Have you had your sprinkle today?

We held a shower for my great nephew, aka the world’s most adorable baby, last weekend.

At least I think we did.

At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, what kind of idiot doesn’t know if she helped throw a shower?”

Well, obviously, I know I helped with the shower. After all, I served on the all-important soda and ice duty. What’s more, I took a small portion of my pen and pencil stash to the event so guests could play the games. Don’t you worry, though, I returned home with the same amount – if not more – of pens and pencils I took with me.

My confusion concerns the nature of the event. Specifically, did we have a shower or a sprinkle?

If you’re like me, you had probably never heard tell of a sprinkle until a few years ago. Again, if you’re like me, upon hearing of a sprinkle, you probably asked, “What the expletive is a sprinkle?”

Someone answered my question by explaining that a sprinkle is like a shower, but for a second (or third or fourth or so on) child. That satisfied my curiosity, and I posed no further questions.

So, when my family and I began discussing the etiquette of throwing a shower for a second baby (you know, because my family and I are known for adhering to etiquette), I pointed out that that’s the purpose of a sprinkle.

My niece told me I was wrong. According to her, a sprinkle is for a second (or third or fourth or so on) child of a different gender.

I turned to the Internet for guidance, but that great beacon of knowledge finally failed me. Indeed, some sites I visited backed up my claim while others confirmed my niece’s assertion. Still other sites maintained that a sprinkle is actually a low key shower attended by only a few people, regardless of the baby’s birth order or gender.

Nevertheless, showers and/or sprinkles have changed over the years. Take the games, for example. Nowadays, we play games that demand us to match the names of adult animals to their babies. Back in the day, we tried to see how many clothespins we could drop into a jar.

I also remember a shower game that consisted of putting balloons in a clothes basket using nothing but a yard stick and persistence. Then again, maybe I didn’t play that at a shower. Maybe I played that in the living room with my cousin. But I guess that’s another column for another day.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

It’s how you play the game

One recent summer day, my three-year-old great niece handed me her pad and told me it was my turn to play. Nearly moved to tears by the child’s capacity for sharing, I took hold of the pad.

My happiness turned to disappointment when I realized we were playing a version of Super Mario Bros. In case you’re unfamiliar with the video game, Mario, a plumber by trade, runs through several worlds, encountering mushrooms, coins, and some sort of creature that resembles a flying goose, on his quest to save a princess.

The plot reminds me of some migraine-induced nightmares I’ve endured and, in spite of my older nieces’ repeated attempts over the past two decades to school me in the art of Mario, I’ve never gotten the hang of playing the game.

There was no need for both my newer niece and me to be disappointed, though, so I gave it my best. Mercifully, Mario was running on his own accord, so all I had to do was make him jump. The game even prompted me – with instructions – when it was time for Mario to jump.

I tapped that screen whenever Mario came across a mushroom or had opportunities to obtain coins. Nonetheless, Mario kept falling off the course and/or getting himself minimized by objects the flying goose threw at him. Not wanting to give up, I suggested we find an easier version of the game. That’s when the other adults in the room informed me that we were playing the easy version.

Sighing, I told her, “I can’t do it,” and immediately regretted my words. Whenever she informs me that she can’t, for example, slide open my closet doors, I remind her that “can’t never could.” So, there I sat, basically telling her to do as I say and not as I do. (Or would that be do as I say and not as I say?)

But to my credit (or would that be discredit?), I can’t play video games. What’s more, other than Ms. Pac-Man, I’ve never had an interest in learning to play them. (Don’t even get me started on my comedic attempts at Mario Kart.) And, since I’m being honest, I’m not an exceptional Ms. Pac-Man player, either. In fact, I’m probably not even good.

So it didn’t take long for my niece to pick up on my lack of video game-playing skills. After I had led Mario to yet another death, she eased the pad away from me and gave it to my  sister. When I asked her who played better, my sister or me, she pointed at my sister.

The child’s capacity for telling the truth nearly moved me to tears.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Stop fidgeting around

You might have heard about a contraption called the fidget spinner, which was all the rage amongst youngsters earlier this year. The three-pronged toy is flat and contains a bearing in the center. When you want the fidget spinner to spin, you place a finger on the center and give one of the prongs a good twirl.

Then you watch and/or listen to it spin.

That’s the gist of it.

Try as I might, I couldn’t understand the appeal of this fad. But kids played with the fidget spinner so much that many schools and colleges banned the toy. Obviously, I’m not included in the manufacturer’s target population, so I decided I was simply too old for fidgeting fun.

That was before I came upon two ladies – one of whom is the same age as I and the other of whom is just a few years younger – spinning the fidget spinner like their very lives depended on the toy’s constant movement. The ladies implored me – practically in unison – to join in the “addictive” activity.

Although it didn’t look like something I would enjoy, I said to myself, “Self, you didn’t think you would enjoy ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ either, and now you can’t get enough of that.”

So, I picked up a fidget spinner and gave it a twirl.

I didn’t feel an immediate need to keep giving it a twirl, but I’m known for my stubbornness. I was determined to become addicted to twirling that fidget spinner, so I persevered. Thinking that any second I would become overwhelmed with an urge that would ultimately destroy my life and ruin my relationships, I kept giving it a good twirl.

In spite of my persistence, I failed to develop a dependence on the fidget spinner. Indeed, several times it fell victim to the volcano of papers, books, and gadgets that dominate my life. Every time I found it lying under something, it looked so out of place that I had to remind myself that it was supposed to have taken over my life.

Actually, the only thing the fidget spinner did was remind me of when the air conditioning in my first car quit working. It would have cost more to fix the AC than the car was worth, so even though it was summer, I drove that car with only a 99-cent hand-held fan to keep me “cool.”

Every time I gave the fidget spinner a good twirl, the spinning reminded me of that fan. At least the fan had a purpose.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Stay in your lane

Usually, I avoid discussing controversial topics in this blog. Indeed, I like to think of this as a safe place where my readers can retreat for a laugh or two. Usually at my expense.

mcdonald'sBut with a controversy of epic proportions threatening to divide the country, I can no longer remain silent. I’m speaking, obviously, of McDonald’s double drive-thru.

When the first double drive-thru came to town, I went on record proclaiming my appreciation for it. My opinion has not changed. Vociferous double drive-thru critics, however, argue that it doesn’t speed up the fast food delivery process. They may be right, but I’m not addressing that issue. I’m concentrating on the question of which lane to choose.

For those of you unfamiliar with a double drive-thru, it’s exactly as it sounds. There are two lanes, each with its own intercom. After placing their orders, customers merge from the two lanes into one that takes them to the pay-here and pick-up-your-order windows. In spite of some confusion over who merges first into the single lane and the violence that has broken out at locations throughout the country, it’s actually a simple process.

Or so I thought. But I’ve recently learned that, for some people, the problem begins at the beginning. In fact, there are those among us who believe that all customers should stay in the lane closest to the restaurant until they’ve pretty much reached the intercoms. Only then, they maintain, should a car move into the second lane.

One of my friends accuses people who bypass the first lane and zip into the second lane as lane skippers. A friend of a friend takes photos of these alleged lane skippers. Another friend flips off alleged lane skippers.

I guess there’s a chance she’s flipped me off because I always choose the shortest lane. Actually, I don’t know why anybody would waste time lingering in the longer lane when another, I repeat, shorter lane beckons them.

What’s more, there’s literally a sign at the drive-thru that gives us permission to do so. That’s right. I take the “any lane, any time” declaration as an invitation to choose any lane I want, any time I want. If I was supposed to wait impatiently in the long line, the sign would advise me to “remain in this long line until you either starve to death or reach the intercoms.”

But it doesn’t say that. So, as long as the “any lane, any time” sign remains, I’ll keep following directions – and risk getting flipped off.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Murder at Moonshiner Days now available

dfw-mg-mamd-cover-3d-nologo.jpg“Murder at Moonshiner Days,” the fourth book in my Maggie Morgan cozy mystery series, is now available at amazon.

On the eve of the annual Moonshiner Days festival, first-grade teacher Jennifer Wagner is found with a meat thermometer sticking out of her neck. A year later, police in her small Kentucky town are no closer to solving her murder. As the town prepares to welcome thousands of guests to another Moonshiner Days, reporter and amateur sleuth Maggie Morgan begins to wonder if Jennifer’s killer has ties to the festival. With the sounds of backfiring jalopies and bluegrass music filling the air, Maggie pokes around Jennifer’s life, exposing deep, dark secrets. Just as she inches closer to solving the challenging case, another crime is committed, a murder suspect ends up in jail, and Maggie is forced to deal with a personal crisis.

Making do with what you have

One recent warm day, my adorable great niece allowed her hand-me-down Barbie dolls to skinny dip in a cooler. (For what it’s worth, my niece also never dresses her baby dolls. Not even when they go to the doctor or to church.)

I smiled when I saw a photo of the naked dolls surrounded by water, ice, and the leftover refreshments my nephew-in-law had packed to work. My niece’s resourcefulness reminded me of how my Barbies and I had made do without a swimming pool.

Before I go further, I need to explain that I did not pine for a Barbie swimming pool. I had a Barbie Dreamhouse, aka the best Christmas present ever, and that’s all I wanted. But there’s no denying that Barbie dolls need to cool off. Even thinking about carrying around all that hair during a sweltering summer makes me sweat.

So, when my Barbies required a break from the humidity, I took them for a swim in a mud puddle. And not just any mud puddle, but the one created by the massive tires on the school bus. (For what it’s worth, my adorable niece calls mud puddles “muddy puddles.”)

Careful not to let the dolls’ hair touch the water – once you wet a Barbie’s hair, you might as well shave her head – I let them splash around in the water until their clothes and plastic skin became stained by the brown water comprising the makeshift pool. Then, I shook off the water and placed the dolls on the ground to sun.

Later, I washed away the grime and dressed them in clean clothes, accessorizing with matching earrings. And by earrings, I mean stick pins because my Barbies didn’t have store-bought jewelry. Although, technically, the pins were bought in a store, so I guess that’s not true.

I had to be careful when putting pins, aka earrings, in Barbie’s ears. Indeed, I had to insert them at an angle or the pins would protrude the other side of her head. Not only would this hurt her, but the pins would also pierce my fingers every time my hand accidentally grazed her head.

With my Barbies attired for an exciting night on the town, they hopped in their cars. And by cars I mean my coloring books, which I pulled around the room, because I didn’t have a Barbie car.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Take your medicine

The board game Loaded Questions tests how well players know one another by asking such questions as “What’s the best part of being sick?”

When that question came up during a rousing game of Loaded Questions, I gave the obvious answer – getting to take cough syrup. Of course, from the way my family reacted, you would have thought I had admitted to Robotripping. For the record, I do not get high off cough syrup. I enjoy taking it because I like the taste. (For what it’s worth, I also like the taste of generic, liquid Mucinex.)

Anyway, the best cough syrup cannot be bought in stores or prescribed by physicians. It can, however, be made at home with only three ingredients – whiskey, lemon juice, and honey. Although some folks refer to this potion as a hot toddy, my family and I simply call it whiskeylemonjuiceandhoney. Yes, that’s one word with no commas, spaces, or pauses.

When I was growing up, whiskeylemonjuiceandhoney played an important medicinal role in our household. At the first sound of a cough from one of his children, my dad would stop at “the top of the hill,” aka the friendly bootlegger, for one of the medication’s main ingredients. Then, my mom would mix up a batch. Those of us lucky enough to have contracted a cough would line up for a tablespoon of the smooth, sweet syrup that spread its warm healing powers from the top of our infected heads to the bottom of our aching toes.

I loved it. I loved it so much that when I got older, I self-medicated. At least I did until I could no longer find the jar in the cabinet. It seems like some people in my family didn’t want me to get better. I’m not saying this lack of access to a needed medication contributed to my paleness, but I’m not saying it didn’t. I guess we’ll never know.

Nevertheless, until recently, I had never made whiskeylemonjuiceandhoney. But with one of my sisters suffering from strep, bronchitis, a viral infection, and who knows what else, I intervened. I don’t want to sound like a braggart, but my first attempt was a success. I know this because I licked the spoon and held the measuring cup above my head, letting the excess elixir drip into my mouth.

Now that I’m in possession of our family recipe – equal parts whiskey, lemon juice, and honey – I’ve decided to make some cough syrup for my own use. In hindsight, I can’t believe I haven’t done so before. Think of all those nagging coughs it could have cured. Think of all those times it could have been the best part of being sick.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.