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GOING BUGGY

We have bugs.

They’re all over the place. A grasshopper in the kitchen. A beetle in the living room. A fly in the playroom. Even a moth in the freezer.

It does not please me that we have so many, but I want my daughter to get a good education. Her grade on her Science project depends on it, so we have bugs—temporarily.

And we are actively recruiting more bugs, preferably ones we’ve never seen before. The bigger the better. She’s hoping to find one of those giant cockroaches that hisses. If she does, I’m calling our realtor. I can have the house packed in 48 hours.

Each time she finds a new bug, she catches it in an empty peanut butter jar. She observes it for a few minutes then hastens its demise by adding a cotton ball soaked with a few drops of acetone to the jar. It doesn’t take long. She likes to do play-by-play of the dying process for me, usually while I’m around food. Her favorite part is when the bug is lying on its back, signaling with one leg that the end is near with periodic twitches.

My husband and son have gotten into the act as well. They help her find and catch creepy-crawly things, watch them die with her, and threaten to send me into a bona-fide mental breakdown by tossing the creatures onto my lap. It would only take one.

I hate bugs. That’s why I keep the sugar in a canister with an air-tight seal and don’t allow candy stashes in the bedrooms. That’s why I was especially upset the other night when my husband presented my daughter with a prize he’d caught while she was at school.

“Cool!” she said, turning the jar to get a better look. “Where’d you get it?”

My husband smiled, obviously pleased with himself. “It’s one of those bugs that lives in the basement.”

My head whipped around. “What do you mean by ‘lives in the basement?’”

He cocked his head as if my question were a silly one. “That’s one of those bugs that lives in the basement,” he repeated.

“I wasn’t aware we had any bugs living in the basement.”

“Everyone has bugs in their basement.”

This was news to me. News I haven’t gotten over. And now, not only am I aware of the phantom bugs I’ve never seen that I’m told live and breed in our basement, but every day I’m confronted with the assortment of dead bugs we have on display in peanut butter jars all over the house.

Creepy. I’d prefer a good book report any day.

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CLIMB ON

     The other day I was helping a five-year-old boy learn to tie his shoes. He kept telling me how hard it was so I encouraged him to keep practicing. “Don’t give up,” I told him. “You can do it if you don’t quit,” I said over and over. Every time I followed one of his mistakes with one of my encouraging comments, he looked at me like I was forcing him up Mt. Everest with a whip.

     Fortunately, I’d been through the torture of learning how to tie shoes before, both as the learner and the teacher. I remembered learning to tie my own shoes, despite the criticism of peers who had already mastered the skill. It was hard, but I learned. And it wasn’t too many years ago that my own children clawed their way up that mountain. We had a few squabbles and ended up putting the shoes in the closet for a while. At times, I was tempted to give up and buy the children slip-ons, but we got through it.

     As I watched this kid fumbling with his shoe laces, I felt guilty. Maybe I’d pushed him too hard. Expected too much. He’d only been in kindergarten a few weeks. Most kids his age would be in tears by now. Should I tell him to take a break? Go play? He had plenty of time to–  He tapped me on the arm and pointed at his feet. His smile told me the news before I saw the bows on his laces.

     “I did it!” he yelled. We exchanged high-fives.

     I think this boy will go far. Already, at the tender age of five, he’s learned a deeper lesson than how to tie his shoes. He learned that the view from the top of the mountain is worth every inch of the climb.

What mountain are you climbing at the moment?