It’s getting close to the time when I plant winter flowers in the pots in our backyard. We all enjoy the sharp color and contrast of the Annuals, especially in a cooling air.

This is like “The Little Red Hen” child’s story with an outdoor setting. Everyone enjoys the beautiful flowers, but no one wants to help plant them. I have to include myself in that category sometimes…

To be fair, I’m a little like the lazy animals in that children’s story, wanting to reap what I haven’t sewn inside the house as well, but then I’ve always been pretty good at eating!

I can still bribe my little one to hang out with me and help with the outdoor work occasionally. A few years back I bribed her into helping again. While we were flower shopping at the local do-it-yourself-mega-store, we found at the check out line, thin bags of sheer material. Inside those bags were what looked like hundreds of ladybugs, I wondered out loud, “Ladybugs in a bag?” “What’ll they think of next?”

This was a first for us, “Can we get some Dad”? My little one asked. “Sure, I’m all for them eating whatever it is that’s eating our flowers and shrubs”! I answered. We bought two for good measure.

Of course, when we got home the first thing my daughter wanted to do was to release the ladybugs. Oh No, my help and company would have been long gone. First things first, we removed the old dead flowers from all the pots, then we added water and remixed the mulch as needed.

We quickly developed a system, she handed me the little cubed roots of flowers and I’d secure them into their new more permanent homes. Hours and much work later, it was time to unleash our temporarily jailed aphid eaters.

Being a new experience for the both of us, we weren’t quite sure how to go about releasing them. I opened up the first bag and held it out in front of me… Nothing. These must have been the lazy ladybugs who were easy to catch. I shook the bag a little… Still nothing.

I reached my hand into the bag to gently grab some of the ladybugs and release them into the wonderland they had been born for. As I was reaching in the bag, I quickly stopped, looked wild-eyed at my daughter and yelled, “AAAAHHHHH”!!!— “THEY’RE EATING MY FLESH”!!!—“OH NO”!!—“THEY’RE MAN EATING LADYBUGS”!!!—“AAAAHHHHH”!!!

My daughter was frozen with fear for a couple of seconds, then she said, “NUH, UH”!!! It was as much a question as it was a statement. I still had a wild look in my eyes, but the fun of the moment got the best of me as I started to grin. “THEY ARE NOT DAD”!!! She declared, having solved the mystery.

We laughed for five minutes straight. She took her turn reaching into the bag and repeated our new found fun. “Ahh”! “Man Eating Ladybugs”! An instant family classic, the kind that happen out of the blue but define part of a childhood and will be recalled forever.

Since that Sunday afternoon, I’ve never looked upon a ladybug in the same light. I always think of our “Man-Eating-Ladybugs,” and the special time we spent working together to create something more special than just the random occasion.

It seems to always require effort to “create” something of lasting importance, especially fond memories, even if it’s just the menial tasks of responsibility coupled with the right perspective.

Looking back over my life so far, some of the best memories I have are of things that didn’t come easy, the tasks that required self-discipline and perseverance. I’ve heard it said, “In this life, for everything you get, you have to give up something.”

I recall that day and the simple ladybug memory. Whatever football game was on that day was worth giving up to gain the memories of a child and what a little thing, on a simple Sunday, would mean to her for the rest of her life. I think sometimes God is even bigger in the little things of this life.

Self-sacrifice, however, difficult at the any given time, is the cornerstone of any lasting gratification and a great way to teach a child the possibilities in even the smallest things in life.

The most treasured things gained can rarely be measured using a number. A person can spend time and energy filling their pockets with what can be measured by counting.

A life spent measuring happiness by a number, will come up short every time…

I pray my daughter will remember that lesson from her childhood… And, of course, the Man Eating Ladybugs…