Friday, April 30, 2010

A dream lunch date

In my life I have learned that there are many ways to judge the wealth of a person. Richness, I have realized, extends much further than the wallet or the bank account and even the simplest things, when recognized, can make you a very affluent person.
One such thing in my own life that makes me feel like a million bucks is that I still have two living grandparents. The other two I lost just within the last year, but the ones that are still around are alive and kicking and bring great joy to my life.
Joy, and delicious cookies, old country music, and hours of stories while sitting on lawn chairs in their garage.
I’m a lucky girl.
But because they live out of state, it’s not too often that I get to enjoy those cookies and lawn chairs, so when we do get the chance to be together I take in as much as I can, which is exactly what I did over a recent trip this year.
Among our standard activities (eating, watching America’s Funniest Videos, eating, singing, eating) we also pulled out some old photo albums that including pictures of my grandparents and my parents on their wedding days.
Jammed in a small book, these square snapshots of years ago smiled and the wrinkles of today were as distant as the thought of digital photography. My grandmother, in shades of black and white, was the tiniest little bride, my grandfather strong and bulked up from a term in WWII. My mother’s youth and her lacy dress in faded color made me smile, and my father’s mustache to waist ratio was much different than it is today (but I’ll never tell him that.)
The fashions and the vitality of these two women so important in my life doesn’t become a realization until you see them all at once, and for me it reminded me of the answer to a question I am always waiting to be asked:
“Living or dead, who would you most like to have lunch with?”
My answer would be, “my mother and my grandmother” which seems easy enough because a day of driving can take me to where they live and we could easily lunch. But my answer has a second part.
“My mother and my grandmother, all when we are the same age.”
At my age, my mother would have been a mother to an 8-year old (me.) She would have been coming into the same things I am now: school groups, piano lessons. Socially she lived in a neighborhood with a yard to mow and a garden to tend. She had a husband who put in a lot of hours and two dogs to take care of.
My grandmother at my age had a 4-year old (my mother), and 6-year old and 10 year old boys. She had lost her first husband in the war and had married my Grandfather. Her world was spent raising children and taking care of elderly relatives while her husband worked 7 days a week at the Ford plant.
And while those are the basics, I know there was more, much more. The way they thought and spoke, the things they wondered and worried about, all those years before their wisdom of today kicked in. That’s who I would want to have lunch with, my maternal idols, before they knew what they were doing and were flailing through their days just like I do now. What did they make before they mastered pot roast and chicken paprikash? What was the latest laundry disaster? How did they deal with misbehaved children? (Not me, of course.)
What a lunch it would be, the three of us. My grandmother with her curled hair and stockings. My mother with her ironed hair and miniskirt. Me with my jeans and Crocs. Three generations, bridging the gap of time and space over iced tea and chicken salad sandwiches. Surely a lunch like that would be worth all the wealth in the world.
The only thing greater would be a photograph to remember the occasion, whether it be black and white, faded color, or sharp and digital.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Slow Cooker Black Beans

If you've never had black beans that didn't come from a can, here's a secret: they are actually black. I find the dull brownish color from canned "black" beans as appealing as that syrupy goo that it is packaged in, but I fully admit that I call on those cans quite often.
Because as it turns out, I'm a blackbeanaholic.
I put them in hummus, on my tossed salads, in cold salads, in warm salads. I re fry them and spice them to soup. But my most favorite way to eat them is right out of the ol' crock pot, scooped out with a salty tortilla chip.
Making beans sans-cans was always something I was afraid of. The soaking just turned me off, as if that one extra step of doing, well, nothing, was too difficult to juggle. It wasn't until I later learned the beauty and ease of cooking these babies in a crock pot, and my world has become beautifully bean-y.

Your house will smell fabulous. Your kids will say, "mom, what's cooking? It smells soooooo goooood!" And you will answer, "beans!" to which they will most likely respond, "yuck." And then you smile, because there will be more for you and chances are if your house contains a small boy like mine, there will be definite winners and losers in the evening fart contest. (Beans, beans, good for your heart...)

Slow Cooker Black Beans

1 pound bag of dry black beans, rinsed and picked of stones
7 cups water
1-2 garlic cloves (to taste)
1 tsp salt

Put beans, water, and garlic in crock pot. Cook on high for 4 hours. Add salt (to taste) and turn to low. Cook 2 more hours. It's that simple.

Last night I made up some homemade tortillas which were a heap easier than I thought they'd be, and mixed some leftover rice with the beans and topped it with salsa and cheese. (There's just something about simple food with one-word ingredients that is so pleasing.) Today I ate the same thing for lunch, without the tortilla, just in a lovely big bowl.

As for the kids who didn't eat the beans, game on. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A roadway honkathon for Earth Day (No Butts about it!)

Anyone who has traveled in a foreign country with busy streets knows that the car horn is really not used the same way as it is here in the United States. A crowded street in India might harbor the constant blaring of the horn and I’m told in other major international cities the horn is just a way to communicate with other drivers, good or bad.
So there’s a lot of honking going on around this world.
But here in the States, it seems that a single honk surprises all in earshot, jolts us and perks us up to single out who is the honker and the honkee, and what horrible, horrible thing person did because to earn a honk it must have been a pretty serious offense.
There’s not a lot of honking going on in my part of the world.
Americans admire the silent lure of the open road, preferably uninterrupted by the BEEP of another vehicle, and usually I subscribe to honk-free driving unless someone is in danger. I just don’t want to start any trouble out on the road, although I admit the mere odor of my kid-full car would probably be enough to scare anyone away.
But I have this dream that resurfaces at least once a year, that I would have the guts to not only start honking for myself, but a nationwide honkathon for a good cause: littering.
It’s no mistake that the Powers that Be put Earth Day smack in the height of Spring when we’re amazed daily by nature’s beauty. The flowers are popping up, the grass is no longer a dull shade of brown, and the birds are practically calling our pasty white selves to come out into the sunshine. For the first time in months, we can again walk on the good Earth without having to lace up boots and wrap our faces in snot-crusted scarves.
We walk outside, breathe warm air, and life is good…until we look down. And then we see that life is dirty.
A study conducted by our very own Ohio Department of Natural Resources found that over 11 thousand tons of litter accumulates on Ohio’s roads each year. Another study done in Texas estimates that 13% of roadway litter is cigarette butts. You can do the math yourself, but the point is that there is an exorbitant amount of these disgusting little used up pieces of trash covering our state.
Not only does it gross me out, but it makes me angry enough to honk every time I see someone flick a cigarette butt out their window. The glowing streak of light that is such a convenient ashtray for that driver is a lot less convenient for the rest of the world.
Here are some facts you might not know about the life of a cigarette butt:
Cigarette butts do not biodegrade. They are made of plastic, not paper and cotton, and can linger around for up to 25 years.
As lightweight as they are, the butts often end up in our storm drains and waterways where the toxins leech out and turn fishy-friendly water into a deadly cocktail. They can also end up in our own water supply systems. Yuck.
Here are some opinions you may not know about cigarette butts:
If you throw them or any other type of litter out of your car, I personally find you to be a lazy person, completely inconsiderate of those living around you. I’m not against smoking, per se, that’s a personal choice. But I am against walking down the street with my kids and having them ask me why there’s so much garbage on the road.
During this Earth Week, surrounded by recycling signs, not only am I going to do my part cleaning up the streets of my own town, but I’m also going to remind roadway litterers that the world is not a trash can by reinstating the honk. As far as I see it, a little noise pollution is the better way to go.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Super Snazzy Make-your-own Earth Day Shirt!!!

I went online over breakfast trying to find a decent Earth Day shirt project for us to make and then wear during our community clean up.
The verdict: NOTHING. One super-lame site even instructed, "buy a plain t-shirt, get paint, and paint your favorite Earth Day phrase."
Gee, thanks. I could have never thought of that myself....

...I think what I did think of was even better. This was a quick craft and as you can see, came out really wonderful. The best part was that we used old t-shirts, so there was even "reuse" involved in the whole process. Whip these babies up while the sun in shining. Earth Day is 40 years old and I'll be the first to tell you that while I'm not a tree-hugger (I worked for a coal mine, for Pete's sake), I do so very much enjoy trees. So if it means doing a little extra for the good of all the Earth, so be it. Laziness is not an attractive quality. Identifying trees, wildflowers, and birds, well, that's something to write home about.


The finished product!

In the beginning, there were old t-shirts, a strip of brown paint, and a hand print for the branches... I used acrylic paint because it's what I had on hand. Obviously fabric paint would be ideal, but in a pinch we used what we had. Hardware: paint brush, paint tray, paint pen, little spongie circles. Paints: brown, black pen, shades of green.

"Write your favorite Earth Day slogan here!" We used a paint pen. Still hard, but not as hard as a paint brush.

A whole lotta dottin' going on. Make sure not to totally cover up the super cool handprint.
Enjoy! Here's our neighborhood gang ready for clean up duty. Great job, guys!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The best new car travel game, just in time for summer!

When I sat down this morning to blog a recipe, I realized that I spent the majority of the weekend being a lazy lump of a person, pulling chili out of the freezer on Saturday and chicken soup out of the freezer on Sunday. (I did pull off an amazing Chicken and Dumplin' recipe care of Paula Deen, but it took forever and I think I gained 18 pounds just making it.)
Just when I thought today's post would be as bland as the plain noodles I had to serve my kids because they won't eat chili, my dear husband emailed me something i scribbled down on his computer during a recent very, very, very long car ride.
Let me set the scene...
Spring break, 2010. We and half of the state of Ohio, 1/3 the state of Michigan and a good part of Pennsylvania is traveling down Route 77 in search of weather that doesn't stink. Our car is loaded with children, suitcases, scooters, video games and DVD's, junk food galore and a few dozen empty coffee cups.
We could have made the trip easily, if it weren't for the copious amount of people thinking the same thing. The highways were so clogged with traffic, that it was stop and go for miles and miles.
We decided to be adventurous and detour three different times. All slap happy, over-caffeinated, and tired of listening to The Veggie Tales Easter Movie, from being the steering wheel I said, "I've got an idea. Let's play a game."
I have played "I'm going on a trip and I'm going to take A-apple, B-beans, C-camouflage" too many times. The kids can't see signs from the backseat to play the ABC find it game. Eye spy, after 8 years of playing, is rather like "I'd rather stick a poker in my eye." And so, a new goofball game was born.
I proudly present....

THE DELIGHTFUL DETOUR DASH

Easy to play. Just make up your own rules and keep your eyes peeled. Here are our rules. Every time you pass one of these things, you do the action. There's no scorekeeping, no winner. Just a bunch of silliness, probably enough to make your husband claw at the window to escape the vehicle.

COW: mmm, hamburgers
ANY OTHER ANIMAL: Fozzie dooo doooo (or any other silly thing that makes your family giggle)
CHURCH: Hallelujah
HOUSE FOR SALE: Hi, honey, I’m home!
GAS STATION: fart sound (the louder, the better, of course)
CROSS TRAIN TRACKS: choo choo

CRAZY RULES
*These may change with every trip*
-If you pass a McDonald’s, you have to sit on one hand until you pass another fast food restaurant (driver exception)
-If you pass a bike rider or walker, you have to pat your head and rub your tummy.
-If you see a tow truck, you have to grab your toe.
-If you pass a basketball hoop, pat your back.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lessons from Ms. Poppins

There’s nothing like expecting some major house guests to make you dust off the dust rag, drag Murphy and his oil soap out of the depths of your cabinet, and collect every available bucket in your possession. I have even been known to tear up perfectly good dish towels, just because I needed an extra cleaning rag.
This occasion was no different, and I spent a solid day in my pajamas, scrubbing every surface I could reach, and then some. Why in my pajamas? Because I knew that if I took the time to actually clean and dress myself, that I would procrastinate with such vigor that it would be at least 2:45 PM before my hands hit the water. Instead, with pajamas and an excellent case of bed head, I set to work straight after breakfast.
But then, in a stroke of pure genius, I asked a simple question. “Who wants to win a prize?” And like flocks of seagulls attacking a single crumb of bread, I was instantly crawling with children.
“OK. We’re going to have a contest. Let’s see who can get their rag the dirtiest! I’ll give each of you your own special rag. And look! They are all different colors! This is going to be fun! Who wants to play?”
The eldest child, my shadow, my clone, my protégé, looks at me with the widest brown puppy dog eyes you’ve ever seen. “Me! I want to play!”
The middle child, the fiery red head, the freckled thinker, looks at me with the same brown eyes in more of a squint. “Um, what’s the prize?”
The baby just grabs a rag, soaks it with soapy water, and flings it around the room.
“Oh the prize is soooo exciting, I can’t even tell you!” And I realize that I’m now talking in constant exclamation marks without even noticing! I’m even getting myself excited for the prize! And guess what?! The only prize is a hug and chocolate milk!
(But they don’t know that.)
Being a mom isn’t rocket science. We are faced daily with challenges, most of which have to deal with dust, crusted up breakfast cereal, and missing puzzle pieces. I know my entire life seems to be a juggling act, one where I’m not even thrown into the mix of balls—I’m just there to keep them all running smoothly.
And when it comes to asking for a little help, it should be a given that children should drop everything they are doing and help their loving mother, because that’s how it happens in the cartoons they watch and the comics they read.
But they don’t, and it’s not because they don’t love me. It’s because playing games and riding bikes and making messes are way more fun than getting pruny fingers and soft nails from having a hand in a bucket all day. And that is why we mothers who are worth our salt need to pull out the tricks.
“Now who’s ready for the contest!? Ready, set, go!” And away they went.
Here’s an ultra valuable bit of parenting advice to newbies. Drop what you’re doing and watch Mary Poppins and study her with all you’ve got. Sure, she could fly around on an umbrella and has some awesome chimney sweep dancing friends, but besides that, she could really get those kids to clean. “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun, and snap! The job’s a game!”
I’m could be wrong, but I think the second verse of the song says that besides a spoonful of sugar, you might also need a few dozen exclamation marks, chocolate milk, and a hug or two. But it’s all worth it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nature & Child Reunion Part 2 (Read...comment...win!)




Reconnecting Children With the Natural World
Written by Jodi Hiland of Happy Trails Family Nature Club

Barriers to Outdoor Free-Play
There are myriad barriers to children's outdoor free play, and these must be addressed in every corner of society. Times may never be what they once were for children, but we must create a new, balanced reality.
Parental Fear
One of the biggest reasons children are seen less outdoors is parents' perceived "stranger danger." I say "perceived", because while child abductions do occasionally occur, it is not nearly as often as people believe. The modern media have gone overboard in their reporting of these incidents, and with internet news spreading like wildfire, it is now to the point where we think abductions are happening far more than they are. In fact, most abducted children are taken by someone the child knows, like a family member. And, the number of these hasn't increased since the 1970's (when I was a kid). Of course, any child being taken is a horrible tragedy. But to keep our nation's children locked indoors isn't the answer.

There are other kinds of fears parents have that prevent many kids from going outside to play. Parents' own views have a tremendous influence on whether or not kids like the outdoors, or get the chance to play there. Adults' own aversions to strangers, bugs, weather, getting dirty, darkness, and more will greatly decide how often and where kids play. Often, parents may believe their child will be less likely to come in contact with germs at a Burger King playplace. Nature's "germs" are actually beneficial, whereas the ones with which kids come into contact inside a well-used play structure are probably more harmful.So what can we do? I think we, as parents, need to be creative, and also face our fears. How can we get our kids' outdoor needs met, and still feel fairly comfortable? We need to take a moment to look at our family's life, our schedules, and make outdoor time a top priority, instead of a "nice extra". Perhaps we can examine our fears, and realize we can't always protect our precious children, every moment. It wasn't meant to be that way. At some point, we need to let them roam a bit, if at all possible. And we can go outside with them! We can leave them alone, but be nearby. We can delete a few things from their scheduled lives, and create large chunks of "free time". Far from being a waste of time, these hours are actually necessary for optimal development, and happiness. Professor of Social Ecology at Yale, Stephen Kellert, says experience in a surrounding home territory, especially in nearby nature, is linked to shaping children's cognitive maturation, including the developed abilities of analysis, syntheses and evaluation.Not So Much Natural SpaceAnother barrier to children's free-play in the natural world is the lack of natural spaces, close to home. Development in the last few decades has been so widespread, that kids have very few places to roam anymore. Disappearing are the vacant lots, cornfields, wetlands, streams, trees and more that children used to practically live in, away from home. Even if many kids have access to parks, etc. somewhere else in their town, there needs to be green space where the children live. In his book Children's Special Places, David Sobel explains why it is crucial for a child's developing sense of "self" to have places to go to alone, such as a fort, tree house, a hidden shrub, etc. He writes, "During this period of middle childhood, the self is fragile and under construction and needs to be protected from view of the outside world. The self, like the metamorphosing butterfly, needs to be wrapped in a cocoon before it emerges into the light. Thus, the places that children seek out are places where they cannot be seen, places to begin the unfolding of the self."
Excessive Electronic Media
Yet another reason we see far less children wandering about outside today is that they are "plugged in" to a wide array of electronic media. Today, there are so many technological gizmos vying for kids' attention, that they are not very interested in the natural world outside their front door. In our country, children spend an average of 45 hours a week in front of a screen. That's the equivalent of a work week! Again, this is where I think it is our job as parents to step in and create balance. There need to be firm limits on the number of hours and minutes texting, updating My Space, playing Xbox, and watching "Zach and Cody". Sadly, kids today often spend more time texting their friends, and less time actually talking to them in person. Of course, kids learn how to be in the world by watching their parents. The "I'm the parent, you're the child" idea may seem logical when it comes to t.v. viewing limits, for example, but their lifelong habits will be greatly influenced by what they see us doing (or not doing!). Would it be so weird to shut off the t.v. and go for a family stroll? I know with my little ones, it is all too easy to leave TPT on while I get one more thing accomplished around the house. But I do my best to shut it off, even if it means they get into some mischief while I'm putting clothes in the dryer!

Overscheduling
By far one of the biggest reasons kids are not freely playing outside is due to a packed schedule. For many families, there isn't much choice, as the parents work several jobs, or the kids live in an unsafe neighborhood. But for scores of other kids, the scheduling is due to well-meaning parents, wanting their children to have many kids of experiences. They may have dance class, music lessons, soccer, football, t-ball - you name it. The kids do homework in between, play a little Playstation, watch t.v., then go to bed. Day after day. In a given week, when did these children have time to be bored for a moment, and wonder what to do? And when did they hang out outdoors? For how long? Parents often think that soccer games, for example, provide plenty of outside time. However, organized sports are not "free time", in which the children are free to wander about, with the kids themselves making up the play.Societal Fear of LawsuitsOur litigous society is another issue surrounding kids' lack of access to outdoor play spaces. It used to be that a child up in a tree was a cause for congratulations, or even so ubiquitous as to be hardly noteworthy. Nowadays, if an adult sees a child in a tree, the child is usually scolded, told to get down, that they are being dangerously foolish, and the panic of a potential lawsuit ensues. The fear of being sued is so pervasive that playgrounds on schoolyards are asceptically boring to kids. One American school went so far as to post a "no running" sign! Studies show that playgrounds with a fair amount of "green space" have less incidences of playground bullying and violence, and much more cooperative interactions. Children in very poor, inner-city neighborhoods often face the issue of little access to green space, or at least, little safe passage to it. And lest anyone think wealthier, suburban kids have lots of green spaces in which to roam, they, too, often face roadblocks. Covenants in many subdivisions expressly forbid children being in certain areas, up in trees, building forts, etc.,and there are few, if any, natural areas - just manicured landscapes.

No Child Left Behind
Ask most any school teacher (or parent), and it is obvious that the controversial "No Child Left Behind" policy is greatly impacting kids' outside time. Due to greater work loads and preparation for testing, curriculums in schools have all but eliminated environmental education. Field trips? A thing of the past. Science is often being taught later. Recess is either short, or non-existant. And when the kids get home from school, they often have piles of homework to get to, instead of heading outside to play.




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Out of necessity

Some of the best done jobs come out of necessity. From great need, came great triumph all through history. Centuries of people have overcome and succeeded all because they were forced to do so.
And that's exactly what happen with dinner on Saturday.

Somebody (and I won't mention who) accidentally purchased an extraordinary amount of chicken and somebody else (again, not naming names) wasn't happy with the clogging of the freezer. And so, chicken for dinner.

It just so happened that the big bag of chicken was purchased at a mega mega mart, and along side the flock in my cart I had also purchased a ginormous bottle of honey. Why? Because I had a fleeting wish of healthily feeding my family this natural and delicious sweetener instead of sugar and in true American form, bigger is better. Especially at a discounted rate.

So there I was, swarming with chicken and honey. I opened the pantry to a waft of of last year's garlic hitting me like a pound of kielbasa, and like I said, out of necessity comes... pretty good grilled chicken.

Grilled Honey Chicken
(or: Fattie fattie 2 x 4, don't buy chicken anymore)

In a large plastic bag combine:
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbl honey
a little salt and pepper
4 chicken breasts

Marinate for about an hour, then slap them on the grill. Baste one time with remaining marinade when you put the chicken on, and discard the rest.

I served this with Disappearing Zucchini Orzo from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the family ate well, not out of necessity, but out of delight.

Now if only that whole "necessity" thing worked with putting away laundry...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A natural scavenger hunt

With the weather warming nicely and most of us still enjoying our spring fever, I thought nothing would be more fun than a challenge.
Here are your instructions. Put on shoes, appropriate outerwear, and step out your back door. Your goal is to find as many of the following as possible: a dandelion, a heron, an otter, an acorn, a fern, a buttercup, and a willow tree.
Depending on your proximity to weeds and water, you should be able to find at least a few of these. (I think even the best chemically controlled yard will sprout a dandelion now and then.) When you do find them, look twice at what you’ve actually found. A weed, as it’s been said, is simply a flower out of place. From the smallest acorn grows the strongest oak. The graceful gangliness of a Great Blue Heron is unmatched, but surely the entertainer of the year goes to the otter as they manage whiskered somersaults through the water. And anyone who has ever had the great pleasure of drinking lemonade under the shade of a willow branch is a lucky person in my book.
Tally your score and then drive to your local library. Remove your potentially muddy shoes, and straight away ask the librarian for the latest version of the Oxford Junior Dictionary, the one most commonly used in elementary schools across the country and so vibrantly colored and attractive to our youth.
Once you’ve got it, go on another scavenger hunt for those things again. See if you can find out about the biology of an acorn or find even a picture of the heron’s gangly legs.
I’ll save you time; you won’t find them. Nor will you find beaver, doe, newt, minnow, starling, wren, lavender, fungus, beech, or pasture.
They’ve been taken out of the dictionary. There wasn’t enough room for other new important words for them to include. So instead of vine and canary you’ll find BlackBerry (the phone), blog, mp3, voicemail, chatroom, broadband, and “cut and paste.”
This news hit the nature circuit a while back, but is rather new to me, and as someone who prides herself on muddy shoes and poison ivy, I find it rather appalling. Nature as I know it, as my parents and my grandparents know it, is disappearing not only in real life but also on paper.
Gone are the days when kids fell out of trees and came home with pet frogs. Insect bites and sunshine have become seriously dangerous things that we basically medicate ourselves and our children for before we send anyone out the door. Kids have gotten so far away from just going outside to play that many don’t even know how to do it without toting along a Nintendo DS.
The exception to this, I’m proud to say, is my son who worked for two summers straight using plastic yard tools to dig out a rotten stump. At ages 4 and 5, he worked tirelessly to remove a giant stump until one day last autumn, he finally pulled it out. We all cheered—even the neighbors congratulated him. Then we asked what he’s going to do now, and he simply shrugged, picked up his shovel, and started digging.
“Maybe a pond,” he said. “We could get some frogs.”
He is an oddity, but one that I need to nurture, which is why I bought him a real shovel and a kid’s backyard nature guide.
After hearing about the latest edition of the dictionary, I know now that it’s become not only my right, but my job as a parent to introduce my kids to the wonders of nature. And I suggest that any other parent (or grandparent) who shares similar wonderful memories of building forts in trees, riding bikes until the street lights came on, and scraped their legs to shreds while picking blackberries, do the same.
And by blackberries, I of course mean the juicy kind that stains your face and hands purple, not the kind with buttons and numbers that you’ll find if you look it up.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Celebrating battery awareness month

I don’t know about all of you, but it seems that every time I turn around someone is telling me that a toy needs new batteries. The first full sentence my daughter said was probably, “This no wok. Need new batties.”
If you’re like me, I come to you today with some fabulous new research that I’ve read about that can not only save you sanity in trying to figure out if the batteries in the junk drawer are good or not, but also save you some major moola.
As it turns out, April is Battery Awareness Month. This is a holiday even I have never heard of. I have read that April was National Pecan Month and Jazz Appreciation Month, but never in my wildest dreams did I think an entire month would be dedicated to double A’s, triple A’s, 9 volts, and their giant expensive cousin, the D.
I was wrong! And reading a news blurb on the Internet led to some pretty interesting facts.
A recent article published in the American Report of Power Science reports that children are 14 times more likely to play with a toy that requires batteries rather than one that is manually powered or does not include lights or sound. As a parent and someone who knows many children, I believe this statement to be completely true. Battery powered toys are in everywhere you look. My child actually got a battery powered spoon from a cereal box.
But the shocking report continues, and this is what really surprised me. Apparently battery powered toys are that are left in close vicinity of each other tend to “suck the life” out of adjacent batteries, somehow cancelling each other’s juice so that both toys end up with a shorter life span. Even scarier? This phenomenon happens to more than just toys. Do you have battery powered clocks? Remote controls or video games all jammed in one drawer? I thought so.
According to the article, scientists at the Northwestern New Mexico School of Electricity found that battery powered items should be at least 33” inches apart in order for the batteries to maintain their maximum power. As a family, we tend to go through batteries left and right, and for us the cost really adds up. Trying to save a few dollars here and there is always good, so I came up with a way that my kids can actually take better care of their battery-powered toys. A sheet of paper is 11 inches tall. By cutting it lengthwise and taping it end to end, I created a simple 33” measuring strip. We keep a few of them around the house and they can easily measure the distance of their toys. And call me crazy, but I haven’t changed any batteries since I stared this experiment!
I also learned that when we install batteries, by holding it by the ends, we also suck some of the energy from the unit. The electrical shock that we all carry naturally zaps a fraction of the life out of the battery by just touching it. The article I read gave a very simple solution. In order to stop the transfer of electrons, we just need to ground it. The easiest way to do this, they said, was to rub the battery – get this!—on the bottom of your foot. By doing this, you and the battery become a similar charge and everybody stays fully energized.
And there you have it, two easy ways to save your family big bucks in the way of batteries thanks to National Battery Awareness Month. For all of the devices we have laying around our home, I believe we can save enough money to go out and buy more toys. Make sure to check your own home and tell a friend, and see if they too are gullible enough to cut up paper, rub their feet with a double A, and not check the date at the top of this page…

Note: I've heard that some people didn't actually understand that this column ran as an April Fool's joke...and are smacking themselves for not fully reading the last line and rubbing batteries on the bottom of their feet. So sorry if it is you-- the only things that are absolutely true in this piece is that April is Jazz and Pecan month and my son did get a battery powered spoon from a cereal box. There is no such electric publication nor university, and zero truth in any of the battery-related information. I done did make da whole thing up.
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