How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Mad Science, Potions and Cat Food

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Potions Cat Food Mad Scientist

My son, Lucas, recently reminded me of something from my own childhood. Though oddly, something has happened to a lot of these memories of being a kid since having kids. The perspective of parenthood can shed a really different, very bright light on memories.

My parents gave me a very free hand as a kid. Though now that I think of it, it may be more accurately described as a balance between “me taking” and “them giving” this freedom. You see! The past is shape-shifting even as I’m writing about it!

The Craft of “Potion” Making

Potions. That’s pretty much what I called any random combination of ingredients I was allowed (or not) to mix together, whether they were edible or not. I did this often enough that you could have called it a habit, but I prefer to use the word “hobby.” Don’t listen to city officials. They like to throw around the words “fire and poison hazard” like confetti and ass-xeroxes at an office party with an open bar.

Despite failure, I learned a lot from my Mad Science. Like the fact that you cannot discover a new, never-before-seen color by mixing paints or ink, and that all tests ultimately result in brownish black. Or how many minutes it takes for oil boiling on a stove to burst into a flamethrower gone wild. And that pouring water on it is NOT the way to deal with such a fire. Unless you actually want to double the size of the flame and spatter it like napalm.

The Purrrrfect Cat Food

Outside the Box Logic

When I was about 10, I decided that I would use my potion-craft to create the perfect cat food. I wish I could say it was because I wanted to solve world cat hunger. Alas, it was purely about achievement, with the prospect of fame and fortune. And because we had cats.

My strategy? If I was going to discover the PERFECT cat food, it would be probably something so crazy that no one would ever have even allowed themselves to think of trying it. Industrial-strength “outside the box” logic right there!

I asked my mom if I could use her baking gear and the oven. After a long pause and an equally long “Wwwwwhy?” she heard my answer and smiled diplomatically, giving me a meatloaf pan she was going to throw away. I wasn’t insulted. I couldn’t get in trouble if something went wrong. Win!

My recipe for the experiment consisted of bread chunks, vinegar, liquified cat kibble, vanilla extract, banana, bologna, green beans, milk and countless other ingredients. I wasn’t really thinking about what would taste good to a cat. I knew my experimental pet restaurant should be fairly safe with customers who not only didn’t mind licking their own assholes, but seemed to enjoy it. A lot. Daily. These things’ll eat anything, I thought, chuckling to myself at how easy this was going to be.

I pulled the mess out of the oven and let it cool. The stink of it must have instantly filled the entire house. After it had cooled, I cut a slab out of the loaf and plopped it onto the cat-food bowl. I climbed up to sit on a counter, it offered a clear view and safety from any ravenous cats bursting through a wall to get at my creation…


Realizing I might be affecting the experiment with my presence, I retreated to a far doorway and spied in the shadows for ten or fifteen minutes (nearly a billion years in child time).


I stormed off to my mom and explained my frustration. I can see now how she must have been biting back laughter as she nodded and uh-huh’ed, and maybe even had to choke down some gags at the stench I’d unleashed in our home. I asked her if she’d please taste it and tell me what she thought I’d done wrong. When she said no, I was utterly shocked. My request is obviously crazy to me now, because you couldn’t have tortured me back then to eat a bite of the stuff, but I completely took it for granted that my mom would do it if I asked her nicely. So I was stunned when she refused, repeatedly.

The Early Signs of Mad Scientistism

A Taste of My own Potion

Cody and Max don’t seem to have inherited my Mad Scientist traits on any major scale or fire-rating. They chose other, still very effective ways to deliver Karma to me as a parent for all the gray hairs I gave my parents. But Lucas now, hmmmmm… It’s still a little early to tell, but I see the mad scientist in his eyes when he makes a laboratory of the dinner table and crams a soggy piece of bread that’s been dipped in ketchup and honey into my mouth. And of course I HAVE to taste it! It may just be the next PB&J killer.


22 Responses to “Mad Science, Potions and Cat Food”

  1. Mary says:

    Adorable, yet diabolical. The perfect combination!

  2. Pam says:

    OMG, He is sooo cute!!!!! He can come make messes at my table anytime!

  3. Stephanie says:

    My kids have been trying more for the evil magician kind of thing. It does make life interesting.

  4. Mark says:

    I used to mix potions as a kid too. My worst was a mixture of orange juice, milk, and paint. This was loaded into my nurf bazooka gun. After letting it sit for a week, to my surprise, it reeked. We laugh about it now, but my brother was the recipient of that potion when I told him to smell inside the gun and pulled the trigger.

  5. Monica says:

    Oh. My. Gosh. This takes me back to my own Mad Scientist days. I was always my mom’s helper when it came to cleaning and of course I always got stuck with the bathroom. But I didn’t mind b/c I would “create” the perfect cleaner in the toilet. I would add this cleaner and that cleaner and the toilet was spotless. Of course, you can’t do that now, it’s too dangerous. What is this “fire and poison hazard” they speak of? I turned out fine. I think Lucas needs a Lab Coat. =)

  6. Mel says:

    We haven’t had any REAL experiments yet, but recently discovered that green and red home made play doh mixed together and rubbed into the carpet looks EXACTLY like poo

  7. Cool! Looks a bit like a lava lamp……

  8. Christina says:

    I personally have nothing to contribute as of yet. My son is wildly unimaginative when it comes to food…probably something to do with his lack of desire to put ANYTHING in his mouth.

    However, my mother was crazy good at mixing the BEST bubble concoction to create the biggest and lightest bubbles EVER. My cousins idolized her mixing prowess and sought her out for “bubble juice” quite frequently. One day, my mother was not available for her famous bubbles, so these 4 boys (known for setting curtains on fire and attempting to put it out with sippy cups of Apple Juice) decided to raid the kitchen cabinet and combine anything and everything under the cupboard.

    To this day, no one has any idea what was in it, but where it failed to produce decent bubbles with a bubble wand, it successfully made my 2 year old sister quite drunk with glorious bubbles hiccuping out of her mouth…

    We are quite lucky she is alive today and nothing more serious occurred, but I really am wondering how they made a potion that caused that affect without poisoning her >.<

  9. MotherDuck says:

    Lucus is rad! Love these photos! My brother used to not eat his dinner but instead put all of it in his milk. Does that count as mad scientist? Probably not but at least he stayed skinny and isn’t having to get up at the butt crack of dawn to go to boot camp…but I digress. Back on point.

    Lucas is rad!

  10. Bmarie says:

    I SO did this same thing as a kid!! Any time my parents would leave me (usually with a friend) home alone, we’d wait for the garage door to close completely, then go on a mad dash to mix whatever-the-hell we could find (food, expired meds, you name it) together in old mason jars. Why? No clue. We were old enough to know not to eat it, but again, I can’t remember the logic behind ‘why’ it was a good idea in the first place. When we heard my folks coming home, we’d run and hide the jars in the unfinished space under the staircase (my secret lair). I completely forgot about this game until like 10-15 yrs later when my dad sold the house, and upon cleaning for sale, found our ‘stash’. SO funny. Thanks for making me feel a little more normal 😉

    • andy says:

      Amazing. Yes! Kid logic doesn’t need to have any comprehensible conclusion. It just IS. I looooooved finding my old secret stuff when I finally moved out of my parents’ place. I still have a little briefcase of my old stuff somewhere. Ahhhh, memories!

  11. Amanda says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. I just found your site and have been procrastinating by going through your previous entries. I have laughed, cried, groaned, and shaken my head in solidarity (I have a SASSY 18 month old girl). But this entry.

    I am dying. I cannot breathe. The header picture is phenomenal. Your writing is superb. And the way you capture with utter truth your 10 year old logic is priceless.

    My daughter is a little young to have un-lidded cups, but she has the makings of a SuperMixerMadScientist… I only hope I can face her with as much aplomb and classiness as your mother did you!

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