Archive for July, 2009

won’t you bee mine?

bee

Reading the classic Bees tonight to little w. I really had to stifle my, “Oh, come on!  You have to be kidding me!” reaction.  Not having taken a biology class in a reeeeeeeally long time, I could not believe what I was reading about the poor worker bee and her plight in life.  Here’s an excerpt of Judith Jango-Cohen’s tasty prose for you:

For the next three weeks the worker will perform different jobs inside the nest.  After cleaning for a few days, she will become a nurse bee.  Glands in her head will begin to produce liquids called bee milk.  She will feed this protein-packed food to the growing larvae for their first three days.  Then she will give them bee bread, a mixture of pollen and honey. When wax glands in her abdomen develop she will become a builder bee, making honeycomb.  She will also fan the stored nectar to make honey.  Toward the end of the three weeks she will take her turn as a guard bee.

The last three weeks of her life, the worker will take  on the exhausting job of a field bee.  Each day she will fly for  miles collecting pollen and nectar.  Carrying her weight’s worth of food, she will return to the nest.  Sometimes she will dance to let other field bees know where to go to find the food.

Jeez, I can’t decide what is the worst part of this story.  Depressingly, she begins her tale cleaning up the nest which we all know has to be one seriously sticky place.  I can’t imagine that those bees don’t drip all over the place.  And what’s her reward?  The task of nursing which among humans can be a lovely bonding experience but cannot possibly hold that same cachet in the insect world.   And the most disturbing part of being a nurse bee? The bit about the gland in her head producing “bee milk.”  First of all, is “‘bee milk” the best term that the scientific brain could come up with?  And then does it seriously have to come out of the bee’s head like some draining abscess?

The other part of the saga of the bee’s life that makes me just shake my head is when the poor thing becomes a field bee, an exhausting “reward” at the end of her life.  Not only does she have to fly around all day collecting a backbreaking supply of pollen and nectar but then she’s expected to put on a show and dance for all of the other bees when she gets back home?  I’m tired just thinking about it, and all I’ve done today is laze around in an air conditioned home making skyscrapers out of lego.

And now for your edutainment, a depiction of this poor bee’s last dance:

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oh my, now that’s impressive

Drawing back the curtains in the dining room to let the late afternoon sunshine in, I noticed a truly spectacular cobweb forming between the window and the curtain rod.

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Ignore the dirty moulding and popcorn sprayed ceiling if you can (I know, it’s hard) and just focus on the stringy beauty that is the Dining Room Cobweb.  What I like best about this gracefully arcing cobweb is that it had the self awareness to embrace its best trait and go with it.  This cobweb is impressive because it’s very long.  It wasn’t focusing on covering sheer acreage or attempting to hide in some utterly unreachable corner.  It’s the long distance runner of the cobweb world, pushing itself to the limits.

I also like how my feathery friend attempts to be mobile as well.  The northern reach of  the cobweb is tethered to the curtain rod while the other end is attached to the curtain itself.  When one pulls the curtain open or closed, the cobweb performs a lovely series of calisthenics as it stretches its arms wide and then brings them back to its torso (wherever that would be).  This cobweb is a cobweb of substance, not particularly fine or delicate but one that is made to weather a storm or at least the air conditioning vent that is located directly below it and spewing forth blessedly cool air (Thank you, Mechanical Man) almost constantly in the 90 heat bath that is the South in the summer.  I know that cobwebs are something to flail against as at some point a spider did create them, but I think I shall let this lovely, stringy, lengthy sample remain to dance again another day.

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supersize or minimize me. you choose.

Nothing at our house is how it should be.  We eat snacks off of tiny little butter pat plates or we buy monstrous sized boxes of Kashi at Costco that remain homeless as they can’t fit properly on any shelf.  For the kids, the tinier or the larger an object is, the better.  As long as you give them something that isn’t “regular-sized,” they are putty in your hands.

And here comes in our reading choices as of late:

cake

A current repeat customer for bedtime stories these days is “Who Made This Cake?”   by Chihiro Nakagawa.  Despite the sparse text in this book, reading this book can take us half an hour as we gaze at the pictures of the miniature builders and their tiny construction equipment world.  Little e. especially likes the pages where the builders (who have been employing their backhoes to scoop up butter and their cranes to lift eggs) take a break from making the real-sized cake while the cake is baking in the oven.   Both kids giggle and point out the “funniest guy”–maybe it’s the one napping on the ground with his head on his hardhat or it could be the ones standing around and drinking coffee like daddy. Whatever it is, I really like this book too because of its subtle storytelling approach–it’s asking the kids to imagine a preposterous “what if” scenario without hitting them over the head with dull narration.  And the kids get it. 

Another story in the same vein is “The Giant Jam Sandwich” which was a favorite of Will’s when he was a child.

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Like “Who Made This Cake?” John Vernon Lord’s “The Giant Jam Sandwich” involves oversized food and the creation of it.  In this storybook, the residents of the town are struggling to deal with a wasp invasion and the solution to the problem does not involve heavy doses of chemical pesticides but the creation of a giant jam sandwich to lure the wasps to a sticky internment.  (Note:  we have employed this strategy on our back deck to deal with yellow jackets with limited success).  My only beef with the plot of this charming book is why they went to all of the effort to bake a giant loaf of bread if they were only going to use two slices of it for the sandwich.  What a waste!  They never tell you what they did with the remaining 7/8 of the loaf. 

Anyway, the kids think that Itching Down is a hysterical name for a town, but I really just like the illustrations with their scratchy black lines and textures and patterns.  The rhythm of the verses is also quite hypnotic and as a lecture by the author/illustrator reveals, having Janet Burroway transform the text into rhyme from a pretty dry narrative was a good call.

For little children, so much in their world is monstrously huge–the sofa in the living room is a struggle to climb up on, the walk to the mailbox is interminable, the kitten next door is a full-grown tigress.  In these two pleasantly silly books, the inappropriately sized objects not only appeal to a kid’s sense of humor but they also pick up on a feeling of “overwhelmedness” that kids can have as they navigate the big, supersized world around them.

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blueberry time

Last week we finally got our collective act together and headed out to Cedar Grove Blueberry Farm (formerly Philoxenia and before that Blueberry Hill and before that probably something else…)  My eager pickers groused and moaned the length of Hwy 86, but we reached the farm quite early in the morning for us.  In seasons past, I’ve never taken the kids by myself and never during the week.  While the farm was far from overcrowded with pickers, the people that were there were 98% moms and kids.  In fact, when I finally heard an adult male voice from over yonder, I jumped.  What a strange sound!

Little w. proved to be an able assistant.  I would show him where the low hanging fruit was, and he went to town picking it and putting it (kerplink, kerplank, kerplop) into his red bucket.  Little e. didn’t get it at all, or that is to say, she got it all too well.  Nary a berry made it into her pail; she chose to feed herself straight off the bush, but she did understand that the red or green berries were to remain on the bushes ( a slight accomplishment, I suppose).

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As we only picked 6 pounds and as the kids did so great, I think we’ll be headed back there again this week if anyone feels that they need a little berry action as well.

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swimming in style

So this is the kind of swimming pool that we are used to:

pool

It’s nice and quiet and fun.

But imagine the kids’ amazement when we stepped into this:

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The Mountain Park Outdoor Leisure Play Pool was not a pool but a water playground complete with two waterslides, a lazy river, and a play structure with a small slide.  Crazy.  People in Georgia apparently take their summertime swimming very seriously.  Upon arriving at the swim center, we were carefully interrogated on the diapering of little e.  (Did she have a swim diaper on?  Did we need to purchase a plastic cover to put over the said swim diaper?)

The Outdoor Leisure Play Pool did not disappoint.  In fact, the kids didn’t know where to start.  Splash in the zero entry beach side?  Float along the lazy river with mama?  Spin around in circles with happiness?

After much indecision, little w. decided that he liked the little slide best except for all of the spray and erupting spouts that one had to brave to get to the top.

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And neither of the kids liked these buckets that would fill up with water and then dump out their liquid loads on an unsuspecting person below.

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When it was time to go, neither child was prepared for how hard it would be to say goodbye to the waterland fun park and head back to the boring old plain vanilla swimming pools of Durham.

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who needs a locopop

when you could make this?  Given a quiet afternoon, I think this is what the kids and I will be making this week.  Let me know when you want to stop by for yours!

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our friend, spoon

Here’s my newest favorite children’s book at the moment:

spoon

We have loved Rosenthal’s “Little Pea” and its hilarious illustrations of Little Pea swinging and enthusiastically eating his spinach.  The new book “Spoon” had all of us grinning with Spoon’s  jealousy of his other utensil friends and the illustration of his Extended Spoon Family (which honestly looked a bit like my in-laws’ silverware drawer filled with unusual ladles and serving spoons).  Unfortunately we had to leave this library book behind in Georgia, so I’ll have to pony up and purchase this one soon so we can laugh again at the chopsticks doing the tango and the knife complaining about how no one ever gets to goof around with him.

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