Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spider Part 3

My Kitchen Window Spider caught two winged termites over the past few days.  She didn't seem to be doing anything with them at first, but today she began eating one of them.  I watched her off and on over several hours as she gorged herself.  Her body grew enormous, round and taut, larger than the first egg sack she had laid last week.  It was shiny in the light of the kitchen through the window.  I kept thinking her body was another egg sack, and hoped she wouldn't explode.  I expect she will lay her eggs tonight while it is dark.  I wonder how many sacks she will create before she expires?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ladybugs Transforming

A few weeks ago I was taking the compost out to the composter, and noticed some strange bugs on the tree next to the garden.  They were orange and black and attached to the leaves.  I looked closer, and realized they were the remains of a ladybug that had transformed from the larvae stage to the adult stage.  I looked some more, and found various stages of the ladybug life cycle in evidence on the tree.  The ladybugs begin as eggs (I didn't see any of those) and then hatch into larvae.  These alligator-like critters rove around eating aphids.  They stay in this phase for up to three weeks, then they attach themselves to a leaf or other substrate to enter the pupa phase.  During the next few days, the ladybugs will change into their adult form, and then the back of the pupa will split, revealing the hard shell of the familiar adult.  The life cycle begins again.

I was thrilled to see the ladybug pupa in person for the first time.  It was amazing to me to see so many different stages on the same tree.  I showed Gabriel, too, and explained the cycle to him.  How cool it is to have a back yard to experience so many of nature's wonders!

Potty Learning

I started Annika "potty learning" today.  It went pretty well for the first half of the day.  No accidents until after 2pm.  Then we had several.  She even went #2 all by herself.  She is so different from Gabriel.  She actually wants to use the potty.  She practices over and over (and over and over).  She is so proud of herself, and is in a big "I do it myself" phase.  She wants to do the whole thing on her own, and it is difficult sometimes for me to let her try and fail.  But she is adamant about wanting to do things her way.  From putting on clothes, to using the big toilet, to wiping, to grabbing the soap off the soap dish to wash her hands - everything is a challenge to meet and conquer.  Though it is time-consuming and often laborious to begin this phase of her life, I am excited for her and enjoy seeing her blossoming.  It is such a joy to have a child whom I don't have to fight to complete the tasks involved with learning this new skill.  It is easier for me to be patient knowing that this messy phase will pass quickly, and she will be much more confident.  

Monday, August 18, 2008

Spider Update

Yesterday the spider in my window was mostly inactive.  I figured it was resting from its large meal.  This morning I woke to find the creature had indeed laid an egg sack in the corner.  Her body was noticeably diminished.  She still has not been very active today.  

The egg sack is papery, unlike the silky sphere I was expecting.  It is larger than the spider herself.  What an amazing event to contemplate!  How did this small arachnid create such a large home for her progeny?  I suppose she deserves a day or two of rest after all that labor.  I fear the next step will be her death, but I suppose she could still live to lay more eggs before the autumn comes.  I'll keep watching. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Spider meal

A spider is eating a bug outside the kitchen window.  I have been watching it all morning, in between other chores.  Some kind of beetle creature has gotten caught in the web in the upper corner of the lower pane.  It is wrapped up in the gentle, steel silk, immobile.  Each time I go to the sink and look out toward the back yard, I observe that the spider is in a different place, attending to its catch.  

The spider's legs are translucent, each joint slightly enlarged, knobby.  It has a plump, taut, round body.  I wonder if it is a female, ready to lay some eggs to ensure its progeny enter next spring.  Could it be that it has gotten fatter throughout the day, or is it just my imagination?

I didn't even notice its web at first.  I thought there wasn't much of one, or that it had been torn up.  But as the light changed throughout the day, I saw that there is actually a complex creation guarding the window.  No simple Halloween-spider web, this is three-dimensional, made from the thinnest strands.  It is practically invisible.  The strings form lopsided pyramids in every direction, and other geometric shapes I cannot name.  Multiple supports stick to the window frame, providing a strategic framework for horizontal and diagonal secondary scaffolding.  Larger black flies barge right through; how this huge bug got itself caught, I wish I knew.

The window is dirty on the outside and the inside.  It has various marks on the outside - mostly spider poop, I think, and other insect leavings.  On the inside it is mostly food and water splashes that have dried on the pane.  I need to wash my windows, but I think I will leave the outside alone for a time, to give the spider its space and to continue to watch this interesting little creature. 

Monday, August 4, 2008

Going to Storytime

We rushed around this morning getting ready to head out the door to storytime.  I had made us run a few minutes late checking on something on the internet.  I should have waited until we got back, but I thought I could squeeze it in.  I felt guilty, and tried to control my annoyance and not let it out at the kids as we locked up and headed down the street.  I consciously took a breath to try to quell the stress that had been building in my gut and chest.  I told myself it would be OK if we were a few minutes late to storytime.

The kids ran down the sidewalk.  I worried about Annika tripping and falling on the cement, skinning her knees.  I resisted the urge to yell "Be careful!" or some other inane motherly warning.  Annika had her short little jean skirt on, the one that says "CUTE" on the rear end.  She was wearing her ladybug sandals, which she got on with only a little bit of help from me.  Gabriel had shorts and a t-shirt on, too, and sandals, which I think are too small for his feet.  He won't admit that, though, insisting they are still comfortable.  The kids were excited to be going to the library, and happily turned the corner to the gravel path that cuts through the greenbelt.  

Soon we were under the trees.  The path changed from gravel to wood chips.  I lifted my sunglasses off my eyes to perch on the top of my head.  The shade felt soothing.  The forest smelled damp, shady, alive.  Gabriel said, "I like it here."  I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly, so I asked him "You like it here?"  "Yeah, I like it here," he said.  "I wish I could live here.  I wish my home was in the forest.  I would be an animal or a bird or an owl.  I'd live right here next to the stream."  We continued over the culvert that the stream passes through, and soon were out the other side of the greenbelt, back into the sun, kids running down the sidewalk, past City Hall, and onto the noise and chaos of storytime.  Our snippet of a conversation felt like we had stepped into another time frame for the few moments it took us to walk through the forest.   I didn't have a chance to tell Gabriel that I used to want to live in the forest when I was a child.  In fact, there is a secret, deep place in me that still does, that wants to find a little cabin, plant a big garden, take long walks in the woods, have a wood stove and a water pump, and do whatever it is that people do who live in the woods.  It would be difficult to make it to storytime, though!