It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s…Failure!

Got school-aged kids? Then you know all too well the one word that strikes fear into the hearts of kids and parents alike.

Here’s a hint: It’s scarier than a candy-hoarding corpse on Halloween.

Homework.

There. I said it.

And now I’m breaking into a cold sweat, even though there’s not a single unfinished assignment anywhere in sight.

I didn’t particularly like homework as a child. But I find it even less tolerable now.

Science? And so the suffering begins.

Math? Oh, the misery.

Writing? Woe is me.

A five page research paper on cows? Just kill me now.

You need to do research for a project on “Susan B. Something”? For the love of God, it’s women’s suffrage, not women’s coverage!

Oh yeah. Been there, done that. Way more times than I’d care to count. I already did my time.

But apparently, not everyone feels the same way.

I stumbled upon an interesting topic of discussion on the radio last Friday as I was driving my boys to school.

I was intrigued. But it made me wonder…

Anyone here guilty of doing their child’s homework for them?

I’m not talking about merely helping.

I’m talking practically yanking the assignments out of their hands and hunkering down with a generous shot of your liquor of choice while plowing through seven pages of multiplication and two-step word problems involving Gertrude and her friend Jasper’s adventures stealing corn from Psycho Samuel’s cornfield.

Jasper? What century is this assignment from?

But back to the homework. And the radio show.

A woman had called the radio station with an immense concern. Her son’s teacher wanted to meet with her.

Not too unusual. It’s a boy, after all. Boys are notoriously rowdy and full of mischief.

Well, it turns out she’d been doing her son’s homework for him. Not helping. Doing it.

Doing all of it.

And the problem with this would be…?

The kid was failing 4th grade. He had no clue how to do any of the work, thanks to her.

What a shocker!

While not uncommon for parents to help their kids out with homework, help is the imperative word here. Applying new concepts by doing the work themselves is the key to success, after all.

Although…

There are definitely times when it would be wonderful if you could just cook dinner uninterrupted, without having yet another paper shoved under your nose with more questions that you have no clue how to answer.

Oh, but what’s the fun of cooking without the threat of burning down the house because you’re too distracted trying to figure out what the hell happened to Pluto?

What about the nine planets we all learned about in school? Now there are only eight?!?

Size clearly matters, even in space. Who knew?

But this all seems so trivial when you consider the house wouldn’t be on fire right now if only you had done the damn assignment yourself in the first place.

What I want to know is how anyone ever managed to get by before Google. There are numerous assignments that require knowledge I personally no longer possess.

(I’m struggling to remember what I had been doing 15 minutes ago.)

Remember that show Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

I was evidently not smarter than a 5th grader when that show premiered in 2007. I can almost guarantee I’m even less likely to be now.

Besides, my kids spend seven hours a day at school, for crying out loud! Shouldn’t they be the experts on all things academic? Shouldn’t they be teaching me?

At any rate, this is where Google comes in. Google has answers that I clearly do not have.

So I often (shamelessly) tell my boys, “Let me think about that one and get back to you.” Then I make my escape and get down to business.

I’m sorry, hang on a second…

You need to build The Liberty Bell?

Out of what? By tomorrow?

We don’t have an ounce of modeling clay to work with…but we do have five packages of spaghetti.

A situation of this caliber is best handled by an expert.

Where exactly can I find that homework-monopolizing mom?

Never mind. She’s booked until June, just trying to keep up with her own kid’s homework.

Oh well.

As the saying goes: When life hands you homework, make paper airplanes.

Even Garfield hates homework.

Even Garfield hates homework.

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The Baddest Apple

You know those little preservative packets in food and shoe boxes? They’re desiccant packets. But I’ve always called them Do Not Eat packets.

Ever wonder what happens if you consume a Do Not Eat packet?

It’s not really something I ever gave much thought to, personally. Until last Sunday.

The thing is, I may have accidentally eaten one.

You’re probably wondering how that’s even possible. Either you ate it or you didn’t, right?

Believe me, I’m still scratching my head on this one, too.

It all started innocently enough.

I was ravenous, so I bought a bag of freeze dried Fuji apples to devour on my drive home from work. I don’t even know how I lasted from my lunch break until the end of my shift without passing out and landing flat on my face.

Anyway, apples are supposedly good for you, so it seemed like a smart choice.

Shoveling handfuls of apples into my mouth, I found myself backed up in traffic near a busy mall about 10 minutes into my drive home.

Figuring I had a minute or so to pass while sitting at a red light, I turned over the bag to read the nutrition facts.

What can I say? I’m crazy like that.

It was a single serving bag, which was great, because the thing felt surprisingly close to empty already.

The ingredients were simple enough: freeze dried apples, ascorbic acid and citric acid.

Not bad at all.

And 220% of vitamin C per serving.

Whew! That ought to ward off any threat of scurvy.

More importantly, it was made in the USA.

After all, if I wanted to eat a toxic Chinese import, I’d eat a box of so-called “non-toxic” crayons.

Or one of those questionable McDonald’s toys with 500 microscopic parts. On second thought, those toxic little toys could also lead to asphyxiation.

Disturbingly enough, those aren’t not the only things that could present a safety hazard.

Further down on the apple bag was a warning.

It was just some nonsense about a desiccant packet.

Yada yada yada.

Hey, wait a minute…

Holy crap!

The Do Not Eat packet! Where the hell was the Do Not Eat packet?!?

Still sitting in an endless line of traffic, I dared a hasty peek into the bag.

There was hardly anything left in it. Mostly crumbs, really.

And no sign of the distressing packet.

Maybe they had forgotten to put one in this package?

Could I seriously have just eaten the stupid thing? I mean, really?

I can only assume it’d be like eating a packet of sugar. So how would I have missed that? Even among a generous fistful of apples, surely I’d have noticed a difference in texture or flavor.

Especially once biting into the packet and unleashing sand-like particles.

Were my senses that off? Were my standards that low?

And I may very well have reached a new low with this dilemma.

You might think I’d have been more concerned for my safety. After all, I could have ingested a potentially hazardous substance, for all I knew.

Yet, I found the whole thing mildly amusing. Did this kind of stuff actually happen to other people? Or was it truly just me?

By this point, I’m pretty well convinced it’s just me.

When I arrived home 20 minutes later, I Googled “accidental ingestion of desiccant packet,” which immediately directed me to the poison control website.

The information was surprisingly reassuring. Apparently, one can safely scarf down the equivalent of an entire shoebox-worth of those packets and likely only experience stomach discomfort.

Okay, I can (almost) understand accidentally wolfing down one of those suckers, but who would unknowingly devour a whole box of that crap?

A dog, maybe? One with lower standards than me, perhaps?

Continuing on with my online self-diagnostics, I grabbed a couple of mini blueberry muffins. I still needed a little more reassurance, so I decided to test out a theory.

Leaving the wrappers intact, I made a simulated attempt at eating a muffin, wrapper and all. Would I notice when I bit into a chunk of the thin paper?

Would I? I was genuinely intrigued now.

I immediately noticed the texture difference between the yummy moist muffin and the bland little paper. But then, I also wasn’t distracted the same way I had been while driving.

Huh.

I still wasn’t convinced.

When I ended up at a restaurant for dinner a few days later, the tray of sugar packets caught my eye.

I swiped one and shoved it in my purse.

I figured I might have to test something out a little later, just for kicks.

And test it out I did. Let’s just say I didn’t get too far with that one.

The paper had the consistency of loose leaf notebook paper, and the sugar felt like grains of sand.

There was no mistaking a foreign substance’s assault on my palate.

Even so, a Do Not Eat packet was still definitely smaller than and not quite as grainy as a packet of sugar.

I swear, distracted eating is as hazardous as driving in your sleep.

Whether I did or did not eat the desiccant packet remains a mystery. But the fact is I’ve lasted a good part of the week since that incident, and I’m still more or less okay.

I think.

Do not eat? A little late for that, don't you think?

Do not eat? A little late for that, don’t you think?

Culinary Chaos- The Coffee Crisis

That’s right. The madness continues. And you thought I was done last week after that whole whirlwind of culinary mayhem?

Well, so did I.

But the food-related issues continue to plague me. My whole kitchen (a.k.a. The Enemy) has evidently banded together to take me out.

It’s getting more cunning and more dangerous every time, too.

Yesterday, we reached a new low.

My coffee machine quit working, out of the blue. No warning signs, no sputters, nothing to indicate it’s about to have the last laugh.

On a hectic school morning at that, when I need all the help I can possibly get.

Well, that’s just fabulous. What am I supposed to do?

Eat the ground coffee?

Oh yeah, I can see it now. I could grab a spoon and start shoveling it down my throat like the caffeine-deprived gluttonous junkie that I’ve apparently become.

No. I am not that desperate. Yet.

Or am I?

More importantly, is this the example I really want to set for my kids?

Still fuming over the injustice of a caffeine-free morning, I open the freezer to grab a package of frozen blueberry waffles.

Before I could even reach the box, a glacier comes down hard on my right foot.

It’s not any random frozen object that attacked me. It’s a full quart of ice cream.

Its name is Coffee Bean Blast.

Coffee? Seriously?

Such irony.

How cruel to taunt me like that.

And Blast? As in blasting like a malfunctioning rocket out of the freezer and on to my unsuspecting appendages?

Tally:

coffee: 0, injuries: 2

(1 physical, 1 psychological)

Not a good start.

My son suggests I use the ice cream to make a Starbucks-style iced coffee drink.

Great idea!

Oh, right. The blender blew up two weeks ago.

Never mind.

Besides, it’s a rather stormy morning. What about that sounds like a good idea? Electrocution, anyone?

Guess that would eliminate my need for caffeine, at the very least.

Maybe it’s just as well the blender had kicked the bucket.

This is almost as bad as that time I ran out of milk and had to drink my coffee black.

No. Actually, this is worse. Much worse.

If I want to go caffeine-free for a day, that really ought to be my choice. Not the spitefully possessed coffee machine’s decision.

I do stupid things when I’m not properly fueled.

Like call my boys by the wrong names, feed the same kid breakfast twice while the other one gets none, and then proceed to drive in the complete opposite direction of their school while those two sit there all oblivious, listening to their Ipods.

Oh well. These things happen.

Coffee is sometimes the only motivation for even getting up in the morning. Especially around the holidays, when I can buy my favorite Gingerbread coffee.

I end up settling for Perfect Energy tea. Except that nothing about it is perfect.

I’m disgruntled, it’s sorely lacking in caffeine, and it simply isn’t hitting the spot on a crazed morning, as I struggle to wrestle a groggy heap of teenager out of bed.

Somehow, I still need to drive the kids to school. With no caffeine in my system. Well, that, and a swollen foot.

The very foot used to operate the gas pedal. So it may or may not willingly retreat from the gas pedal.

It takes forever to even work up the motivation to shower after I finally manage to shuttle everybody out the door to their proper locations. By the time I do, it’s already time to pick them up from school.

I didn’t even make it back out of the house after dropping them off in the morning to go look for a new coffee machine?!? Where did the time go?

Did I fall asleep?

Did I seriously just waste the whole day away, drowning in a caffeine-less pity party?

I suppose it’s a good thing I didn’t reach for alcohol instead.

Truth be told, I’ve been getting injured around my own kitchen more so than any other way.

So for all of you out there who think dirt biking is dangerous, let me tell you something. The kitchen is a much, much more dangerous place than any trail out there.

Anyone want to explain to me why this cup is empty?

Anyone want to explain to me why this cup is empty?

Culinary Mayhem

“If you can read, you can cook!”

I read that somewhere a while back, and I could’ve died laughing.

I can read well enough, thank you very much. But cooking? Now that’s a different story.

As it turns out, that line is actually the title of a cookbook. I’ve never read that particular cookbook.

But I’m way beyond the point of help, anyway.

As far as I’m concerned, the need to “refuel” is not only a major inconvenience, but an unfortunate human inefficiency as well.

It’s a necessary evil, at best.

And how utterly ironic that I am always hungry, yet I don’t want to be troubled by stepping into the kitchen to prepare anything that might take longer than 30 seconds.

Every time I open the fridge, I secretly wish that my next meal will magically materialize before my eyes.

I can bake decently. From a box. I’m usually able to follow those directions well enough.

Unless I don’t have all the ingredients and end up having to do a little experimental substituting. Who needs a stick of butter anyway when you’ve got a whole tub of rice pudding?

Right?

I have no business being in the kitchen. If I had a personal chef, I could probably get out once and for all- before somebody really gets hurt.

Case in point: I’ve almost been knocked out by the freezer door on several occasions. And I’m convinced the ice maker on the fridge is also trying to kill me, as it spastically fires off sharp-edged ice cubes at random angles across the kitchen.

There’s also The Oven Fire Incident, but we’ll get back to that in a minute.

Onions aren’t the only things that can bring tears to my eyes.

For the record, I can tell you from experience that if you accidentally rub your eyes after handling an onion, you’re in for a world of burning inferno waterworks.

Kitchen gadgets terrify me. I occasionally wander into those kitchen stores at the mall out of morbid curiosity. I can’t figure out what most of that stuff is, let alone what purpose they could possibly serve.

Cookie cutters are fairly self-explanatory, but all of that other stuff? Not so much. Some of these bizarre looking items look like they belong in a science lab.

Butter churners look downright dangerous. Nutmeg mill, anyone? Banana slicer? Butter curler? Wow, there’s something for everyone.

And yet, it’s all so useless to me.

I can slice and dice things just fine. Oh, and I do excel at making mixed drinks. I’m a natural at that! Surely, that’s got to count for something.

Speaking of drinks, Baileys is the ultimate utility player in the kitchen. I’ve used it to transform random ingredients into a work of… well, a real piece of work. Baileys is a delightful addition to cereal, yogurt, and strawberries. Voilà! Instant meal, with a little added bonus.

In my house, we tend to plan our meals based on what’s about to expire. Oh, the eggs are at their sell by date, the twisty tie for the loaf of bread mysteriously disappeared, and the plums are starting to shrivel? Guess we just solved the dinner dilemma.

If the produce is getting too soft and the yogurt is a couple of days past the sell by date, it’s definitely smoothie time. It is the ultimate saving grace, the fabulous Waste Not approach.

Smoothies are easy, sometimes delicious, occasionally nutritious, and most importantly, a great way to use up all those bananas, blueberries, avocados, and brussel sprouts that are a mere 6 hours away from turning into moldy mush because they’ve been hiding in the ghastly shadows of gallons of milk and apple juice for the past two weeks.

Perhaps the best part about smoothies is that if you’re feeling lazy and think chewing might take more effort than it is worth, all you have to do is gulp it down.

Which may be especially beneficial, depending on the alarming mixture of foods you just dumped into that blender. On the plus side, you can drink it out of a cocktail cup to make it feel like an extra special treat.

A few more perfectly valid reasons why the kitchen and its gang of appliance and gadget buddies are not my friends:

-I once forgot to put the coffee pot under the machine before flipping the switch and wandering out of the room. I returned a few minutes later to the sight of coffee spewing out of the machine, across the counter, and forming a muddy lake that snaked all the way across the floor.

-There was also that time I reached over to unplug the toaster. It was still hot, and it burned my arm. Yes, I actually got beat up by a toaster about a year ago.

-I’d forgotten to coat a pan with canola oil before pouring the brownie mix in, and ended up eating the brownies all by myself right out of the pan with a fork because it just wouldn’t come out otherwise, and I hate wasting perfectly good food.

-The blender literally blew up on me while making a smoothie a few weeks ago. In my defense, it was pretty old.

And my greatest failure in the kitchen (to date) that has clearly set me up for a lifetime of culinary success:

-When I was in junior high, I attempted to turn pita bread into pita chips by tossing it into the oven for a few minutes. When I reached in to grab it, it was hotter than hell. The next thing I knew, the oven mitt went flying into the oven.

It came out engulfed in flames

Seriously, if that doesn’t’ make my point for needing to stay out of the kitchen, I don’t know what will.

Needless to say, the smoke alarm and I are old buddies.

Take that, Martha Stewart

Take that, Martha Stewart!