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The Short Years: A Parenting Column

short THE

YEARS

GAMESwicked

It’s a family story shared so often, its exact details have long gone soft from handling. It’s also the basis for one of the earliest facts I accepted about myself — a characteristic as basic as, say, having brown eyes.

My name is Megan. My singing is generously described as “off-key.” And I’m afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Desperate to contain a busy child circa 1988, my mother was fl ipping channels on our old box TV. She stumbled upon “The Wizard of Oz” in all its Technicolor glory and parked my curly-haired self in front of it.

I’ve long constructed a mental scene of this particular morning, given I was too little to actually remember a thing. As I get older, I fi nd myself examining it now through my mother’s eyes: her dashing back to the bedroom, relieved I was still watching “a children’s movie” and hadn’t swallowed any pennies. There I was: wide-eyed, openmouthed, rooted to the fl oor. And there was Dorothy, sucked into the twister with that terrifying, cycle-riding Miss Gulch. I was 3.

When you talk about the creepiness of “The Wizard of Oz” (and I do, quite frequently), folks always jump to the fl ying monkeys. But day after day, week after week, it was only the “Wick-ah Witch” I spoke about — with such persistence and passion that my parents, somewhat understandably, came to confuse fear with love.

“It was a classic!” Mom exclaims, still seeking absolution for this accidental crime. “I just needed a quick shower!”

And that’s it, really: the lynchpin of this saga. The part I never understood until I, a new mother myself, was grappling for something — anything — to safely distract my young children and buy me 10 minutes of quiet.

Months passed. Mom and Dad set up their video camera — heavier than I was, no doubt — to record our Christmas morning, particularly my reaction to their big gift: a set of “Wizard of Oz” dolls, anchored by Dorothy in her trademark blue gingham. I tore into a fi nal, separate package: a Wicked Witch doll with those beady, unseeing eyes (bone-chilling cackle not included).

My little round face registers shock, then confusion . . . then betrayal. Thick, utter betrayal.

The doll made its way around the house for a while, eventually settling onto an unassuming bookshelf with my parents’ DVD collection. Dad still texts me a photo every so often.

Decades have passed. I’ve never watched the movie more than halfway through. And though I have no diffi culty scaring myself with much more realistic “what-ifs” these days, that gnarly nosed witch still crops up in my nightmares. If I’m not careful, I conjure a knobby green fi nger crooking into the threshold of our darkened bedroom. I squeeze my eyes shut, then try to picture kittens (I’m 35).

While I was once embarrassed by all this, I’ve come to see it as a quirky sidebar to my life story. We all have our things, don’t we? The fl ying monkeys, the crystal ball, the falling house – tornadoes. I now use my own fears to start conversations with my son and daughter — imparting, I hope, that parents are human, too. I’m not brave all the time. Not even half the time! And never, ever when green hands are involved.

It’s true that the movie also shaped me in other ways. I realized my lifelong obsession with red shoes — even worn at my wedding — has probably been a subconscious longing for my own ruby slippers. See? Who said I need therapy!

So, I might not have been able to move on, exactly, but I have grown to laugh at myself.

To cackle, even.

Just, you know . . . not around the kids.

If I’m not careful, I conjure a knobby green fi nger crooking into the threshold of our darkened bedroom. I squeeze my eyes shut, then try to picture kittens (I’m 35).

Megan Johnson has never met a cupcake she didn’t like. Author of the long-running “Right, Meg?” column in Southern Maryland Newspapers, she is a 30-something coffee drinker, voracious reader, and editor-turnedcommunications professional. Megan lives with her husband and two children in Charles County. Follow her on Instagram at @writemeg.

By Gene Wright

Why do Odorous Ants Love Your Southern Maryland Home?

Are you noticing tiny ants around your Southern Maryland home? There is likely a reason they are sticking around.

There are more than 13,000 ant species throughout the world, but none quite wrinkle the nose as much as odorous house ants. As the name suggests, these ants release a strange odor when they are crushed. The smell is often described as similar to blue cheese, rancid butter, or rotten coconuts.

Do not let these ants rent out a room in your beautiful Southern Maryland home! Read this guide to learn more about how to get rid of and prevent odorous ants.

How Do I Get Odorous Ants?

Odorous house ants are native to the United States. They live in colonies of up to 100,000 ants. These ants are characterized by: • A size between 1/16” to 1/8” • Brown or black in color • A segmented, oval body shape • Six legs

These ants eat dead insects, sugary sweets, and meats. You might find odorous ants around your home after a party. Leaving food out can attract these critters into your household.

These ants also make their homes in:

• Exposed soil • Under stones • Logs • Mulch • Debris

Odorous ants often target kitchen pantries, cupboards, and nest in wall and floor cracks. Make sure you are keeping these areas clean and crumb-free, otherwise, you are bound to find these ants in your Southern Maryland home.

How Serious Are They?

Odorous house ants do not pose a threat to your health. However, they can contaminate the food or waste you leave around your house. They also stink when they are crushed. Odorous ants often invade kitchen storage areas, like your cupboards. This gives them the chance to ruin your food, which could cause frustration and wasted money. These pests also bite. While it will not cause much pain, it can become irritating.

How Do I Get Rid of Them?

Using “over the counter” liquid or aerosol insecticide my cause more of a problem than a solution for these ants. These products will kill the ants they touch but will often cause the main colony of ants to scatter and create new nests. The best way to get rid of odorous house ants is to call a professional. Specialists utilize productchemistries specific for these ants and can develop a custom plan to keep your home bug-free. You can also prevent odorous house ants from crawling around your home in the future:

1. First, make sure you eliminate standing water

around your home. Ants are attracted to moisture. Look for any puddles or leaking sources of water near your house.

2. Next, make sure to cut back any tree branches or plants that are near your home.

Sometimes, ants use these branches to get inside. They might also use cracks or little openings to crawl into your home, so close those gaps!

3. Check that any firewood, yard debris or building materials near your home are

stored away. Pests, including odorous house ants, build their nests in these materials.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, with these or other pests, we are here to help!

Gene Wright is the president of Planet Friendly Pest Control, a locally owned and operated pest exterminator company focused on providing their clients with the very best in pest control, rodent extermination and termite control, while reducing the overall impact on the environment.