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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Cindy Hval: School projects inspire creepy dreams, fewer sweets

There’s a butterfly in my freezer. And a moth, a stink bug, an ant, a fly and something green with wings. I tend to forget they’re there, but when I asked a guest to hand me the ice cream the other night, her shrill scream reminded me. She pointed to the plastic sandwich bags that had slid out of the freezer along with the Rocky Road. “Bugs!” she gasped.

I also often forget that not everyone has small boys in their home.

All of my sons went through a bug-collecting phase. They’d take plastic containers out to the backyard and dig up bugs and worms. They gave their creatures names (Gus Grasshopper, Cody Cricket and Slimy Stu – genus unknown) and fashioned elaborate homes for them.

However, fourth grade put an end to their bug fascination. That’s because the first science unit in fourth grade is insects. At the end of third grade the children are sent home with a note instructing them to gather bugs throughout the summer in preparation for their studies. Suddenly, the kids who were forever bringing disgusting things into the house lost interest. Once play became homework, my budding entomologists quickly found more interesting pursuits.

My youngest son hasn’t been an exception. I never thought I’d say, “Sam, get outside right now! You’re not coming back inside until you’ve got some bugs to show me!” But I’ve said that a lot lately.

Thankfully, this will be the last summer I’ll have to store cricket carcasses next to my chicken cutlets. While I’ve mourned the passing of many childhood milestones with my youngest, this isn’t one of them. In a few weeks the bugs will be affixed to cardboard, carefully labeled and out of my house. School can’t start soon enough for me.

I’m not fond of frozen bugs. I’m not fond of thawed ones either. I’d rather have my children learn about creepy crawlies from the safe pages of an encyclopedia. But since that’s not going to happen, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about power failures.

The other night I dreamed the power went out and all the dormant insects in the freezer came to life and chewed their way through the plastic bags. Dreams like that make you second-guess whether you really need that bowl of Fudge Ripple at midnight.

Still, my three older sons each amassed blue-ribbon, A-plus-worthy bug collections, so we have the family reputation to uphold. The minute I see anything crawling on the floor I yell, “Quick! Get a bag! Do we have something small, round and black?”

Our kitten, Milo, has made bug collecting quite difficult. It’s a point of honor for him to consume any living creature smaller than himself that dares to enter our home. Insect capture has become a three-person job. One person to keep an eye on the bug, one person to hold the cat, and a third to run for the sandwich bag and capture the specimen.

We’re all getting a little cranky – especially Milo.

I only hope that Sam doesn’t grow as attached to his bug collection as his older brother Zack did to his. Zack insisted we display his blue-ribbon collection atop the piano in our living room for several weeks. When wings began to drop off and legs and antennae went missing I banished to the bugs to Zack’s room.

Once out of sight, I forgot about all it (absent-mindedness is a virtue when it comes to raising boys). However, some months later, in a fit of fervent housecleaning I deciding to clear out the mounds of debris Zack had shoved under his bed. There’s nothing like feeling the crunch of a cockroach carcass as you grab what you thought was a piece of cardboard to bring back bug-collecting memories.

Soon the collection in the freezer, too, will be a distant memory. It can’t be distant enough. In the meantime, I’m eating a lot less ice cream.

Voices correspondent Cindy Hval can be reached at Previous columns are available at columnists.
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