Christmas is less than a week away, so the kidlings are getting restless. The challenge is trying to keep things on an even keel while recognizing that anticipation is at a maximum level. What to do?


Well, there is nothing better this time of year than to give kidlings a reason to laugh. Luckily a laugh is available right now that involves Christmas lights, the song “Hallelujah” and thirty-two porta potties. Say what? 


“A sanitation company in Indiana set up a porta potty chorus. The portable toilets are affectionately nicknamed the ‘Jingle Johns’ and set the Guinness World Record for the most animated faces on a single holiday light display.” Service Sanitation says: “From our loo to yours, Merry Christmas!” You can see this video at:


As Christmas day gets nearer, something every parent needs is a way to keep the kidlings from being underfoot. To help in this effort, the Michigan DNR has some innovative suggestions – “Pandemic-Proof Winter Activities for Michigan Families.” The Michigan DNR has partnered with Project Learning Tree. “Safe, creative, and unique outdoor activities are plentiful in Pure Michigan. These activities not only  “connect children with nature,” but exercises their “ability to think critically and solve problems.”


There are seven categories of activities including ones that involve walking in the forest, exploring around your home, checking out a local park, and even discovering things in your own backyard. An activity with a technology component is “Teaching with i-Tree,” complete with downloadable apps. “An activity series focused on the many services trees provide to local ecosystems.” One exercise challenges “kids to calculate a dollar value of trees in their communities.” 

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While the DNR projects focus on things outdoors, on blustery days there may be something kids can do indoors. Admittedly, parents will have to be a bit creative on this one, sort of a invent-it-yourself activity. To wit, send kids on a quest to inventory the “stuff” in your house. 


What brings this activity to mind is a recent report in the Scientific American. “Researchers found that human-made mass has doubled every twenty years since 1900. Human-made objects may now outweigh all of the living beings on Earth. Roads, houses, shopping malls, fishing vessels, printer paper, coffee mugs, smartphones and all the other infrastructure of daily life now weigh in at approximately 1.1 trillion metric tons—equal to the combined dry weight of all plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, archaea and protists on the planet. The amount of new stuff being produced every week is equivalent to the average body weight of all 7.7 billion people.” 


That's a lot of “stuff.” It might be interesting for your kids to figure out the weight of all the stuff in your house. How many relatives would you have to cram into your abode to balance out the poundage? (


With all the calculations going on, there will obviously be a need for something to power it all. This is where the more “senior kids” in your family come into the picture. See, everyone knows about the Ten Commandments, but few people are aware of the Eleventh Commandment. This is because that commandment only applies to grandfathers. It goes: “Thou shalt haveth batteries of every variety available at all timeseth.” Okay, so that may not be an actual commandment, but I'm pretty sure it's in the Constitution somewhere or at least in the bylaws of the Grandpa Union.


Nevertheless, it's a critically important job because on Christmas morning no one ever  knows in which junk drawers batteries are hiding (or if there is even a loose one in the whole house). New toys run better on fresh batteries than on ones stolen from the TV remote. 


You can avoid this problem by making sure every grandpa is in possession of a battery organizer. There are several varieties of these, but the one I have is a “ZeroDark Battery Organizer & Tester.” This is essentially a tray that displays my battery inventory. I always know where, how many, and what varieties of batteries I have. Also, when to replenish the stock. “This unique system holds up to 110 batteries and is a battery organizer. Each battery has its own designated space: AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, and small batteries. The handy digital battery tester accurately displays the residual voltage.” Organizers like these are available at local stores and online, so every grandpa can be a battery hero. (


Finally, remember that there is a special Neff Zone Holidays webpage at: You might want to check out the Elf Name Generator. “This Christmas elf name generator will give kids a unique name based on the personality trait they choose. Select one of the following personality types: sweet, sassy or silly. Once your kiddos select an elf name they like, they can print out name tags and wear them around the house.” I tried this and my name came out as “Wonky Sparklepants.” 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and