Friday, August 22, 2008

Required Viewing For All Visitors To OBF

It's the start of school, and you have homework! If you haven't already (and it seems like everyone more cool than me has already seen it), you must take 45 minutes out of your day and watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, especially if you really could use a laugh. If the title doesn't appeal to you, I have two words for you: JOSS. WHEDON.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go make a shoulder-buttoning lab coat for Princess. She wants to be Dr. Horrible for Halloween, and she's already started working on her evil laugh. Sonshine wants to be Captain Hammer. We are going to scour the thrift shops for rubber boots and welding goggles.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Stool Sample

WARNING: If you have no tolerance for reading about poop (i.e. if you have no kids), don't read this post.

For the last 18 months I've had a problem with on-and-off diarrhea. So I went to see a gastroenterologist about it, and naturally the first thing the doc wants is a stool sample. I had to collect it and put some of it in four little vials, one to refrigerate, one to freeze, and two to keep at room temperature.

Now, as a mom of four kids, I've handled a LOT of poop. It is one of the Three P's (the other two being Pee and Puke) around which your life centers when you have kids. But this was like ten times more disgusting than changing a diaper. Don't ask me why; I've done every kind of diaper operation-- green ones, massive head-to-toe blowouts, public #2 accidents. I would have preferred one of those to collecting this stool sample.

As I spooned the stuff into the vials, I noticed that the vials carried a warning not to drink the contents. I'm one of those people that when she sees a sign that says "Keep Off The Grass" my very first thought is to walk on the grass even if I don't actually do it, but I had NO desire to drink the contents of the vials. I'm not sure why they need that warning. Who opens up a stool sample kit thinking to find something tasty to drink??

I had to turn on the fan and put on the headphones at top volume just to get through it, but I got the vials all filled and put in the appropriate chilling appliances, and I'll be taking it in to the lab as soon as dawn cracks over the Wasatch range.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A New Supervillain

Here's an idea for a new supervillain: The Bureaucrat. He (or possibly she, or maybe it'd be impossible to tell) shoots streams of paperwork from his hands, and red tape comes out of his... ahem... well, from underneath his purple Spandex speedo.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bagel Says:

Bagel found a can of Vegetarian Vegetable Soup and wanted to know if it had vegetarians in it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wrap Your Precious Snowflakes In Bubble Wrap

Attention Moms! Your precious little children are at risk! Why, every time they venture out into the world, they are exposed to GERMS! And don't you know, germs can be deadly! Haven't you heard of antibiotic-resistant bacteria???

You must be especially wary of BITERS. Some children are not properly raised (as if they are being raised by wolves, and nothing great ever comes of that!) and this is the reason why they bite others. No normal parent ever has problems with their child biting, so if a child bites, it must be the fault of the parent. Therefore what should be done about this is to marginalize the parents. If your child is bitten, be sure to make the parent feel bad, and also threaten them with a lawsuit if your child should be bitten and contract an infection. This risk is especially high because the human mouth has more germs than a dog's mouth!

These children who bite are a liability and should be kicked out of the company of every decent person, but sadly they tend to go undetected, passing as normal children until one day they bite and reveal themselves as the spawn of Satan. So the best course of action is to wrap your child in bubble wrap every time they will be in the presence of other children.

Be sure to sterilize the bubble wrap first though, by dipping it in boiling water. (Don't forget to let it cool before wrapping it around your precious little snowflake.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bionicles Confuse Me

Sonshine's latest obsession is Bionicles, a species of Lego toy. They all have incomprehensibly Polynesian names and form some sort of extraordinarily complex society, even though they all look like robots with pointy bits (that hurt when you step on them) and shoot various projectiles at each other. They even have their own movies. They are modular, so you can cobble several of them together to build a new one.

Sonshine has become a veritable encyclopedia of Bionicleness. Pacing the room in the way he always does when holding forth on his obsessions, he rambles about Bionicles he would like to buy, whether or not they are available at Wal-Mart, how much they cost, what year they were released, their complete history and interactions with other Bionicles, and their place in the social order. Yesterday we went to D.I. (a thrift store) and the boys were pawing through the bin of toys, and Sonshine found a Bionicle piece-- not a whole Bionicle, mind you, but a piece-- and then proceeded to tell me that it was the back fin of a something-or-other that came out in 2003. Needless to say, he bought it.

I've always tried to keep up with Sonshine's obsessions so that when he asks me a question I can answer it. When he was Bagel's age I had to, for example, memorize the names of every Thomas The Tank Engine character and know what number was on each of them; if I was asked and did not know, Sonshine would yell at me. But these Bionicles are beyond my capacity to understand. Thankfully Sonshine no longer quizzes me; he seems to understand that I know nothing about Bionicles, so he tells me about them. Of course, because they are all interconnected socially with each other, it's hard to get an explanation that makes any sense to anyone who doesn't know which Bionicles are animals and which are powerful forces of good or evil. The Wikipedia articles on Bionicles aren't any better. And the fact that they seem to shoot squids at each other is kinda distracting.

I don't usually encourage my kids to be collectors of merchandised things, but since the other boys in the neighborhood all play Bionicles too, I've encouraged Sonshine to do it, since it gives him a way to interact with them. He is always asking for extra chores to do to earn money to buy Bionicles, so I figure he's also learning to work for his money and that it's OK to collect things if you can afford them.

Maybe I can find a way to use the Bionicle obsession to get him to check out library books on Polynesian mythology, if for no other reason than that it'll give him ideas of names he can use to name his Bionicle creations.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

This week in T.E.S.L.A.

This week in T.E.S.L.A. we did a team exercise. We divided up the group into four teams and gave them each the same task: build a bridge across a large gray bin using only marshmallows, toothpicks, craft sticks, rubber bands, and yarn. Each group could win a prize of a large box of candy if they completed a bridge that was capable of supporting a small remote control car.

It was an admirable exercise in problem solving. The kids experimented and found that suspension bridges seemed to be the easiest to build (although one team did produce a cantilever bridge). But it was so fun to just watch the kids exploring.

Next week we will be doing the Egg Drop competition. Each kid got an identical box, which they are to take home and pad out to keep an egg from breaking as we drop it out my second story window onto my driveway.

Recipe: Medieval-Style Lentil Pottage

I'm experimenting with medieval cooking. To spare FH the trial of having to eat something new, I'm making medieval dishes at lunch, when it's just me and the kids (and the kids will swallow anything that comes with the adjective "medieval").

One thing that's figured prominently in my recent cooking is a spice mixture called "poudre douce" (or various spelling variants thereof). Poudre douce is a blend of sugar and spices, premixed like curry powder or five-spice powder. Here is a recipe for it from Le Viandier de Taillevent:
Grind white ginger (9 parts), selected cinnamon (2 parts), lump sugar (2 parts), cloves and grains of paradise (1 part each).
I don't have grains of paradise so I substituted cardamom. And I used granulated sugar, since my spices were already ground.

I made some wheat bread and put a bit of poudre douce in it (a tablespoon per loaf) and it really made the wheat bread "pop". It was so good that the kids wouldn't eat my herbed wheat bread, which was a previous crowd-pleaser, as long as there was some of the "spice bread" left.

Today I had a bit of stale bread left over so I made a lentil pottage for lunch and seasoned it with poudre douce. It was unbelievably good and surprisingly filling-- and with gas prices so high, very very cheap; good nutrition for the money. And if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, it's vegan to boot.

Medieval-Style Lentil Pottage (serves 6)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or 6 cups water + 2 Tbsp. chicken bouillon*
2 cups lentils
1 Tbsp. poudre douce
6 slices stale bread

Saute the onion in the olive oil until it starts to soften. Add broth, lentils, and poudre douce. Simmer 1/2 hour or until lentils are soft. The pottage will be on the soupy side. Place a slice of bread in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the pottage over it; allow the bread to soak up the juices and soften.

* My family and I are really liking the Knorr brand bouillon that we find in the Mexican food section of the store. It's amazing what you can find if you are willing to shop bilingually.