Why we stock two summer essentials

A slew of grands were coming and we were out. Completely out. Not sunscreen. Not bug spray. Ice cream.

And I call myself a grandma.

You don’t go to Grandma’s on a hot day, fan yourself in her freezer and not see ice cream. A grandma could be stripped of her title.

Just like that, life turns on a dime. Or an ice cream sandwich.

The last time some of them came and the freezer was empty, one of them looked at me in bewilderment, her expression slowly morphing to a smile of pity. The look said, “When was the last time that woman was credentialed?” and “Isn’t there a grandma refresher course she could take?”

My parents were legen-dairy. They always had three kinds of ice cream in the freezer for grandkids and boasted of an open-door policy. The kid who enjoyed all that ice cream the most, is now lactose intolerant. She can no longer eat ice cream, but at least she has fond memories of ice cream.

The husband, “any time is a good time for ice cream,” is the one who never disappoints. He considers Hershey’s syrup a staple. You think the man isn’t popular? The grands follow him like the Pied Piper. Hershey’s syrup is the way to win devotion and wield influence. Politicians should try it—a  Hershey’s syrup giveaway funded by federal money. (Your money.)

By the way, I don’t cone-done that behavior.

I don’t cone-done ants in the house either, which is why I make the kids eat ice cream outside. That’s what I’ll be remembered for—yelling: “Take that mess outside!”

There really are green beans behind all this junk food. They have frost on them, but they’re there!

Meanwhile, the Pied Piper is holding the door open squirting chocolate syrup into their mouths as they file out the door.

Watching kids eat ice cream gives you a window into their personalities.

The ones who smash ice cream with the back of a spoon, squish it against the side of the bowl and turn it into soup, are the same ones who consider kicking dirty clothes under the bed as “cleaning up.”

Kids who layer toppings deliberately, or are particular about the even distribution of sprinkles, have perfectionist tendencies and are the ones with building and engineering bents.

Naturally, there are wild variations even within the same gene pool. Two grands who are sisters, ages 6 and 3, have diametrically different approaches to the fudge pop.

The 6-year-old cajoles the fudge pop, lapping it neatly and methodically, slowly turning it as it vanishes into thin air. There is not the slightest bit of evidence she ever held one in her hand. Even the wooden stick has disappeared. Maybe she ate that, too.

Her 3-year-old sister approaches a fudge pop like a full-body contact sport. She attacks wildly, smearing ice cream on her forehead, cheeks and chin, throughout her hair, up and down both arms and all over her clothes. She gets more on her than she gets in her.

All of which brings us to the second summer essential to always have on hand: a wand attachment with a spray setting for the garden hose.


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Top reasons to panic over Brood X cicadas

For months I have been hearing about the Brood X singing cicadas that will be coming to a tree near me. I’d rather they go to a bar near me and sing on Karaoke night, but I have little say in such matters.

Besides, they are not coming—they have arrived.

Stephen Walker / Unsplash

I was in the garden recently saying a few words over the two-inch stub that remained from a beautiful 5-foot purple clematis. If I catch the rabbits that destroyed the clematis, I will say a few words over them, too. They will not be kind words.

Wrapping chicken wire around the paltry remains of the clematis, I noticed small holes in the hardened ground nearby. The cicada nymphs had begun to emerge.

I’m a mature grown-up. I’m not going to panic over an invasion of millions (perhaps billions) of cicadas and run screaming toward the house.

I walked briskly and sobbed softly.

Safe in the house, windows shut, doors barricaded, I calmly reviewed what I know to be true about cicadas, drew a line down the middle of a yellow legal tablet and labeled one side “Reason to Panic” and the other “Reason Not to Panic.”

The first Reason Not to Panic is that insect experts unanimously agree Brood X prefers heavily wooded areas.

Reason to Panic: We live in a heavily wooded area.

Reason Not to Panic: People think they are called Brood X because of their size, but they are Brood X because it will be the tenth time scientists will have observed the 17-year cicadas.

Reason to Panic: X may indicate a Roman numeral, not shirt size, but the locusts  have a 3-inch wingspan and are 2.5 inches long, which in the insect world makes them an XXXL.

Reason Not to Panic: Brood X loves to sing and will provide music around the clock.

Reason to Panic: A 4-year-old grand who said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a singing cicada in the house?”

Yet another Reason to Panic: They may be so thick in some places that they drop from trees, land on humans and cover outdoor surfaces. Clearly, Brood X does not practice social distancing.

Reason Not to Panic:  We have a leaf blower.

Perhaps the greatest reason to not panic is that (almost) everyone in our family enjoys cicada shells. Last year, the grands wore them on their shirts, in their hair and parked them on their noses. One of our grown daughters, married, mother of three, seemingly rational and sane, picked up a locust shell, dipped it in ketchup and pretended to eat it.

Reason to Panic: The family is loosely wrapped.

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Don’t kid around, this is a bad idea

Facebook has been toying with plans for Instagram for children, declaring it would be a “parent-controlled experience” allowing kids to keep up with friends. Just the “experience” every busy parent is clamoring for, another online arena to monitor.

If you believe Mark Zuckerberg’s $114 billion fortune revolves around the best interests of parents and children, I have some asbestos to sell you.

The truth is, Facebook is considering a platform for children because kids are one of their few untapped markets and every entrepreneur knows that the earlier you establish brand loyalty, the greater the chances of having a consumer for life.


Naturally, a platform for children would come with the same dangers of platforms for adults—personal data leaks, sexual predators lurking, and long-lasting loss of privacy, often accompanied by long-lasting regret. All the aforementioned are why Facebook has previously prohibited anyone under 13 from opening an account. But now, they’re rethinking things.

So should we.

Is it healthy for 7-year-olds to be posting selfies?

How does an 8-year-old process an online snub or outright ridicule?

Will children post pictures of peanut butter sandwiches cut into the shape of hearts or go directly for the political jugular?

If parents post pictures of kids without permission, will kids post pictures of parents without permission?

Shortly after the death of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, a reporter who had interviewed him wrote a thoughtful retrospective. He recalled asking Jobs what his kids thought of the iPad after it had been released. The reporter was surprised when Jobs answered, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

A number of chief technology executives have expressed similar opinions. A developer in the early days of Facebook has even expressed remorse for helping create the dopamine effect of the platform that keeps users coming back and wanting more.

Maybe children have all the platforms they need.

The great outdoors is a platform for exploration, adventure and discovery. Birds are laying eggs in nests; butterflies are fluttering and the cicadas are coming.

Gardening could be your platform; you never know until you try. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot about squirrels and rabbits.

Sidewalks are a solid platform for bicycles, scooters, skates, chalking, dog-walking and lemonade stands.

Most every home has a shelf or box jammed with craft supplies—paper, markers, paints, scissors and glue sticks. The platform is imagination. Go for it.

Books are a platform for time travel. Have a good trip.

Games can be platforms for developing logic, strategy and an acumen for property development.

Our kids were not allowed to say they were bored when they were young. If they couldn’t find something to do themselves, I would find something for them. Like cleaning the bathroom.

Our youngest was in fourth grade when she had a friend over. The friend wandered into the kitchen, heaved a sigh and said, “We don’t know what to do. We’re —” Our daughter quickly put her hand over her friend’s mouth and said, “You don’t ever say you’re bored around our mom.”

Now go find your platform.

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What to say when a duck dies

Our wilderness wing of the family acquired four ducklings in an effort to expand their menagerie, which to date consists of a mouser cat built like an NFL linebacker, an extremely energetic black lab that in mellow moods doubles as a pillow for the little ones and a lop eared rabbit given free range as it is litter box trained.

Theoretically, the rabbit is trained.

I don’t argue with theory; I just watch where I step.

A flurry of activity made way for ducklings. First came building a duck house, a simple wooden structure surrounded by aging black hickory trees nestled near the edge of the pond. The duck house features a welcoming front porch, an eastern exposure to the morning sun and a roof that catches the pitter patter of rain. It is a miniature of the lake house of my dreams, although the lake house of my dreams is not surrounded by muck and mud where one false step sucks the boots plumb off your feet.

In any case, the idea behind the duck house is to give the ducks a place to roost and shelter from predators—and I would include the rambunctious black lab in that group.

The Cayuga ducklings arrived only days after hatching, four irresistible puff balls of brown down that will eventually turn a striking greenish black. They stayed in a box at first, then were promoted to the bathtub. They zipped the length of the tub back and forth like Olympic contenders madly racing for the gold.

Everyone who saw them thought to themselves, “You know, ducklings in the bathtub would be a nice addition at our place, too.” No one admitted it aloud, but we all harbored duck envy.

Several days later, cold and nasty weather circled back and we received a photo of one of the boys sitting in a chair, reading a book, a duck cuddled to his chest.

Oh, to be that boy. Or even to be that duck.

Sadly, on the Sunday morning after the ducks arrived, we received word that the tiniest one had died.

Several days later, I had a video call from our son and their youngest daughter, who just turned three. I tactfully said that I was sorry to hear one of the ducklings had passed.

“What do you mean passed?” our son asked.

“I’m trying to be sensitive to young ears present,” I said, nodding toward the towhead swaying in the hammock with him.

“The duck died,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Da duck died,” the little one said, echoing her daddy.

They both shot me looks of pity.

“OK, fine!” I snapped. “The duck died!”


The toddler batted her long eyelashes and softly said, “We put da duck in a hole.”

And to think I was trying to shield her. It is probably better that she is exposed to the hard edges of life now, rather than grow up shielded, overprotected, and be taken by surprise when she is an adult.

She said it well: Da duck died.

Grandma was taking it hard.

I will try to toughen up before their baby chicks arrive.

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Cool tip for remembering Mother’s Day

There are always a few taken by surprise by Mother’s Day. Or at least they claim to be taken by surprise.

“Mother’s Day, again? Seems like we just had it.”

We did. A year ago.

“That thing sure moves around on the calendar, doesn’t it?”

No, Mother’s Day does not move around. Easter moves around, Christmas moves around, New Year’s Day moves around, but Mother’s Day is always the second Sunday in May.

Here’s a tip for remembering that: The second Sunday in May is also the time you can set out cold sensitive plants where we live because it is considered the last “frost date.”

That is what your mother will be if you fail to acknowledge her on Mother’s Day.


Royally frosted.

Frosted flake frosted.

This year may be an especially good year to recognize Mom as there are murmurings about using the title “Mom” less and “Parent” more.

Happy Parent’s Day!

I didn’t think so.

“Mom” has been the moniker of choice for thousands of years. “Parent” is unlikely to grab hold on a widespread basis.

“Momma!” is what toddlers instinctively cry when they need the one who makes them feel safe and secure.

“Muh-ther” is what kids huff in exasperation when told “no” once again.

“Mom” is the one you call with good news about a job, a milestone, or your baby’s first tooth.

“I love you, Mom,” is what you whisper to yourself over and over as she is lowered into the grave.

Mother is a name of honor. It’s a term of love and endearment earned through morning sickness, colic, potty training, medical emergencies, calls from the school, financial strain, lack of sleep, days that are too short, waits that are too long, the big launch and the empty nest-with countless joys, lots of laughter and tender moments woven in between.

If you believe your mother may have fallen short in some areas, congratulations. You have discovered that mothers are human. That said, most mothers have been battle-tested. You don’t strip an honorable veteran of a well-earned title.

If you’re wondering if a gift is necessary this year, one of our grands may have already answered the question. She overheard us talking about getting Personalized Mother’s Day Gifts and other plans, and she immediately sat up straight, eyes twinkling, and confidently proclaimed, “I don’t need to get my mom a gift for Mother’s Day – I AM the gift!

“Every mom already has her gifts!” she exclaimed, giggling. “Her kids!”

I think she’ll be able to pull it off. You could try it too, but you’re probably not 6.

If you haven’t talked to your mom lately, a call only takes a couple of minutes. Why not? She gave you years.

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