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    Friday, October 26, 2012

    A Halloween Bug Story, Part 2

    Last week in A Halloween Bug Story, I told you about our adventurous walk and the critters we encountered.

    Well, we’ve had quite a week with Chunky’s doodle bug, which for some reason he didn’t name until Wednesday when he took it to school for show and tell.

    But let’s back up a few nights. Abject wailing brought me running to Chunky’s room one evening early this week. I found him curled into a roly-poly type ball on the floor.

    “I lost him! He curled up and rolled down my arm. Why would he DO that?”

    We searched and searched Chunky’s room, but couldn’t find the bug.

    Bedtime routine collapsed, and I had to return to his room for more comforting after he’d been tucked in. Finally I told him the story about my rabbit, Peanut, who died of heatstroke when I was little. I cried over Peanut for weeks. But then I got a new bunny named Scooter who heeled like a dog and bit me on the shin once.

    After I showed Chunky my bunny scar, he calmed down and went to sleep. Ah, the magic of scars. An hour or so later, Kory headed upstairs to bed and found the doodle bug laboriously climbing down the steps. We think he was making a break for the front door. No such luck, Buggie.

    We woke Chunky up and pointed to the step where his doodle bug trundled through the carpet pile. You would’ve thought it was Christmas. Boy and reluctant bug reunited. Boy with open palm and radiant face. Bug in insect fetal position.

    The next day we transferred doodle bug to the container we use for feeder crickets for the turtles. Don’t worry, I cleaned it out so doodle bug wouldn’t experience the horror of cricket poo and parts.

    Chunky took him to school where somehow the bug earned the name Alex. But Chunky, who forgets his homework, his lunch tote, water bottle, jacket, and most things not attached to his person, forgot Alex at school.

    This is where it gets grim, folks. Today I made an extra trip to the school to drop off Chunky’s snow boots. My son beamed as he walked toward me in the hall, carrying the cricket cage. We exchanged snow boots for cage and I turned to go, holding the cage up to check on the roly poly.

    “He’s still alive!” Chunky called before disappearing around the corner on his way back to class.

    I eyed the cage again. Dried up apple slice, dried up grass, dried up paper towel. Half-curled, dried-up, definitely-dead doodle bug.

    What am I gonna do?! Chunky comes home in an hour! There’s snow on the ground so there’s no way I can find another roly poly in time.

    I’m looking guilty here, people.

    “Natural causes” won’t suffice as an explanation to my eight-year-old.

    Maybe cake and chocolate milk will soften the blow.

    Or I could run downstairs and see if I can get my mother’s rabbit to bite me.

    Either way, I'm in for some drama.

    Friday, October 19, 2012

    A Halloween Bug Story

    I dragged my boys out for a walk this morning. Believe it or not, they didn’t sizzle in direct sunlight. Though to hear Monkey tell it, I led them on an epic cross-country journey fraught with peril, misery and starvation. We’re looking into a diagnosis of “hobbit” for him.

    Not far into our adventure, Chunky discovered a doodle bug. He scraped it up into his hand and instantly fell in love with the tiny creature. When it uncurled and crawled up his arm, he knew his doodle bug loved him back.

    We kept walking, made it to our agreed upon turning point and headed home. When we started out, Monkey had asked how long our walk would be. I said, “About 15 or 20 minutes.” He promptly set an alarm on his iPod. I don’t know what he planned to do when the timer went off. Probably sit right down on the ground and refuse to budge another inch.

    But I was saved this embarrassment. Monkey also found a doodle bug.

    Both boys trailed after me, hands cupped around their little insect friends. They didn’t see the giant beetle ambling across our path until I pointed him out.

    We stopped to investigate. Monkey was all for squishing him, but I argued, “No, he’s cool. Look he’s black and orange. He’s a Halloween beetle.”

    We watched the Halloween beetle, speculating on his coloring. (Chunky thought somebody had painted him.) But in a careless moment, disaster struck. Monkey dropped his roley-poley right in the Halloween beetle’s trajectory.

    We held our breath. Maybe the big bug would leave the smaller one alone.

    Nope! The monster beetle sniffed the doodle bug, then it grabbed Monkey’s new buddy and curled around the helpless thing like a six-legged burrito.

    We tried to save the doodle bug. Monkey stamped his foot close to the beetle to scare him into letting go, but it was no use. When it became clear that the roley-poley wouldn’t survive, Monkey ended the whole tragic scene with one good stomp.

    Now a black and orange smear is the only thing that remains of the incident.

    Chunky’s roley-poley made it home and now has some cushy new digs in a plastic tub. Chunky plans to introduce his bug to a classmate’s inexplicably female doodle bug. He’s convinced we’ll have a doodle bug family before too long. I’m pretty sure he’s thinking along these lines:

    As for the other bug. Let’s hope he’s gone to a better world and won’t return to haunt that particular square of pavement.

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    The Trouble with Meat

    I’ve just put two racks of ribs on the grill and a shepherd’s pie casserole in the oven. Later I’ll slap some hamburgers and a steak next to those ribs. No, we’re not having company for dinner tonight. I’ve spent the week cooking meat because our big chest freezer in the garage went the way of the dinosaur.

    It happened sometime on Tuesday, I’m guessing. I went out Tuesday evening to grab some ground beef for tacos. When my fingers squished into that plastic wrapped log of pink, it took me a second to process what was wrong.

    Once I registered that the hamburger I held was defrosted, I dropped it back in the caput freezer, shut the lid, and calmly walked away.

    While I waited for Kory to come home and save me from Too Much Meat, I pondered how to break the news to my mom. You see, the freezer is hers. So is the half a cow in it. And the turducken. And the buffalo. And the various bits of lamb.

    When I buy meat, I buy chicken. And even then I’m not happy about it. I’ll never forget the first time I had chicken in peanut butter sauce at a Chinese buffet. I almost cried. At last, a way to fully disguise the taste of poultry!

    If only I could do that to all forms of meat. You see, I’m a vegetarian stuck in a body that should be on Atkins permanently.

    But Mom is a carnivore. I didn’t know how bad the situation was—if any of the meat could be saved. And as I’d be inclined to chuck it all, I knew I’d better wait for Kory.

    When he got home we tackled the mess. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. The stuff on the top was defrosted but cold and the stuff in the bottom was still frozen. We threw out one or two questionable packages, transferred the frozen stuff to other freezers, and stashed the rest in the fridge. That night I cooked six pounds of ground beef and buffalo, mostly to freeze.

    The next night I cooked five. And tonight I’ve got the last of the lot cooking. Well, there are still three packages of bacon. Now bacon is a different matter all together. Even a meat hater like me can’t deny that bacon is important for a person’s mental well-being.

    When I finally told Mom about the casualties I broke it to her gently, emphasizing everything we’d saved. She said, “Well, that freezer is older than your brother!”

    And here’s the sad part. My brother and his wife are carnivores too. They both love to cook. I so wish they lived closer and could come take some cow off our hands. Especially since I just remembered to check on the ribs. They’re burned.

    Meat. It just isn’t worth the trouble.

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Banned Books Week

    I was asked to speak on the topic of choosing picture books at Author Fest of the Rockies this year. Of course I jumped at the chance to talk about children’s books, which I love. I came up with a workshop called Choosing Picture Books that Work for Your Child and You. I took the approach that although adults and kids might have different goals in mind when they pick out a book, any form of reading can be beneficial. Yes, this includes Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Garfield.

    My theory is that we don’t need to teach our kids to love stories. We’re born with that. Do you watch TV? You love stories. We do need to show them that reading isn’t scary. It’s relaxing and freeing.

    Of course I think you should expose your kids to literature, read quality fiction and non-fiction, and be discerning about their maturity and what topics they can handle. But I don’t think you need to feel guilty when your kid streaks through the latest Captain Underpants release. If that builds their joy in reading, so be it.

    When I arrived at the wonderfully funky Business of Arts Center in Manitou Springs, I checked in with Black Cat Books, the folks in charge of selling books at the event. I immediately zeroed in on the Banned Books bracelets.

    I love jewelry related to the written word! One tile on the slimmer bracelet caught my eye. That’s right! Captain Underpants. I bought it, displayed it during my presentation, and then showed it to my kids when I got home.

    You probably already know September 30th through October 6th is Banned Book Week. I was just perusing some of the titles and reasons they were challenged this morning. A few I’ve read. Most I haven’t. Some I’d love to read. Some I’d exercise my right not to read.

    But after reading the list, I was a little surprised when I picked up my eleven-year-old from school and he proclaimed, “I read banned books,” and showed me a button he got at school.

    “Cool!” I said.

    “I don’t know why they’re banned. I guess for bad words and stuff.”

    Poor kid. Someday he’ll know better than to bring up such a topic with his mother.

    What followed was my philosophical argument for exploring difficult subjects in literature for the good of all humankind. I ended by saying that I write about things that some people don’t think should be in Christian fiction. (Because romantic revenants and faeries that do chores are so controversial.)

    “They just want happiness and flowers and Amish people,” I grumbled.

    Monkey, seeing his opportunity to sneak a word in while Mom took a breath, hollered from the back seat. “They need action too!”

    I laughed. For him, a good book means a book with plenty of action. Simple as that.

    I got off my soapbox. Took the chip off my shoulder and stored it for later use. And I thought, “Write a good book, Evangeline. With action! Nobody cares about the rest.”

    So, what banned books have you read? I didn’t read all the lists at the banned books site but I know The Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland and Huckleberry Finn have been banned or contested. I’ve read those. And Captain Underpants. Don’t forget Captain Underpants!