Friday, January 22, 2016

"Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

What American, of every age group, has not seen that million-dollar game show and thought, "I do! I want to be a millionaire!"? This past week, with the lottery causing such a stir, I was reminded of a book I read to my kids years ago when I was trying to explain the concept of a million. The book, of course, does a great job, although I'm still not sure my mind has the capacity to fully wrap itself around that number. One morning, I went to the attic to put away some boxes and there it was, sitting on top of a stack of children's books I had intended to give to my grandson. How Much is a Million? by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by Steven Kellogg.

I met the author, David Schwartz, at a writer's conference two years ago in Houma, Louisiana. I went to this conference totally unaware of the speakers and fully expecting everything to be focused on writing for grownups. (In other words, since I write for children I went on this trip just to be with my friends--never expecting to learn anything useful to me.) Then I walked into that library and saw David's display. I was so excited! I kept kicking myself--if I had known he was one of the featured speakers, I would have brought my copy of his book for him to autograph. He gave a remarkable presentation, linking math with reading. I'm a true believer in interdisciplinary instruction--showing kids the natural connections between subject areas and teaching thematically when possible. Needless to say, I not only learned something new, I came away from that conference inspired to write better stories.

A month later I attended a conference in Commerce, Texas, where Steven Kellogg was the keynote speaker. I couldn't believe my good luck! I had met Steven Kellogg years before and to see him again was a real treat. Together, David Schwartz and Steven Kellogg have written and illustrated a winner--and everyone loves a winner! I highly recommend that you get a copy of this book and have a great discussion with your kiddos about large numbers. Since our National Debt is now in the trillions, it wouldn't hurt for the adults to take a gander either! David has provided a fascinating discussion at the back of the book sharing how he came up with the calculations used in his story. It is a very thought-provoking and fun read, plus the illustrations help to clarify visually a very abstract topic. And for fun, you can always whip up a couple of million dollar recipes with your children. Nothing says "math and science" like cooking. I immediately thought of my mother's recipe for Million Dollar Pie. (Hey, books always make me think of food!) I have no idea how this recipe got its name, but Mama loved to make it because it was not only good, it was easy.  (If any of you know the story behind this pie, please share it with us.)

Mama's Million Dollar Pie

1 (20-oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. lemon juice (I substituted orange juice--and it tasted great!)
1/2 c. chopped pecans (I used walnuts because I was out of pecans!)
1 large container of whipped topping
2 pre-baked pie crust (You could also use two store-bought graham cracker pie crusts)

Directions: Mix the first four ingredients together, then fold in whipped topping, taking care not to "whip" it as that will take away the "lift" this pie needs. Pour into two baked pie crusts and refrigerate until firm. (NOTE: To continue the Mardi Gras celebration, sprinkle stripes of yellow, green and purple colored sugar on top of cooled pie!)

Here is a picture of my version: 

But the story doesn't end here!

Yesterday, as I was cleaning out some files, I came across a recipe sent to me in 2008 by a dear family friend, Lewis Shell. Lewis had been doing some research on Mamie Eisenhower, the wife of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, (who was the first president I can actually remember) when he found this recipe. He credits Wikipedia as the source for Mamie Eisenhower's Million Dollar Fudge. When I went to Wikipedia and searched for Mamie, I found this link for the recipe:'s_Million_Dollar_Fudge.pdf
It is delicious and well worth a try. Of course, eating too much pie and decadent fudge could result in having to pay a dentist MILLIONS of dollars. And since I have diabetes, I have to be oh, so careful. But a tiny taste shouldn't hurt the waistline, gum line or blood line--at least that's what I'm telling myself. The key is all things in moderation, right? Besides, anything that contains milk and nuts must be okay. And, of course, all girls know that chocolate is therapeutic, don't they?

I'm sure if you look around your life you will find other examples that will help explain difficult concepts such as How Much is a Million to your kiddos. Just keep your eyes open for all the possibilities--and don't forget to share your findings with the rest of us. Remember, we may not have a million dollar bank account (although all Americans share in the trillion dollar debt), but we are rich in many ways. Take some time with your kiddos to count those blessings today. If they aren't in the millions, I'll bet it seems like they are when you make a list.

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