How to kill an hour on a Sunday afternoon–Mabel’s satirical science board

I just found this while sorting through old papers, and decided to type it up before recycling it. Mabel’s best estimate is that she made this when she was seven, or maybe nine.


The Study: How ignorant can big brothers be?


Are big brothers more ignorant under certain circumstances?


I think there will be slight differences.


I believe under magor circumstances, he is more ignorant than usual. When he’s concentrated on other things, he doesn’t notice things as much. He notices as bigger or shinier things.


The Study

Test 3: Ike’s stuff-How ignorant can big brothers be? Does Ike notice me with his own stuff? (Yes, but further testing)


Test 3 Phase 1: Wolf
I took his stuffed wolf and walked around with it. Result: Negative. He saw me and got angry. (and took it.)


Test 3 Phase 2: Gun
I took his Big Bad Bow™ and snuck around. Result: Negative. He saw me and was ticked off


Test 3 Phase 3: Ocarina
I took his Ocarina
Result: Negative. He got REALLY, REALLY, angry.

He seems to notice more when I take his stuff.

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In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there


Santa’s been here! He made it by about 11:20 PM, which isn’t quite a record in this house, but still leaves Dean and me plenty of time to stay up too late grading finals (him) or playing Scrabble online (me).

Today Mabel pointed out to Hazel that Hazel’s stuffed penguin Mingo is turning one year old tomorrow, so she helped Hazel write a letter to Santa and put it in the mailbox. Then Mabel made sure that Mingo got a present from Santa–this little Santa hat, that she whipped together tonight.


Our rule is that we can’t open presents on Christmas morning until we’ve had breakfast, so to help them resist, in past years the kids have wanted to put a baby gate or masking tape across the door to the living room. This year I got the idea to embellish on that concept by covering the door to the living room, as well as the railed opening in our hallway that looks onto the living room, with wrapping paper.

stockings02 Stockings01 Papered_02Elf Isaac was my Christmas elf for this job. He said the wrapping paper wasn’t easy to work with–but we were all pleased with the results.

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Hazel’s Makeshift Nativity


We haven’t put up our nativity scene yet–we’ll do that today or tomorrow–but Hazel got to play with a Fisher Price one at a neighbor’s house the other day, and was inspired.

I think we have some other animals she could have used with our doll house things (and even some people and a baby) but I love how she worked with what she had on hand.



Hazel_Nativity05Cows (with blanket over them)


Hazel_Nativity03Caterpillar and whale (the whale is small and is under the blanket)

And Hazel’s description of the whole thing:

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Hazel demonstrates how to use a cell phone


Mabel’s really been wanting to get a phone, but Hazel beat her to it–using nothing but an empty kids’ crayon box from PF Chang, a skewer, paper, crayons, and tape.


As you can see, Hazel knows exactly how to use her new phone.


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Helping Children Cope With Loss

(Maybe I shouldn’t use that title–it’s going to get me all kinds of misdirected traffic. I offer my apologies in advance to you, the misdirected. Also, I’m pretty sure Mabel would say this little carefully-placed note of hers wasn’t worth a photo nor a blog post. She often underestimates how entertained by her it’s normal for me to be.)

chocolate_almond_01 chocolate_almond_02

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SOP for microwaved potatoes

Ike_crosscountry_01This standard operating procedure was an assignment for Isaac’s biotech class, and I asked him if I could share it here because I loved it. (We couldn’t get the numbering system from his document to transfer over in a cut-and-paste, so just imagine a better numbering system than this one.)


    1. To delineate an exact method of baking red-skinned potatoes in the microwave.

  2. SCOPE:

    1. This applies to anyone who desires baked red potatoes, whether it be for dinner, a snack, or any other such time of consumption.


    1. Red potato: a variety of Solanum tuberosum with a reddish skin and round shape; usually approximately 3 inches in diameter.

    2. Fork: an instrument frequently used in connection with food; has a long, thin handle and four sharp tines on the other end. Usually between 5 and 8 inches in length. May be made of various materials: plastic or metal, usually.

    3. Eyes: in the context of potatoes, the beginnings of sprouts which would grow off of the edible tuber. Given enough time, these will become full-blown sprouts; the size and number of eyes increase slowly over time.


    1. Clean up after yourself. If necessary, refer to SOPs 7-10 through 11-10.


    1. Take care when using a fork not to stab oneself.

    2. Always be very careful when handling anything which has been heated. This applies here.

    3. If using a knife, take care not to put any appendages in the knife’s way when applying any force at all.


    1. Red potatoes, in whatever quantity is desired. Ensure that they are new enough not to be rotten.

    2. A fork; preferably metallic, although plastic will work.

    3. A functioning microwave (including a power supply).

    4. A tool with which small chunks of potato can be dug out. Many potato peelers have a sharp enough tip to do this; if nothing else can be found, a knife will serve well enough.

    5. A microwaveable plate. (If unsure whether a given plate is microwaveable or not, ask someone else who has more experience in the lab/kitchen being used.)

    6. A hot pad with which one can grab hot objects. Usually made of textiles; some may be made of plastic.

    7. A water supply; preferably a sink with a faucet. Must have enough volume of water for washing one’s hands and all of the potatoes to be used.

    8. Hand soap.


    1. Wash hands with water and hand soap. Refer to SOP 14-10.

    2. Rinse surface of potatoes thoroughly with water.

    3. Use sharp tool (6.4) to remove any undesirable parts of potatoes. This includes any eyes on the potatoes, as well as any especially dark-colored areas (which frequently indicate rotten areas).

    4. Rinse potatoes once more.

    5. Spear potatoes in several equivalently-space places  with the sharp end of fork (6.2). This ensures that the potatoes will not explode from the force of expanding steam while being baked.

    6. Put potatoes on plate (6.5). Arrange in a circle on the plate, leaving the center empty and spacing out the potatoes equally. Do not put more than 7 potatoes on plate. If more than 7 potatoes are being baked, split them equivalently among enough batches to ensure that no batch has more than 7. Set only one batch on plate at once.

    7. Open the microwave door. Put plate in microwave. Make sure that the potatoes stay roughly in place as arranged. Close the microwave.

    8. Set the microwave to bake for 2 minutes for each potato on plate, e.g. for 5 potatoes, cook 10 minutes. Consult SOP 30-11 or experienced technician if unsure of how to operate microwave.

    9. Once microwave has finished cooking, open microwave door. Using hot pad, remove plate and potatoes from microwave. Take care to ensure that the potatoes do not fall off of the plate. Put the plate on a surface which will not be damaged by heat.

    10. Give the potatoes at least 15 minutes to cool off. Once this time has elapsed, they may be relocated to wherever is appropriate given the circumstances.

    11. If potatoes will not be consumed for more than 3 hours, refrigerate them until time of consumption.

    12. Wash or otherwise clean up after anything used as appropriate.


    1. Anyone with prior experience in lab/kitchen; may or may not need to be consulted.

    2. SOPs 7-10 through 11-10.

    3. SOP 14-10.

    4. SOP 30-11.

  9. REVIEW AND APPROVAL (Signature required by the person who tested the protocol for clarity and

correctness.) _____________________________


    1. Potatoes may optionally be salted or otherwise seasoned at time of consumption. When seasoning, take care not to put an overly large amount of seasoning.

Isaac at a Ragnar trail race his cross-country team participated in. (Yes, there’s a watermark across his face, because I was too cheap to buy the photo.) On his forearms he’s wearing a pair of bracers, inspired by Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn books, that his talented friend Sierra made for him. Red potatoes help fuel his running.

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The perils of getting lost in a morning nap

I thought I had all my luggage: a small handbag, a larger handbag, and a very large, bulky suitcase. But I couldn’t find my plane ticket, and as I checked the dresser-drawers one last time, I found a book-bag full of heavy books. I started to panic, thinking that I needed to re-pack the books into my suitcase and that I didn’t have time. But then I remembered that I had intended to carry the book-bag onto the flight. I could wear one of the small handbags hanging in front of me with the long strap around my neck, and the book-bag with its strap on my shoulder. (I had a plan for how to carry the third handbag, too, which I don’t remember now.)

As we got in the car to leave for the airport (by now quite late to catch my flight) the father of my host family said he hoped my paquet wasn’t heavy, because I would have to pay extra if it was. I recognized the word paquet as the word for suitcase [it isn't really the word for suitcase] and regretfully admitted that my paquet was, in fact, very heavy.

On the way to the airport, I continued searching my bags for my airplane ticket. I found many colorful collectible pins on cards that I thought my kids would like. And I found four tickets I had bought before my trip, for a concert I had forgotten to attend with my host family.

My host family dropped me at terminal 140. I struggled to thank them in my limited language skills, feeling awkward that I couldn’t offer to host them if they came to my country, since my house in the States was too small and crowded.

I tried to make my way to the gate, continuing to search through my luggage for the plane ticket. I found my photo I.D. and wondered if I could check in and get on my flight with that, without needing my actual ticket. I passed quaint shops and wished I had time to go in and buy myself a pastry. I tried to recall if I had done any shopping during my stay. I wouldn’t have another chance to shop until my next trip to Europe, which could be years away.

I looked up and saw that I was at stop 78 for the train (a metro with above-ground, indoor trains). The train stops were on the same numbering system with the airport terminals, so I had wandered very far past stop 140 and was going to have to take the train back. I urgently asked a woman if the train had left, and she said that it was still there–but by the time I’d bought a ticket, it had just pulled away.

I caught the next train and looked at my train ticket. I would have to change trains twice, with significant waits for each connection. The train agent had handwritten the numbers of the stations where I would change trains, but I couldn’t read her handwriting. By now I had almost certainly missed my flight, and would have to wait for the next day’s flight, and spend the night in the airport when I finally got there.

Then Hazel woke me up, asking for her lunch, and saving me, once again, from being stranded in an airport. (Hazel has graciously agreed to wait to have lunch until I finish writing down my dream.)

I’m just now remembering that Mabel got colorful collectible pins at the ISEF science fair in Phoenix.

And Dean forgot to bring his wallet to work with him this morning, so he won’t be able to buy himself lunch unless he borrows money.


Mabel wearing some of her International Science Fair trading pins, waiting to get into a Diamondbacks game in Phoenix back in May. I did take a wrong freeway exit on the way to the airport for that trip, but we made it onto our flight and didn’t lose our boarding passes.

I had a book-bag full of heavy books as a carry-on on for that flight. Someday I’ll get a fancy electronic book-reading device, and heavy book-bags will only exist in my nightmares.

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