amygdala and hippocampus, which are two brain areas that are strongly involved in emotion and memory.

So, we loaded up (the whole family), so I could go pencil-sniffing at Target and gather all of our school goodies.

I have a rising third grader and twins entering kindergarten and I am now the proud owner of NINETY-EIGHT glue sticks, as well as an assortment of crayons and markers, and enough tissues for a nine-nosed monster who is allergic to dust.

Well, at least until open house when we lug the bags of school goodies into school.

Being naturally gregarious, as we stood in line at Target, staring down the conveyor belt of supplies while simultaneously looking at the going rate for kidneys on eBay, I started chatting with the man behind me in line.  Mainly because I really wanted to ask him how he managed to produce the red-headed child, who sat in the front of the cart (if you remember, I have been known to do that).

Instead, I decided to exhibit some self-control and asked him how he liked buying those 45 glue sticks for his kindergartner, who was leaning out from the inside of the cart and chatting with me about starting school.

He half-smiled and looked at me in a similar way to my grocery list-omitter husband, who could never work for Santa, did yesterday (he said he checked the list twice).  The man seemed puzzled by my glue stick statement, which led me to ask him if he too did not have to procure 45 glue sticks for the young lady in the cart, who was then interrogating me about some insignificant aspect of my life.

He replied with a number somewhere between one and ten.  I honestly don’t even remember.  Perhaps it was three.  I know for sure it was not divisible by ten or twenty for that matter.

They were not in town from another state in this great union to buy their supplies.  No.  His daughter will be attending another elementary school within our county.  Why the glue stick discrepancy I wondered?

I am a naturally curious human, so when we got to the car I immediately turned to social media for answers.  I posted this picture along with the question of why we need 45 glue sticks when a neighboring school only needs 3.

Back-to-School Shopping List

It was a hot question.

Some folks replied and said that perhaps I missed the hyphen on the glue stick line.  Surely it was “4-5” not “45.”  Some said it had to be a typographical error.  Then, others referenced a different supply list that was posted on the school site and it said thirty glue sticks.  For a moment, I became joyful at the thought of being able to return thirty glue sticks to Target.

Through the 27 comments, it was determined the school site was wrong, my list was right, no one was a sloppy typer, and I can read.   That meant I had purchased the correct amount of glue sticks for my three children.

45 for each of my twins and 8 for my rising third grader.  Ninety-eight in total.

Glue Sticks for School

And then, my curious mind turned to conspiracy theories trying to make sense of it all.  Given my mind’s propensity for creative wandering, this is expected, yet dangerous and resulted in the following theory:

The glue stick is the antidote to smelling salts.  This means – glue sticks will make you flat pass out.

And how on earth does that make sense?  Well, in creative, cray-cray, conspiracy-land it makes perfect sense.

Picture this:  it is mid-morning at an elementary school somewhere in proximity to a lovely lake in North Carolina.

At a pre-determined time, teachers across the kindergarten hall peer out into the hallway at one another.  Each of them is wearing a little white breathing mask, pushed up on top of their heads like sunglasses.  They look at one another to confirm everyone is present and accounted for (and sometimes have to wait because of that one teacher who is stuck wiping a little bottom for the boy or girl who didn’t quite master the skill before the end of summer).

When all are present, they give the ‘go’ sign with well-choreographed Army hand-signals.  Each teacher silently slips back into their classroom with ninja-like skills and asks the class to pull out a glue stick from their newly-minted, Walmart-purchased (because Target only had pink ones left), clear-plastic pencil box.

Then, they joyfully say, “Okay students!  On the count of three, let’s open those glue sticks and get starrrrrted!”

“One!….Two!….”  Deep inhale.  “Three…!” Each teacher holds her breath, quietly slips the mask down from the top of her head, exhales and bam, down go the students’ heads softly to their desks.  The teachers reconvene in the hallway and scurry off to their lounge.

I haven’t imagined far enough to firm up what actually happens in the lounge.

Perhaps they all sit around and eat food.  Or, maybe they go to the bathroom or drink some water because I am pretty sure they aren’t able to do any of those things on a normal day.  Those luxuries exist only on glue stick mornings.  They are found only in the dreams of real teachers.

And, as parents, we wonder why our kindergarteners are so tired and foggy when they come home and cannot tell us what happened during their day.  Then, there’s that odd Ticonderoga pencil imprint on their forehead.  😉

Conspiracy theory.

In reality, as you and I both know, teachers are spun from magical dust and made with only the finest material.  How else could they perform the invaluable job of teaching our children.  Plus, then there is the fact my friend Ali pointed out on my social media inquiry:  cut and glue projects are key for developing fine-motor skills.

But, despite this very valid point, I am still scratching my head on why we need 45 glue sticks while our friends across the county only need 3.  Are their teachers not getting to drink, eat and perform bodily functions but just a few times a year?

Maybe I will take a glue stick with me when I tuck the kids into bed tonight….you know….just to see. 😉  I will let you know what happens.


The Olfactory Sense

The sense of smell is the oldest sense of all of our senses.  It is the first sense to form over an evolutionary time period, supposedly in order to protect beings from chemical exposures.  The sense of smell is even found in bacteria.

While sight relies of four types of light sensors in the human eye and touch relies on a similar number for feeling, there are at least 1,000 different smell receptor types.  And, interestingly these regenerate throughout your life and can change depending upon what you are used to smelling.

When we smell, the resulting message travels to the olfactory bulb in the brain.  The other senses’ messages stop off at a relay station called the thalamus, before passing on to the rest of the brain.  And, unlike the other senses, the olfactory bulb has a direct connection to the amygdala and the hippocampus.  The amygdala is highly involved with emotional responses and the hippocampus is crucial in the creation of memories for new events.

It is thus theorized that this is why smell, more than any other sense, is so successful at triggering emotions to go with memories.  Other senses will draw forth the memory, but not necessarily the emotional component of the memory.

Inhale deeply, especially during the wonderful moments!

And, I hope you didn’t see me sniffing the pencils at Target. 🙂

XO and journey on,
Melissa

 

 

 

 

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