Some of the hardest moments as a parent seem to happen when we are at our most exhausted.
In our house, that’s exactly what happened during the dreaded “Lightbulb Disaster of 2019.” We had just arrived home after evening haircut appointments and everyone was tired and hungry. I told the boys to get inside and get ready for supper. The usual bickering ensued, but I ignored it.
My youngest had kicked his shoe off in the coat closet and it had swung up and hit the lightbulb. Glass rained down everywhere on all the coats, shoes and sports equipment. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt him.
With a groan, I sent the kids outside to play while I cleaned up the mess. Then I remembered some old, high-efficiency lightbulbs have mercury in them. Most of ours had been replaced with the newer LED bulbs, but not all. I pushed down a feeling of dread as I searched the base of the broken lightbulb, praying I wouldn’t see the words “contains mercury” or “Hg,” mercury’s chemical symbol.
My heart sank when I saw it. This lightbulb was indeed one of the old ones that contained mercury. I quickly turned off the air conditioner and opened the windows. These were safety steps I remembered from years ago when we’d broken a lightbulb.
Then I started to pick up the larger broken bits of glass. That was my first mistake. As I learned later when I called Poison Control, I should have left the area for 10 to 15 minutes before I began cleanup.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to use a vacuum because that could disperse the mercury in the air. So I grabbed my broom. That was my second mistake. The bristles of my broom could spread the mercury. Instead, I should have used something like cardboard to brush the larger pieces into a dustpan. Then used a damp, disposable towel to wipe up the rest.
I thought I knew what I was doing, but the next part stumped me. What should I do with all the coats and shoes that had taken a direct hit from the glass of the lightbulb? It seemed logical to put them through the washing machine, so I gathered them in a laundry basket and threw the first load in to wash.
Later, once the kids were fed and put to bed, I started looking online to see if I needed to wash the coats and shoes twice or use any certain detergent to get the mercury off. On the web, I found a wide range of advice. Some sites said a lightbulb contains no more mercury than a can of tuna. Other sites said I needed to cut out the carpet where the glass had fallen and throw it away. How should I know what to believe? I decided it was time to turn to the experts at Poison Control.
So I dialed 1-800-222-1222 and the very nice man at Poison Control told me I would need to throw away everything in the coat closet. Plus, because I’d put a load in the washing machine, I’d need to throw that away, too.
I was shocked. It all seemed a little extreme for a broken lightbulb, but I was no expert. If that’s what it took to keep my family safe, I’d do it.
The man at Poison Control did admit their protocols were geared more toward a broken mercury thermometer than a lightbulb and suggested I call the Nebraska Mercury Hotline during regular business hours to get more specific advice on what to do. I didn’t even know we had a Mercury Hotline in Nebraska, but I was glad there was still hope for my washing machine.
Following Poison Control’s instructions for the night, I set everything that had been in the closet outside at least five feet from any open doors or windows until I could get a hold of the Mercury Hotline.
The next morning, I dialed up the hotline (1-402-326-0231) and, to my great relief, the expert there assured me I didn’t have to throw everything away.
Every situation is different, he said, but in our case I could wash everything twice and hang it outside to dry. He told me anything with a hard surface should be wiped down along with the walls and floor in the room. When I was done, I needed to carefully wipe down my washing machine as well.
I followed his instructions to the letter and then called it good. But I think the most important question still remains. Why on earth would we have something that could be so potentially dangerous in our house if we didn’t need to? New technology has given us safer options.
So I did a search for all the mercury lightbulbs in our home and carefully replaced them with LED high efficiency lightbulbs. Now I’m hopeful this never happens again!
Jenni DeWitt is married and has two sons, the youngest of whom battled childhood leukemia — and won. Jenni writes weekly for Momaha.com. She is the author of “Forty Days” and “Why Won’t God Talk to Me?” You can read more about Jenni here.
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“Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family” is the newest exhibit at the Durham Museum, 801 St. 10th St. The exhibit opens Saturday and will run through Sept. 1. The exhibit will showcase the newly-revised tyrannosaur family tree and show how the group became the world’s top predators. The exhibit will feature more than 10 life-sized dinosaur specimens. More.
Grab the towels, sunscreen and inflatable toys because many pools, aquatic centers and splash pads are open for the season. Check out a list of area pools and splash pads here.
Come explore scientific concepts like trajectory projection, force and motion through the use of stomp rockets Thursday from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Sorensen Library, 4808 Cass St. The program is limited to teens in sixth through 12th grade. More.
The 45th annual Summer Arts Festival will take place in north downtown Omaha on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The festival will feature more than 130 visual artists and a stage of multicultural musical performances. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be a hands-on Children's Fair. There will also be food vendors. The Summer Arts Festival is a free event and will take place at a new location — alongside the baseball park on Mike Fahey Street between 10th and 14th Streets. More.
Come to the Florence Mill Farmers Market Sunday to shop local produce, do some crafts, bubbles and have some country school fun. The morning music will be performed by Dale Thornton and he invites kids up to sing karaoke. Afternoon music will be Ring of Flutes. This week’s Country School guest are some alpacas. Come feed and hear them hum. The fun goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. More.
Come to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St., Saturday for World Oceans Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Learn how your everyday actions impact inhabitants of the world’s oceans. More.
Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will host a special kids’ fishing event Saturday and Sunday. The event will include catch-and-release ponds, fishing seminars, giveaways and crafts. Bass Pro Shops is located at 2901 Bass Pro Drive in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Cabela’s is at 12703 Westport Parkway in La Vista. More.
Kids can learn about how digestion works during STEM: Digestion Investigation Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Willa Cather Library, 1905 S. 44th St. Kids in third through sixth grade will dissect an owl pellet and determine what the owl ate and how it digests its food. Registration is required. More.
The Millard Airport is hosting its second annual Fly-In Breakfast and Aviation STEM Day on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. There’s no admission to attend the event, but breakfast is $7 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger. This kid-centered event is designed to show children the diverse possibilities within aviation, including professional and recreational opportunity for flight, maintenance, avionics, aeromedical, drones, airport management and more. The Millard Airport is at 12916 Millard Airport Plaza. More.
The Union Pacific Museum, 200 Pearl St. in Council Bluffs, will host a family night Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. During the event, which is free, enjoy an evening of games, a storytime, a sidewalk chalk party, ice cream and more. Plus, learn how to have your safest and best summer yet. The event is free and open to the public. More.
Test your driving skills using a variety of Sphero robots during robot tag Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Abrahams Library, 5111 N. 90th St. Snacks and drinks will be provided. The event is for kids ages 12 to 18. More.
Come to Carter Lake on Saturday, for a parade, family fun, fireworks and much more.
The community celebration will be held Friday through Sunday, and will include a parade, a family festival, hot air balloon rides, fireworks and more. The parade will take place Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on Main Street. More.
Come have some summer fan and learn about birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians during Joslyn Castle’s Summer Fun Series. The free event, which is presented in partnership with Papio-Missouri River National Resources District, will take place on Thursday in June at 6:30 p.m. This Thursday’s topic will be about birds (“Taloned Teachers”). It’s perfect for the entire family and will include hands-on activities. More.
Bennington Daze will take place Friday through Sunday. The event will include food, games, a street dance and a parade. More.
Celebrate National Doughnut Day on Friday at the following locations: At Dunkin Donuts, get a free doughnut with any beverage purchase. Find Dunkin Donuts locations here. At Krispy Kreme, get a free doughnut of any variety while supplies last. To find Krispy Kreme locations, click here. Visit LaMar's Donuts at 17202 Audrey St. and get a free glazed doughnut.
Regency Court will host a kid’s Funfare Thursday at 10 a.m. The event will feature the Omaha Children’s Museum: The Tinker Box in Center Court. Regency Court is located at 120 Regency Parkway. More.
Curious George will visit the Willa Cather Library on Saturday from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Come listen to a story and then take a photo with him. More.
The four-day festival will take place Thursday through Sunday and will include Taste of Blair, a parade, a craft fair, a carnival and much more.
The two-day festival on Friday and Saturday will include a parade, a free family dance and karaoke, a hotdog feed, an outdoor movie, vendors, games, fireworks, a parade and more. The parade will take place Saturday at 2 p.m. on Main Street in Springfield, Nebraska. More.
Omaha is home to more than 200 parks, and many include playgrounds, trails and other attractions. Check out the list here, and explore a new park with your kids.
The Omaha metro area has several indoor play areas for families to enjoy. They include Pump It Up, Backyard Playworld and BounceU in Omaha, and Jumpin Jax in Papillion. Oak View Mall and Westroads Mall also have fun indoor play areas. Check out Approach Climbing Gym at 4923 S. 72nd St. It offers day passes, instructional classes, youth programs and more. Several local gymnastic places also have open gym time, including Metro Stars Gymnastics, Premier Gymnastics, Airborne Academy, Go! Kids Gym and Kid's Body Shop. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 W. Park Highway in Ashland, Nebraska, features an on-site indoor activity center.
Take an afternoon to go roller skating with your kids. You can laugh at each other while you fall down again and again. Check out Skate City, 1220 S. Fort Crook Road in Bellevue.
Do Space, Omaha's community tech space, is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Plus it's free. Check out five things to do at Do Space here.
There are tons of organizations that host weekday and weekend storytimes.
Join the Omaha Public Library at Lauritzen Gardens on Friday for stories that celebrate gardens, plants, insects and more. Kids will also discover the joys of nature, movement, music and literature. The event is geared toward preschool-aged kids, but all ages are welcome. The program is free. Lauritzen Gardens is at 100 Bancroft St. Register here. Other storytimes include Barnes and Noble (Oak View and Crossroads), Pottery Barn Kids, Leader Reader at the Omaha Children's Museum, the Omaha Public Library branches, the Gretna Public Library, the Bellevue Public Library, the La Vista Public Library, the Sump Memorial Library in Papillion, the Baright Public Library in Ralston and the Plattsmouth Public Library.
Are your kids animal lovers? If so, there are several ways they can help the animals at the Nebraska Humane Society, including reading to them during adoption hours. Check out more fun ways here.
The Omaha, Bellevue and Council Bluffs Public Libraries are currently offering free day passes to Fontenelle Forest. Each pass admits two adults and children from their household. More information can be found at each library.
Community centers offer something for every member of your family — from infants to senior citizens. For a full list of community centers, click here.
Several area organizations host craft time for children every weekend. Kids can create a free craft Saturday at Lakeshore Learning Store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Finally, kids 3 and older can make paper flowers for mom Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon with the Michaels Kids Club. Sign up online or drop in. The cost ranges from $2 to $5 per project, supplies included.
The Ralston Arena offers public ice skating for $5, with free ice skate rental. The Motto McLean Ice Arena inside Hitchcock Park near 45th and Q Streets offers Family Skate time Sunday from 4 to 6:15 p.m.
We put together a list of must-see spots across the state. How many of these destinations can you cross off your Cornhusker bucket list?