Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brain food

I read an article last week in the Chicago Tribune about breakfast cereal and it stuck in my head. The Tribune investigation shockingly revealed that the food industry had found a way around regulations requiring more nutritious breakfast cereal by fortifying it's sugary cereal and offering more "adult" cereals. The Tribune was also amazed that children seem to prefer the sugary cereals and that consumption can be correlated to advertising on children's television programs.

I don't know if it's because we homeschool or because we don't have cable TV, but my kids have rarely eaten sugary cereal. Our allergies might also be part of it, but we've never shopped for cereal. We bought the kids cheerios when they were babies and toddlers, a perfect, portable snack. We buy puffed rice when we want to make "gooey cookies." Other than that, we don't really eat cereal. Small once had fruit loops from a breakfast buffet at a hotel. And I can recall Medium pointing to Lucky Charms and saying "That's just strange."

We don't need fast breakfast. Today the kids made pancakes together. Small regularly eats bacon. Medium makes herself an omelet or oatmeal. Large will have last nights' leftovers, a hot dog or fried eggs with no toast. Some mornings we are more pressed for time than others, most mornings they can follow their taste buds and fend for themselves. Small can microwave bacon and oatmeal on his own - he prefers steel cut oats.

It used to be that when the kids were exposed to cable TV, they would stare and stare at it, more interested in the commercials than the shows. Now they talk back at the commercials or skip channels. We don't need cable for reception and are able to watch all we want (including Spongebob) via Netflix. So, we've never had that to cut out of our budget in lean times.

I can imagine the repetitive advertising could get kids begging. But most kids are reasonable. When mine watched a lot of PBS kids, they would occasionally ask for Juicy Juice. I explained the packaging problem of individual juice boxes and the unit cost.

I don't have anything against sugary cereals, but it's never been part of our budget. Along the same lines of kid products and advertising, we did get the strangely flavored Dora and Spongebob toothpaste for a while, but we have now graduated to Aquafresh and all are happy.

Marketing to kids is here to stay. So are parents.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Meet Doug

Medium received a bird cage for Christmas. The poor child is allergic to every possible furry animal, but really wanted a pet who would play with her. Reptiles seemed out of the question, not only because they aren't particularly cuddly, but also because of the mold and/or heat.

So, we decided on a bird. We went to the pet store for food and toys, looked at the parakeets there and then headed off to a local shelter. This shelter is really a cat place, but they take in small animals and birds.

I'm always appalled by shelters. So many animals in one place. This was a small store front with probably 50 cats, several rabbits, gerbils, hamsters and tons of birds. Doug was found in a cage with 20 or so parakeets, all dumped by the same guy, who gave the shelter little information about them. Doug was mostly off by himself, he has a couple of bent tail feathers and was definitely the under dog of the cage. Shunned and picked on. And that made him Medium's first choice in a pet.

The shelter also had 10 or so zebra finches in one cage, a pair of conures, a macaw, several sets of African doves and more parakeets further down. The cat cages were stacked three high and birds were placed on top of them. They had one center aisle with a double row of cages and then two side aisles. The small animals lined the front, also stacked two and three high. Is it that when you run a shelter, you just can't see when you are full? Or is the need so great and the options so bad that they take in more and more animals?

All these animals came from homes. I can't imagine taking my rabbit in, saying I don't want it anymore (even though we have good allergy reasons) and turning it in, seeing the overcrowded conditions right in front of me. Maybe those people are hoarders too? Maybe the shelter has to euthanize every once in a while? Why do people buy pets in stores when there are shelters overcrowded with pets? I know the pets, particularly birds, can come sick or diseased because of the overcrowding problem. But isn't it better to take that risk than feed the breeding and pet store systems?

Doug is doing fine. A little quiet. Definitely freaked out. He's warming up to Medium, letting her take him out to play every day, although he isn't quite socialized yet. Funny, a homeschool kids socializing a bird!