What I've Been Reading Instead of Cleaning My House

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Big Bad Blood Ban

To get extra money I've been selling my plasma. Besides occasionally being turned away for low iron, everything has been going well.

That is, until Friday.

I passed all the tests (barely) and I was laying back ready to watch "The Princess Bride" when "Jacqueline the Ripper" gouges my arm with the needle. No blood comes out. I'm usually a bleeder, so that was a little odd. I guess you can't just pull it out and start over, so she starts twisting the needle in there trying to get just the right spot. After five minutes of this, she calls "Susie the Slasher" over. Susie gives it a try for five minutes. As a last resort, they get "Bonnie the Butcher" to jab the needle around my poor disfigured arm.

They finally got the blood to flow (where the plasma is extracted out of it), but they couldn't get the red blood cells back into me. So Bonnie calls the head honcho, "Steve the Stabber," over to figure it out. By this time, my ears are ringing and I'm getting tunnel vision. I told him to just take the needle out and that I was NOT feeling well.

The next thing I know, I'm being woken up from the best sleep I've had in my life. No, no! Let me sleep! I had passed out.

They had taken out about twice as much blood as you normally give when donating blood, and had returned none of it to me. After much resting, drinking of fluids, ice packs on my neck, bag on my stomach in case I started to hurl, and a woman taking my blood pressure every two minutes, I was OK.

The good news, they still paid me. The bad news, I'm banned from the plasma center (at least for the next two months -- but seriously, would you go back?).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Trails to You!

In my crazy job of monitoring TV news, I get to watch a direct feed from the network (which means that besides watching the live broadcast, I also get to see what goes on during the commercial breaks and before they start taping).

The other day there was this comical exchange during the sound check between the anchor in New York and a male reporter (who was wearing some decidedly "girly" rain wear) in the Midwest at the scene of the Mississippi River flooding.

Anchor: Hey, Dale Evans called. She wants her boots back.

Reporter: Very funny.

Anchor: No, really. They look great. I just have one question. What did you do with the culottes that came with those?

When the news really did air, the anchor was very serious and professional, but I did notice that the reporter had covered his boots with a thick layer of mud.

Oh, and you know how I love finding mistakes in the closed captioning. Every time it was supposed to read "Morales," it said instead, "More or less."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Family Camp Day Seven: Pirate Day

Why couldn't the young pirate go to the movie? Because it was rated "arrrr"!

OK, bad joke. Like dinosaur day, pirate day kind of fizzled (maybe it's because we're burned out on family camp, maybe it's because real life started creeping in, I don't know).

We went to a local park (please note that we do go to a different park each time) and made pirate hats and paper boats. We then sailed the boats in a little stream. It was a good competition between Nigel's and Frances' boats. Poor Jeffrey, his boat kept getting stuck in the weeds (we said it was picking up passengers). Mine didn't win, but it did keep its shape the longest (my origami skills are awesome!). Alice-Grace didn't want to get hers wet.

After a picnic lunch, I had lots of games and activities planned (buried treasure in the sand volleyball court, see how many pretzels you can pick up with a hook-hand, pirate "Simon Says," etc.), but it all dissolved in a puddle of tears because Jeffrey kept falling down and he was convinced it was the park's fault (not his slippery shoes).

Once we got back home, everyone soon scattered and then we ended up in the pool. Pirates went swimming, didn't they? OK, maybe not of their own free will, but they did go swimming. Can we call that a "walk the plank" activity?

Then our day was eaten up by Frances going to her church group activity and Nigel heading off to scouts. I had to go to bed early because it was back to work for me the next morning.

We actually did our pirate craft the next day. Here are our rice crispy treat pirate sculptures. Frances did an island (check out the palm tree) with a cave full of gold coins. Jeffrey did a treasure chest full of gold coins and a pirate ship and a cannon. Alice-Grace copied Frances' island, but hers has barrette fish and a bridge.

(photos of rice crispy creations coming soon)

That's the end of our family camp. It was a lot of fun and the kids really got into it. They looked forward to the different themes and activities and although we didn't get to everything that I had planned, it was wonderful just to be together. I was amazed by all the FREE activities within our city and it was good for the kids to realize that you don't need to spend a ton of money to have a good time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Family Camp Day Six: Science Day

I thought I'd start off our sixth day of "family camp" with a homemade breakfast. Well, I guess it's been a while since I've used my antique Manning Bowman waffle iron because when I turned it on, billows of smoke filled our kitchen. Instead of waking the kids up with the delicious aroma of waffles, I woke them up with the smoke alarm going off!

Well, it is science day, after all. I was glad to see that they all promptly got up and started crawling towards the front door to get outside (those fire drills must be working).

After breakfast (the waffles were yummy, by the way), we headed out to the local University campus to check out their science building. There were lots of hands-on exhibits and we all had a great time. We'll have to come back when the Planetarium is open.

Then we went to another science building to check out the fish tanks. Jeffrey was enamored with the lobster and Alice-Grace couldn't get enough of the sucker fish.

We had a nice picnic lunch on campus (where we accidentally threw away Alice-Grace's bracelets that she was keeping in her lunch sack for "safe keeping").

Then it was off to the college library. We saw an exhibit by one of our friends (if you want to be a great artist, be our neighbor -- so far in our travels we have been to museums where THREE of our past next door neighbors' artwork has been on display) and we loved checking out the huge globe. "Hey, look, it's Sri Lanka!"

(photo of us pointing to big globe coming soon)

Then we headed to the art museum (art can be a science, right?). This is where Alice-Grace remembered her lost bracelets. This induced much crying, which caused the security guards to circle around us giving us the stink-eye. I took Alice-Grace back to our lunch spot and after much trash digging, we found her bag with the treasured bracelets still inside (please note that her "bracelets" are actually hair rubber bands). We went back to the art museum and then, exhausted, headed home.

Back at home we did some science experiments on surface tension (you know, sprinkle pepper on water and then add a drop of dish soap to see them disperse) and then we brought out the Diet Coke and Mentos. We had never done this before, so it was totally exciting. It was especially fun because cousin Fred gave us a special rocket launcher just for this reason.

(photos of Diet Coke shooting into the air coming soon)

That night, we went to a local park to FINALLY do our campfire (you know, what we tried to do on day one of family camp but the weather was nasty). Nigel taught us how to build a proper fire and we roasted marshmallows. The kids loved it.

(photo of kids roasting marshmallows coming soon)

Then we did Alka-Seltzer rockets (put an Alka-Seltzer tablet and some vinegar in an empty film canister, put the lid on and watch it shoot into the air) until our container flew on top of the pavilion roof and did not roll off.

Luckily there was lots to do at the park. Frances loved playing "Robinson Crusoe" under a big pine tree. We then played at the playground and in the sand volleyball court before heading home.

Another great day of family camp! One more to go!

Ode to Ardale

(post coming soon -- still working on it)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Family Camp Day Five: Flag Day

Happy Flag Day! We started off the day with a (free) breakfast at our local supermarket. There was French toast with yummy butter syrup (see recipe below) and orange juice or milk to drink. It must be popular because we saw many of our friends there.

After that we went swimming (and continued some events from Olympics Day). While in the jacuzzi, we went over proper flag etiquette and the history of "Old Glory" (isn't that what most people discuss while hot tubbing?).

Then off to buy Nigel a Father's Day gift and a quick snack at the local French bakery. After all, without the French, we never would have won the Revolutionary War!

I taught the kids how to make a perfect five-pointed star with a few folds and just one straight cut of the scissors. Supposedly, the story goes that George Washington wanted six-pointed stars on the flag because he thought a five-pointed star would be too hard to do. Betsy Ross showed him how to fold a piece of fabric and with one cut make a star. Here are our stars.
That evening we went to the flag retirement ceremony to see the old, tattered flags be burned. It was a really great program with music, a speaker, and lots of scouts. I think Frances, Jeffrey and Alice-Grace enjoyed it (of course, they enjoy anything involving a large fire).
All in all, it was a much more relaxing Family Camp day, but one that had a lot more meaning.

Sweet Butter Syrup

1/2 cup real butter

1 cup sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup

1/2 cup buttermilk

Cook ingredients until boiling, then add:

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla extract

Friday, June 13, 2008

Family Camp Day Four: Olympics

We started our Olympics-themed fourth day of family camp with the "breakfast of champions." That's right, little chocolate donuts.
Do you remember that "Saturday Night Live" skit with John Belushi spoofing Bruce Jenner and eating little chocolate donuts instead of Wheaties? Of course my children didn't get the reference at all, but I giggled the whole time eating them.

We started with a torch relay (yellow tissue paper shoved in an empty toilet paper tube) and then the march of countries, complete with flags (Frances was Frances-Land, Alice-Grace was Alice-fornia, and Jeffrey was the United States of America).

We then started the competition. We had the high jump (won by Frances), limbo (won by Jeffrey), forward long jump (Jeffrey), backwards long jump (it was a three-way tie -- could it be that you can only jump so far backwards?), see who can whistle the longest (Frances), climb up a slide (Frances), and a game of SPUD (Frances).

Then we had a popsicle break.

More sports followed. We used the popsicle sticks for a javelin throw (won by Jeffrey), crab walk (Jeffrey), push-ups (Jeffrey) and lastly a soccer kick competition (won by Alice-Grace -- finally, she won something).

It was interesting to see how their personalities came out during the competition. Alice-Grace wore a dress the whole time, Jeffrey had to wash his popsicle stick before throwing it, and Frances got fed up with the judges and boycotted much of the games.

After that, we took a field trip to the nearby Museum of Peoples and Cultures (because the Olympics is all about bringing different people together). We learned all about the Casa Grandes, the Pueblo people, and Kachina dolls. Nigel was totally digging it and the kids were literally digging for artifacts in the sand pit and putting together shards of pottery.
After that, we went out to get some Chinese food (because the Summer Olympics are being held in Beijing this year).

For our closing ceremonies, we went to a (free) carnival put on by Frances' orthodontist. We had (free) snow cones, hot dogs, drinks, cotton candy, popcorn, plus a game and a bounce house.

It was fun, there were tears, we came close to political unrest, it was too commercial and over-rated. Just like the real Olympics!

Family Camp Day Three: Dinosaurs

All the traveling and fun of yesterday wore us out, so "Dinosaur" day kind of fizzled.

We started off really well with us making milk jug T-Rex skulls and papier mache dinosaur bones.
Then we headed off to the local Earth Science Museum (free!) to check out all the displays of fossils, dinosaurs, crystals, etc. We even got to see real scientists working on the bones!
We decided to be dinosaur scientists ourselves and used toothpicks to excavate the chocolate chips out of some cookies. That worked great until it started getting too warm and all of our chips started melting (do dinosaur bones melt?).

Then we had dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for lunch.

Since the weather was FINALLY nice, we went swimming (dinosaurs swim, don't they?) and hot tubbing (dinosaurs hung out in hot springs, didn't they?).

We were going to film our dinosaur movies (Nigel has a dinosaur puppet -- don't ask), but time got away from us.

I had a huge dinner party I was in charge of that night (we did a spoof on Food Network's "Iron Chef" and the secret ingredient was strawberries) and we must've had between 20-30 people come. It was a lot of fun, but I was exhausted afterwards and didn't get much "dinosauring" in afterwards.

Hey, I think dinosaurs ate strawberries, didn't they?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Family Camp Day Two: Under the Sea

Today in "family camp" our theme was "under the sea." We started off with some delicious fish pancakes. No, not pancakes MADE out of fish, but rather regular pancakes that LOOK like fish.
Then we drove to the local fish hatchery for a tour of the visitors center which we soon discovered to be closed (because of "whirling" disease). But we did learn that children under age 12 don't need a fishing license. Good news because my kids are always begging to go fishing.

After that disappointment, we went to the art museum to count how many works had "fish" in them. Can you believe that we only found six? Three in paintings and three on a sculpture. The kids must've looked odd to all the museum docents as they searched from room to room asking, "Are there any fish? Did you see any fish?"

Then we ate some lunch and headed to a local park were there was a very scummy pond full of tadpoles and water bugs. Also at the park we played many "ocean" games such as: sardines, octopus tag, fish-light shark-light (OK, we're reaching there), fish maker (our own version of statue maker), etc. We had a lot of fun and most of the games my kids had never played before.

We then drove home to eat our "ocean dessert" made out of blue Jello, Swedish fish, gummy sharks, gummy frogs and whipped cream. Does anyone else think it odd that Frances bit the heads off of her fish and had them floating at the top?
Then it was off to a hunting/fishing store to see them feed the huge tanks of trout. This is especially exciting because they feed them live goldfish and you always hope one of them makes it out alive. We were a little disturbed by this one trout that just hung out at the bottom of the tank licking the same rock over and over again. Even more disturbing was Nigel's inability to figure out a PlayStation hunting game. We looked around the store, checked out the displays, did some shooting in the shooting gallery and gave in and bought the kids some fishing poles (they don't seem to understand that the down-side to fishing is that you might actually CATCH some fish. Then you have to clean them and eat them! Yuck!).

To end the day we went to a seafood restaurant and ordered a variety of crab, shrimp, lobster, clams, etc. We had a fun time trying everything out and Jeffrey's favorite part was figuring out which ligament to pull to get his crab claw to open and close. As we were leaving, the hostess pulled a lobster out of the tank and let Frances and Alice-Grace hold it and pet it (of course, I wanted nothing to do with it -- I can't stand any animal that doesn't have fur, it's unnatural).

Another fun (but tiring) day of family camp. Can't wait for tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Family Camp Day One: The Great Outdoors

Today we celebrated "The Great Outdoors" on our first day of family camp.

We drove to a park in the canyon (free!) and attempted some rock climbing (which was a bust). Then we went on a nature hike heading toward the waterfalls (with Alice-Grace freaking out the whole time that we wouldn't find our way back -- she's convinced that I'm always getting us lost).

The highlight of our nature walk was our tape bracelets. We put a ring of tape (sticky side out) on our wrists and stuck various leaves, flowers, shells, etc. on them that we found along the way. Please note that Nigel has a big hunk of broken glass on his.
Half-way to the waterfalls Alice-Grace starting complaining that her legs hurt, so we stopped at a campground and had a delicious picnic lunch. What we did not realize is that it must've been the peak of caterpillar season because they were dropping on us from the trees right and left! Finally Jeffrey had enough and exclaimed, "Can we go home? All these bugs are creeping me out!" This from the boy who keeps snails as pets. Check out this branch that is COVERED with them!
So we headed back to the park and tried to search for water bugs in the river with our homemade waterscopes. I LOVED the waterscopes, I thought they worked great -- but the kids were not impressed.
We attempted to fly a kite, but that resulted in much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from my children. We tried to do some leaf imprints (pounding leaves with rocks on white cloth), but instead of producing beautiful green designs, it just produced horrendous noise.

The kids' favorite part was our impromptu talent show in the park's amphitheater and filling up their water bottles from an old fashioned water pump.

After much complaining, I figured my kids are not the "outdoorsy" types and we soon left the canyon and headed to a bookstore and then to a gourmet chocolate shop (yes, we spent money -- but since it was on food, does it break the rules?).

Back home, we learned about campfire safety and used pretzel sticks and frosting to demonstrate different ways of building fires.

That evening we went to the local life science museum (free admission) and saw a show on animal adaptations. It was excellent and I was quite impressed with Frances, who knew most of the answers (she's addicted to "Animal Planet"). Frances and Alice-Grace were very brave and held a California king snake and a blue-tongue skink, while Jeffrey and I just watched -- from afar.
We were supposed to use our new camping skills to build a fire and roast marshmallows, but a sudden storm came up and it was much too windy and cold. We'll have to save that for another day (they weren't content to just roast marshmallows over the stove like we usually do).

All in all we had a lot of fun and the kids seemed to enjoy our time together as a family. Sure not everything worked out the way I thought it would, but we're all still speaking to each other and no one wound up in the emergency room. So far, so good!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Staycation is the new Black

Did you know that "staycations" are all the rage this summer? That's when you don't have any money for a trip, so you just stay home on your vacation. Being the trend-followers that we are, of course we have to try it (OK, I'm not fooling anyone. We were going to visit the grandparents, but our savings collapsed along with Nigel's lung).

So this summer we're doing what we're calling "family camp."

Each day we're picking a different theme and doing activities around that theme. The conditions are that whatever we do has to be FREE and we cannot leave the county (on account of gas being so expensive and Frances' tendency to barf if we drive for more than 10 minutes at a time).

We start tomorrow. I'll be sure to keep you posted on what fun (or horrible) times we're having.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

No Blood For Oil

But what about "Plasma For Food"?

Yes, in my quest for food storage, I've joined the ranks of college students and the homeless -- today I sold my plasma.

For those of you who haven't enjoyed this pastime, here's how it went:

I called up the nearest plasma center (yes, there are THREE in my town) and made an appointment and found out what all I had to bring.

Just before arriving, I made sure to eat lots of meat and drink plenty of fluids.

I arrived at the place and had to show them a photo ID, my social security card and proof of my address.

The last one was kind of tricky. Since my driver's license STILL has my sister Lorna's address on it, I had to bring in a postmarked envelope with my name and address on it. OK. Who writes letters anymore? I brought in my phone bill (no postmark since everything is "bulk mail" and it's listed under my husband's name), my pay stub (again, no postmark since they're handed to us), my mortgage statement (again, no postmark) and a letter from my mother (postmarked, but Dot is very formal and addressed it to "Mrs. Nigel," so it didn't count). My goodness, I live two blocks away! I offered to walk them to my home to prove where I live, but they weren't going for it. Finally they made copies of EVERYTHING and went with that.

Then there was a lot of waiting around.

They finally called my name and I was in a little room being quizzed on my traveling and sexual past (which luckily there's very little of either). Then they took my photo, my temperature, my weight, my blood pressure, and a sample of my blood (the iron level has to be at least 40 and mine was right on 40). Then they had THREE phlebotomists look at my veins and discuss whether they were too small or not (they decided they just might do).

Then more waiting around.

Then I was put in another little room being quizzed again about my traveling and sexual past. After being asked the same question 10 times, I began to wonder, "Maybe I have been to Equatorial Guinea. Maybe I have had a corneal implant. Maybe I did exchange money for sex since 1977." They did a physical on me (you know, the usual urine sample, reflex checks, listening to my heart and lungs, CHECKING FOR NEEDLE TRACKS BETWEEN MY TOES). My blood pressure had to be at least 100/60. Mine was 102/60. I'm telling you, I was just squeaking by all these exams.

Then more waiting around.

FINALLY, I got into the blood-letting room. The actual plasma donation was the quickest and least painful part of the whole ordeal. Just sit back, squeeze a ball, watch TV, read my book, etc. It was over much too quickly.

But, I got my 30 bucks (think of all the ramen noodles I can buy with that!) and I have a very lovely purple bandage on my arm.