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In the Middle

 Recently, a friend said that she has an older sister and younger brother and as a middle child she struggled to find her place in her family.  I thought of one of my Grands.  Annabel is one of five and she’s smack dab in the middle:  boy, girl, girl, girl, boy.  My friend shook her head and said, “And I thought I had it tough!”           

Those who study family dynamics acknowledge that birth order can affect a person’s personality and I saw some of the stereotypical traits while teaching elementary age students.  First-borns tended to be perfectionists and had three sharpened pencils; the youngest felt entitled and searched for a pencil.  Middle-born children were usually flexible, sociable, peacemakers, creative, and liked to try something new or different, even colored pencils.

             Middle Child Day is August 12, but I can’t wait until August to celebrate middles because Annabel is celebrating her birthday this week.  She showed her middleness when she and I talked about her birthday gift. I suggested that Husband and I give her an experience – not a wrapped-in-a-box gift – and offered two things I knew she liked to do.  She didn’t smile or show a positive response. “Tell me why those aren’t good ideas,” I said.

            “Because I’ve already done both of those,” my Grand said.  So, we have talked about a day at a museum and lunch at a restaurant where she’s never eaten.  But we might, in her words, “do something we haven’t thought of yet.”   

            If you have a middle in your life – friend or family member – you know that they made life a bit more fun.  Maybe you’ve accompanied a group of children on a field trip. While most walk calmly on the sidewalk, the middles likely dance, hop and twirl.  An older middle is often the life of the party, the one who tells jokes and pries the wallflowers from the wall.

            Middles are peacemakers and pleasers.  When a group can’t agree on a restaurant, a middle suggests somewhere that everyone will like.  Middles survey the situation and offer ideas for a decision that all can accept. 

            Middles’ need for independence and to fit in can be strengths, but are sometimes seen as problems. Young middles might misbehave and demand their way to get their parents’ attention.  Yet, as they get older, they are sociable and have a need for friends, often labeled as the family’s ‘Social Butterfly.’ 

            Being a middle child can be tough. Middles are younger siblings, but also older ones, and they can be overshadowed by their siblings.  Dr. Kevin Leman wrote in his book, The Birth Order Book, that middle children are tenacious adults because they learn that life isn’t fair so they are more adaptable and value compromise.

            Obviously, birth order is only one possible factor that determines a person’s personality, but most adult middle children say being stuck in the middle wasn’t easy.  And that’s all the more reason to celebrate my Grand’s birthday.


It’s Girl Scout Cookie Time

“Hi, Pop and Gran. Do you want to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” Our Grand tilted her head, raised her eyebrows and grinned, across many miles as we visited using FaceTime. Of course, Husband and I wanted to buy cookies.  In fact, if our 7-year-old Grand had offered sawdust patties, we’d have been happy to buy some.

            Ann held a colorful brochure in front of her computer camera and named thirteen cookie varieties available this year.  “You’ll probably want the Raspberry Rally.  It’s new this year.” Thirteen varieties!  Thankfully, our favorites are still available: Peanut Butter Tagalongs and Trefoils.   

             “Do you want to know how many are in a box?” Ann held the brochure ready to read, but we didn’t need that information. 

            “Do you want to know about Raspberry Rally? It’s really good. I tasted it at the Cookie Sales Rally. You have to buy it online.  I can’t sell it.”  Since our Grand couldn’t order it, we had an easy out. And who’d want to eat a raspberry flavored cookie when a peanut butter and chocolate Tagalong is a choice?

            Husband and I listened as Ann described each cookie and then we ordered our favorites.

            “How do you want to pay?  Credit card or cash?”  Our Grand had been well trained. 

            Girl Scout cookies have come a long way since the first sales in 1917 when the cookies were baked in homes by Oklahoma troop members and their moms to pay for a troop activity. 

            Five years later, The American Girl magazine, published by the Girl Scouts of the USA included a recipe and suggested that cookies be baked at home and sold for twenty-five to thirty cents per dozen.   Throughout the 1920s, Girl Scouts across the country baked sugar cookies, packaged them in wax paper bags and sold them door-to-door. That century-old recipe inspired Trefoils, the iconic shortbread cookies.

            In 1936, the national Girl Scout organization licensed commercial bakers to produce cookies, using traditional recipes, and cookies were sold nationwide.  Today, two commercial bakers produce the cookies -over 200 million boxes in 2022.

            In the 1950s, local Girl Scout troops set up tables on sidewalks in front of shopping malls for Saturday cookie sales, a tradition that continues.  Fast forward to 2014, cookie sales began online, Digital Cookie® and was deemed a successful program for Girl Scouts of the 21st century. 

            Until the mid-1980s when I worked for the Cumberland Valley Girl Scout Council, I wondered if all the money earned by children paid the salaries of adults sitting behind desks?   That’s not true. The profits provide programs and activities that are determined by the council members, troop leaders and scout members. 

            Do scout members benefit in ways besides earning money?  Our young Grand showed confidence in her sales pitch and she used math skills to determine how much our order of ten boxes cost.  And she was surprised we didn’t order Thin Mints. “They are the most popular, you know?”

            As I said, my Grand was well-trained.

PS. If anyone tries the Raspberry Rally cookies, let me know if they measure up to Tagalongs.

Something from a Box

“Anything special you want to eat while you visit?” I asked two Grands who planned to stay overnight with Husband and me.

            Annabel tilted her head.  “How about Pop Tarts?”

            “For breakfast?” I asked.  Surely, my 11 and 13-year-old Grands wouldn’t choose something from a box over my pancakes.  I’ve made pancakes for my Grands’ breakfasts for longer than these two are old.

            I was relieved when Lucy said, “No, Gran.  We want pancakes for breakfast.  Pop Tarts can be snack.”  Both girls nodded.  Their blue eyes open wide.  Their blond hair shaking.

            I added Pop Tarts to my grocery list. “What kind?  Strawberry? Cinnamon?”

            “S’mores!  They’re the best!” said Lucy.

            “The ones with frosting,” Annabel added.

            I was stuck in the 1970s, probably the last time I bought Pop Tarts.   “You mean they have marshmallows and chocolate in them?  Doesn’t the frosting melt when they are heated in the toaster?”

            Again, those enthusiastic nods and the girls gave each other a high-five.

            I was shocked by the display of Pop Tarts at Food Lion.  Six feet long and seven shelves!  Obviously, Pop Tarts are a big seller to warrant such a so much space.  After I’d I counted more than twenty flavors, I wondered when Pop Tarts were first on shelves and how many kinds are available.

            In 1963, Kellogg’s chairman, Bill Lamothe, had an idea to make a breakfast toaster-ready rectangle that could go anywhere. He asked the Kellogg’s kitchen crew to ‘create an ingenious hack on toast and jam,’ according to poptarts.com.  The name Pop Tarts was inspired by the Pop Culture movement of the day, which some of us remember.

            When I suggested strawberry or cinnamon to my Grands, I remembered two of the four original flavors: strawberry, blueberry, apple currant, and brown sugar cinnamon. Frosting was added in 1967 and sprinkles in 1968 and by 1973, there were nineteen flavors which seems like enough choices, but the kitchen crew continues to create choices.

            There’s not a flavor list because the production of flavors changes during a calendar year, but there is something for everyone’s taste.  Traditional flavors are still available: strawberry, chocolate, grape, cherry, and cinnamon.  For those more adventurous, try Frosted Boston Creme Donut, Snickerdoodle, Lemon Cream Pie, Cookies and Cream, Red Velvet, or Apple Fritter.

            My Grands and I made a celebration out of our afternoon snack.  Hot chocolate with marshmallows – the more the better.  Warm, lightly toasted delicious S’more Pop Tarts.  

            We talked about real s’mores. “Remember that time in Colorado when we’d couldn’t build a fire to make s’mores?” Annabel asked.

            “It was really windy,” I said.

            “Was that when Mom and Uncle Eric roasted marshmallows over the stove?”  asked Lucy.  That was the time.  We reminisced and laughed. 

Next time, I think we’ll try Frosted Chocolate Fudge – Annabel says they’re better than S’mores.

Since my Grands talked and laughed while eating something from a box, I’ll gladly spend $3.69 for eight Pop Tarts.  Just don’t expect me to serve them for breakfast.

Kids Talk About Banned Books

While driving with four Grands in my van, their discussion about a Harry Potter book made me think of banned books and recent columns my friend, Jennie Ivey, wrote.  So, here’s another column about banned books – this one from my Grands’ perspectives.

            “Have you talked about banned books in school or at home?” I asked. 

            “What’s a band book?” said my 8-year-old Grand. 

To simplify this writing, the children are identified by age.  Because I was concentrating on driving – not writing notes during the conversation or who said what – quotes may not be exact, but are close.

“Gran said banned books.  Not band books.  Banned comes from b-a-n. Ban.” age 15 said.

“So, what’s a ban?” asked 8. 

The 11 and 13-year-olds giggled.  “Ban means to not allow.”

“Like Gran might ban candy and we can’t have any.”

“We can’t have candy!” 8 asked.  Everyone laughed.

“We can have candy,” 15 said. “That was just a way to say what ban means.  A banned book isn’t allowed to be read.”

“Why couldn’t you read a book?” 8 asked.

I tried to explain, “Sometimes people think a book shouldn’t be read because it might be scary or include things that are aren’t real or death. Like “Charlotte’s Web” because animals talk and they die.”

“But that’s just fiction if it’s not real,” 11 said.

“Then I guess “Animal Farm” would definitely be a banned book and not just because animals talk. I read it for school,” said 15. 

“You read it for school so it’s not banned. Right?” asked 11.

Through several questions and explanations, I think everyone understood that a book can be banned from some schools and public libraries, like the Putnam County Library, but not all schools and libraries. “So, we can still buy a banned book or get it online?  If Momma says we can?” Yes and yes.

“Do you know some banned books, Gran?”  13 asked. When I said that Harry Potter books are banned in some places, my Grands reacted and I listened.

“What! That’s crazy. Why?”

“Probably the spells and witches.”

“And the Quidditch games and riding on broom sticks.”

“And Voldemort and all the mean stuff he does.”

“But it’s all pretend. It’s fiction.  Everybody knows that.”

“Maybe some people think it’s real.”

“Why? Nobody rides on broom sticks in the sky to play a game.”

These children have read the Harry Potter books and watched the movies at home with their parents and siblings.  After a few minutes of talk about favorite scenes and who has read which books and seen which movies, the van was quiet. We were almost home.

Thirteen-year-old ended the discussion. “That’s really sad that somebody couldn’t get to read Harry Potter books.  There’s lots of imagination and fun and the books are a whole lot better than the movies.”

Remember that time when…

I sat in the back seat between Granny and my big brother Roger.  Dad drove our family’s 1956 hardtop Dodge, and Mom held a road map as we travelled from Tennessee to Oklahoma the summer I was ten years old. Granny and I sometimes swapped places and I could feel the breeze from the front seat window, rolled down just a few inches, and I’d crack my window enough to blow my ponytail.The reason for this trip was Granny wanted to visit her nephew’s family; it was my family’s only long-distance driving trip with her.  She wore a shirtwaist cotton dress, heavy black shoes and white anklets, and her white hair was cut short – all common for a 71-year-old-woman.  I thought she was old, really old. 

            As we traveled the two-lane highways, Granny and I played the alphabet game and searched for letters printed on billboards and road signs.  We could claim only one letter per sign from A to Z.  It took a long time to spot the end of the alphabet:  V, X, and Z.  Then we spelled words – our full names and random words.  

            Mom gave updates of how many miles to the next town, which might be just a gas station, grocery store and post office. We stopped at roadside parks to eat the picnic lunch Mom had packed.  Sandwiches, chips, cookies, and Cokes, in thick glass bottles. 

             Recently, I rode with Daughter’s family of seven in their ten-passenger van from Winter Park, Colorado to Cookeville, Tennessee.  During the first hour of travel, all eight of us took in the scenery.  Snow on the mountains above the tree line, arrow straight evergreens below, and deep slopes to valleys.  Switchbacks and steep inclines led to Bethoud Pass at 11,307 feet above sea level, then more curves down the mountain toward Denver.

            Son 2 and 17-year-old Grand sat in the front captains’ seats, taking turns as driver and navigator.  Four other Grands sat in their ‘regular’ seats: two-person bench seats, a three-person bench seat, and a jump seat.  During the two days travels, Daughter and I sat beside each Grand.  They had over-the-seat hanging bags filled with craft and drawing items, small toys, and snacks. And each had a device, a ‘screen.’

            Leaving the mountains, I sat beside Lucy, age 11, who stretched her legs across my lap, leaned against her pillow, covered herself with a quilt and listened to a book downloaded on an iPod.  Another Grand listened to music and solved Rubix Cubes.  Two watched a favorite movie for the umpteenth time.  Daughter took in a downloaded podcast.  All had earbuds or headphones.

            Enjoying the quiet, I read a book downloaded on my iPad.  But we weren’t quiet for the entire twenty-one hours trip, when I sat with my Grands we talked, played pencil and paper games, rubbed backs, and cuddled. 

            Maybe my Grands will have happy memories as I do when Granny and I rode side-by-side to Oklahoma.  They might say, “Remember that time Gran rode home with us from Colorado?” 

Helpful Technology Goes Awry, Again

Today’s guest columnist is Daughter Alicia.  After she read my column about my frustration with QR Codes, she shared a recent technology experience at her house.

Background: our laptop has a pesky habit of interrupting on-screen work with a multitude of notifications. It interrupts with no regard of manners or propriety. No doubt, there is a way to stop notifications, but I haven’t done that. 

When it was time for 15-year-old Elsie to take the drivers’ permit test, we learned it could be taken online. Hooray! How convenient!  I registered to become Elsie’s test proctor and jumped through the hoops downloading the TN proctor ID application, and we were good to go.

I welcome a second teen driver. Every time I get behind the wheel, my offspring share much needed tips in the form of side-eyed comments: “Blinker,” “It’s yellow, Mom,” and “Turn here.”   

Elsie had studied diligently; she was ready. Step one: scan a QR code, after my proctor ID app recognizes my face. In the two weeks since I had installed the app, my face must have morphed to a state of non-recognizability. I timed out three times due to ‘security concerns’ for having the wrong face.    

After a live chat with Josh, an online assistant, who verified I was who I said I was, we were admitted to the testing site. I tried to play it cool as my girl was a shade anxious, but I sweated from the effort of being recognized by the wizardry of biometric identity. 

Elsie read the instructions, which told her to not have any web-connected devices nearby and to not open other on-screen windows (presumably to prevent wayward teens from on-the-spot research/cheating/tom

foolery). Ever the rule follower, she put her phone and Apple watch several feet away. She began.

I sat quietly. No hints. No ‘Are you sure?’ mom-interference. About a dozen questions in, an email notification popped onto the computer screen.  To be able to see question behind the pop-up,  Elsie hit the x to delete the notification.

Immediately, the test screen blacked out and words in big red letters appeared: YOU HAVE FAILED.  Surely not. Oh, but yes. “An alternate tab was opened. This is against the rules. This test is marked FAILED.” 

We stared at each other in disbelief. I cannot think of one thing Elsie has ever failed, and to be suspected of cheating – devastating. I was gobsmacked when I realized she FAILED because she closed a notification: ‘You have a new email.’ Good grief.

Elsie buried her head and came out laughing. We laughed until we cried. I don’t know which was worse for my girl: failure or being found guilty of cheating without a jury of peers. She carries the burden of being the oldest daughter who has a rather high self-imposed bar of success.  The next chance to take this test is 24 hours later.  At which point, we’ll load up and head to the good ole Department of Motor Vehicles Office to test in person, just like God and Henry Ford intended.

Curiosity and Determination

When a Grand asks to play our pump organ, I say, “Yes.” And I often say that my grandfather and his two sisters bought the organ about 1915 when they were young adults. 

            “Did one pump and one play?” eight-year-old Micah asked.  I shook my head.  Micah had played our piano and organ since he was a toddler – old enough to reach the keys.  Creating his own melodies, his little hands have run up and down the keyboards, and he learned to play with fingers, not fists. 

            He pumped the organ pedals and played, and like every other time, my Grand declared that you needed strong legs to pump.  When it was my turn, I played ‘Jesus Loves Me’ while Micah sat quietly studying my fingers and the hymnal propped open on the organ.  After I played the last note, he asked, “Gran, how do you know what key to play by looking at that book?” 

             I quickly found Lesson Book – Level 1A that Micah’s big brother and sister had used.  Knowing Samuel and Annabel used the same book made this young Grand throw out his chest. He asked to play the piano so he wouldn’t have to pump. 

            Micah is methodical – before he rides his bike, he puts on his helmet, arm and knee pads, and riding gloves – so when I flipped a few pages to one that showed black notes and finger numbers for ‘Merrily We Roll Along,’ he stopped me.  “Gran, what if I miss something important in the front?” 

            He practiced sitting tall and curving his fingers like a cat’s paw.  We both numbered and wiggled our thumbs and fingers. “Are thumbs always number 1, even in a different book?” Micah bent his thumbs.  What a relief that music books uses the same numbered fingers. 

            We counted quarter, half, and whole notes in a measure. Micah played all the black keys in groups of two; then those in groups of three.  Forty-five minutes after opening the Lesson Book, we turned to ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ and we sang the numbers over the notes: 2343 222 333 222.  (Keys are named as letters in later lessons.)

            Micah put three left-hand fingers on the three black keys below middle C, and I put my index finger over the first note in the lesson book.  “No, Gran. I think I’ve got this,” he said.  And he did.  Maybe because Micah is left-handed, playing with his right hand was more difficult, but he tried over and over to master ‘O’er the Deep Blue Sea.’  

            Micah took home copies of two pages from the lesson book. “I’ll play on our piano.  Everyone will be so surprised!  It’s kinda’ like reading.  When can I play the next page?”  Micah will learn the names of keys and he’ll understand that notes for ‘Jesus Loves Me’ are written on five straight black lines.  My Grand’s curiosity led to learning and his determination to success.  And I got to watch. 

One Night’s Adventures of Ralph S. Mouse

My Grand snuggled beside me on the couch, lay a book on my lap and asked, “Can we finish this book now?”

            I opened to the bookmarked page of Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Clearly and began reading aloud in the middle of a chapter, the top of a page.  Micah nudged me. “Gran, it’s okay, but do you know we’ve already read this?”  It had been three weeks since we last read about Ralph.  How could Micah remember?

            If you have read one of the three Ralph books, you know that Ralph is an unusual mouse.  He had listened to so many children and watched so much television that he learned to talk, and he rode a motorcycle that was propelled by his voice, “pb-pb-b-b.”

            Ralph lived at a hotel where Ryan, the young son of a housekeeper, was his best friend and confidante.  Ralph became frustrated with his cousins because they begged for motorcycle rides and were leaving signs of a mice infiltration at the hotel so he convinced Ryan to take him to school.  Ryan’s classmates discovered Ralph.  He had to escape a maze they created, avoid being seen by the school custodian, and deal with the class bully who smashed Ralph’s motorcycle.

            Micah remembered that we’d read about the motorcycle being destroyed.  As we continued reading, Ralph was given a sports car, a Laser XL7, but it didn’t move by pb-pb-b-b.  Ralph was told that he had to make a sports car noise to make it move.

            “Vroom!!” The car rolled across the floor.  My Grand clapped.  When the car needed to move backwards, Micah read the word much easier that I did, “Moorv.”   Micah said, “Stop!” He ran upstairs, came back, plodded down beside me, and ran his red Hot Wheelssports car along his leg while I read the last pages of Ralph S. Mouse.

            After brushing his teeth, putting on his pajamas, and snuggling under the covers, Micah asked, “Will you tell me a purple cow story?”   A story that I’d make up as I told it.   

            Purple Cow, tired after a day of picking grass in the pasture and playing outside, lay down on the straw covered floor in her barn.  She heard a noise, a squeaking noise.  My Grand grinned and whispered, “It was Ralph.” 

            I continued, “Purple Cow looked around, but she couldn’t see anyone or anything.  She asked, ‘Who’s there?’”

            My Grand raised his hand.  “Stop, Gran. I’ll be Ralph.”  Oh, the conversation between Purple Cow and Ralph!  They talked about what they’d done that day, the places they’d been, and what they liked to eat.  When Purple Cow said it was time to sleep, Ralph asked if she’d forgotten that he was nocturnal.

Purple Cow didn’t understand so Ralph explained the meaning of nocturnal.              In several columns, I’ve written about Heart Tugs, those times when heartstrings tighten and I want to imprint t

Can I Ask You a Question?

Lucy lay in the bathtub completely immersed, except for her face, and hidden under a thick layer of bubbles.  “Gran,” she said, “can I ask you a question?”  This from my 10-year-old Grand who once asked, “Gran, how does a baby get in Mommy’s tummy?”  Who once said, “Don’t you think belly buttons look funny?”  Who often asks riddles. 

            “Yes,” I answered, “what’s your question?”  Will it be frivolous?  A question that makes me laugh? A question her mother could better answer?

            My Grand grinned.  “Am I your favorite?”

            Favorite among eight Grands? How can I have one favorite? I measured my words.  “Lucy, you are my favorite right this moment.” 

            “But, am I your favorite all the time?”

            Fairness led my response. “Let’s think about that. How would your brothers and sisters and cousins feel if I had one favorite all the time?”

            My Grand sat up  and soap bubbles fell from her shoulders. She named her two brothers, her two sisters.  “They said I’m your favorite.”  She threw a challenge.

            “They’re right.  You are.  You’re here and we’re together.”

            “But,” she again challenged.

            “No but.  And…..” I let the word drag.  “When others are here or need help or a hug, then they are my favorites.  You’ll always be a favorite. Right now, you are my very favorite!”  My Grand giggled and slipped back under the water.

             Thinking back to being 10-years-old, I know how it feels to be a favorite.  I was the favorite of my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles because I was the only daughter, only granddaughter, only niece.  I wore that invisible badge of honor and love with pride and confidence.

            Years ago, Erma Bombeck, a syndicated newspaper columnist from 1965-1996, wrote about a mother having a favorite child.  ‘Every mother has a favorite child. The one with whom I share a special closeness, with whom I share a love no one can possibly understand.’ 

            Bombeck explained that her favorite child messed up during a piano recital, ran the wrong way with the football, had measles at Christmas, had a fever in the middle of the night.  Her favorite child was selfish, bad-tempered, and self-centered.  She wrote that a mother’s favorite child is the one who needs her at the moment for whatever the reason – to cling to, to shout at, to hug, to flatter, to unload on – but mostly to be there.

            Bombeck’s words have always stuck with me.  Because I have one daughter and one son, it’s easy to say each is my favorite.  But how can I say I have a favorite Grand?  Children – no, everyone – needs to be a favorite.  Needs to know that someone loves and treasures them above all others.

            I’ve replayed Lucy’s and my conversation and wish I’d answered with one word.  “Yes!”  Wish I’d not tried to be diplomatic and fair. Wish I’d not tried to explain.            

Lucy is my all-time favorite, as are her brothers, her sisters, her cousins.

Tea for Two

“Gran, would this be a good day for tea?” my six-year-old Grand asked.  She’d just finished eating breakfast: bacon, eggs, and toast.

            “It’s a perfect day for tea,” I said.  “Maybe later and we’ll invite others to join us.”  Her mother and her three girl cousins and their mom, I thought.

            Ann wrinkled her nose and leaned her head toward her right shoulder.  “Hmmmm.  How about now and just me and you?”

            Ann’s mother stood behind her and nodded to say she thought her daughter had a good idea.  “I’d like morning tea and just the two of us,” I said.

            My Grand put her breakfast plate on the kitchen counter and said, “Let’s get ready!” A few minutes later Ann was dressed in a brightly colored dress and wore a bow in her hair and a huge smile on her face.  I’d changed from a t-shirt with writing across the front to one with no writing.  We were dressed for a Monday morning tea party.

            Ann chose peppermint tea; I chose Earl Grey. “Which teapot would you like?” I asked.  I offered a small blue one that my mother’s friend gave me when I was a child or one that a friend brought to me from Japan. My Grand chose the Japanese teapot because she liked its fancy designs. “It’s so pretty,” she said as she held it.

            Ann refused my offer of fine china, instead she chose everyday Fiesta pottery.  “Green is my favorite color.  What’s yours?” she asked.  She placed her green and my gold-colored cup and dessert plates on trays.

            Since I didn’t have scones or tea cookies, I cut chocolate brownies and peanut butter bar cookies, into one-inch squares.  Ann arranged them on our plates, and I poured hot water into our teapots. 

            My Grand wanted to sit at our round glass table outside so we carefully carried trays to the front porch.  I corralled Husband to take pictures and Ann and I posed after she staged the plates and cups.  As I poured tea, Ann asked, “Gran, don’t you think we should get rid of that big bug before we eat?”  She pointed to a dead beetle, across the table from me, but within her reach. 

            Finally, after the beetle was on the ground, three spoonsful of sugar had been stirred into Ann’s tea, and fancy napkins lay on our laps, we sipped tea and ate brownies. I talked about traditional foods served for tea.  My Grand shook her head to show dislike for scones, chicken salad sandwiches, and smoked salmon, but her eyes lit up for cucumber sandwiches.  “Can we make some now?” she asked.

            So together we trimmed off bread crusts, cut each piece of bread into four squares, spread cream cheese, and cut thin round cucumber slices.  Ann declared that they were the best cucumber sandwiches she’d ever eaten.

            I declared tea time with just Ann one of the best teas ever. Actually, anytime with Grands, especially doing what they choose, is the best of times.