For the fourth summer in a row, bugs look to be theBest Free Entertainment Money Can't Buy at our house. It's a wonderful thing. Bugs are totally free, they're plentiful, they don't require batteries, they teach lots of things beyond what they appear to be (building communities, the cycle of life, caring for living creatures), and they're disposable, since at night we release them back into nature to they can go find their families (at first, Joseph didn't want to let them go; when I asked him how he'd feel if a giant hand from the sky plucked him out of his back yard and put him in a glass jar and wouldn't let him come back to his family, he relented). They don't clutter up my living room, they're not made of caustic, China-imported materials, and my kids love 'em. It doesn't get any better than that.
We are all about bugs here. I was worried that Joseph might outgrow his fascination with bugs this year as he's become more interested (OK, obsessed) with basketball, but he's still an amazingly enthusiastic collector of bugs. He and Kate spend hours hunting for bugs, making homes for them, talking about them. When they see a bug they don't recognize, they run into the house and look it up in the giant book about bugs that Kate got for Christmas a couple years ago (this, I must admit, makes me a Super Proud Mom. My 5- and 6-year-old are doing independent research - in books, no less. I know plenty of high-school students who would balk at this very notion). We color and draw pictures of bugs. We go the library and get out books about bugs. We look up information on the Internet. Last year, they even went to Bug Camp - a weeklong daycamp at one of the city parks here. It was a huge hit. If we can spare the cash, they'll go again this year.
Their utter lack of squeamishness about them amazes me. I'm not all girly and yippie about bugs, but neither am I an entymologist. Kate will, without thought, pick up any insect she sees and plop it into her bug house. Once, the mom of some kids with whom they used to spend a bit of time told me that she actively encourages her kids to be afraid of bugs, because she hates them herself. I was annoyed because it seems ridiculous to me that you'd pass on your irrational fears to your kids just because; also, I didn't want my kids to start fearing insects because they saw her kids fearing them. Luckily, that didn't happen.
Right now it's the beginning of caterpillar season. They're spending a great deal of time every evening collecting wooly caterpillars. Joseph is waiting for Kate to return from her friend Livia's house right now because Kate is The Best Caterpillar Hunter, according to him. I told him he should tell her that, because it would mean a lot to her to hear praise like that from her brother. I'm skeptical that he'll admit it to her, but he surprises me very often, so we'll see. In a few weeks, we'll move to ladybug collecting. It's all seasonal. Kate's school would be proud.
(I just want to point out here that I got a lot of dog poop on my shoe getting this picture of one of the first caterpillars we saw this year. I was squatting down to get a close up and, after warning Joseph to step around the dog poop, I stepped right in it. I'd like to give a big Thank You shout out to our neighbors for regularly letting your bighuge dogs wander the street by themselves so that they can take bighuge squats in other people's yards. How awesome is it that my kids get to play in a yard that may or may not have residue left by other people's dogs? How extra-awesome is it that this residue may get tracked through my house when my kids come inside? Thank you, thank you, thank you).
Long live the bugs! Not in my house, obvsiously, and nothing with stingers or poison, please, but all others are welcome here.