Friday, September 25, 2009

Bagworm Bonanza

Live and let live. That's what I always say when it comes to "wildlife"...AKA critters that enter our home through unprotected crevices. Spiders get cupped and escorted out. As for flies, they're whisked out the door. The only fair game, really, are the mosquitoes. They're out to suck our blood...They carry an element of danger...So we swat away.

As for outside, I love the ecosystem we've set up. The squirrels, birds, and even the occasion rogue rodent who comes to partake in the leftover seed, are welcome for the most part.

As of late, however, a new creature has invaded our bushes. Truly amazing organisms, these bagworms, as they're named, are caterpillars who rearrange small branches and twigs on our shrubs to make cozy, hanging hideouts. For the longest time, I thought our evergreens were producing some kinds of funky pine cone, as their shape and the way they hang strongly resemble them.

Z told me, over and over, that he thought they were some type of cocoon. "Doubting Mom" was not convinced...until Z witnessed the head of one protruding and, unfortunately, eating away.

So here's the dilemma...The teacher who refuses to do the "termite experiment" in bio class because it involves ripping the head off and smushing its insides to view microscopic, mutualistic protozoans under a microscope, is now faced with finding a way to rid our garden of a creature that will eat each bush until it kills it, dead. There are tons of them, hanging peacefully (but acting ravenously when we're not looking). A gorgeous example of camouflage, but nonetheless a parasite.

Should we let nature decide who survives? Do we get out the jumbo can of Raid? Can we clip each one off the bushes and transfer all of them to, say, the dump, where they can eat to their hearts' content? Tough call here...

Hey Steve, you never really liked those hedges anyway, did you?


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Catholic Church In China: Part I--Cathedrals of Joy

I have just written a guest column for the Catholic News Agency, an organization that (as the name suggests!) provides up-to-the-minute information about the Catholic Church and issues relevant to Catholics around the world. The column addresses the experiences the four of us had with the Catholic Church while we were living in China. It is envisioned as the first of a two-part series, with the follow-up column to come out some time next month.

You can check out the website of the Catholic News Agency by clicking here, and you can go directly to the column by clicking here. Enjoy!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Let's Dance!

This past Friday night was Julie's first high school dance. (And, as you might have guessed, my first high school dance as a chaperone!)

Theme? "Glam!"

And Julie did not disappoint, as she donned her high heels, marabou boa, tiara, pink bubble dress, and, of course, plenty of sparkles. (Special thanks to Grandma for her speedy delivery of rhinestones and more rhinestones!) As a gal who has always enjoyed dressing up, this was a ball for Julie. (As a mom who loves to "do" hair, this was a lot of fun for me, too!)

Chaperone duty at a mixer that hosts over eight hundred kids is serious business. After a succinct, but informative meeting, I received my assignment and headed outside the front door. As "Parent Chaperone #1," my job was to keep the kids outside in line (literally!) and to direct them to the "Have Tickets" or "Have No Tickets" door. In addition, though, I directed traffic, greeted parents (especially the ones I actually knew!), and encouraged the kids to head in before the doors closed for the five minutes...two minute.

The kids were really good, both outside and, later, inside (at eight thirty I was able to move inside and check out the music and dance scene). Besides the warm temperature and slight gym odor, the atmosphere was a lot of fun. The kids were dancing and having a great time. Julie and her good friend Deborah (a real "polka dot" beauty that night!) hung out with old friends and enjoyed dancing to song after song. I was proud to have recognized most of the songs! My only issue was that I wanted to dance, too! My feet kept tapping, but I controlled the urge to join Julie and her friends. I was, after all, a "chaperone."

In all, I was happy with what I observed. Despite a few "live wires" and a couple of kids whose attitudes were a little over the top, it was cute to see all the glamor girls (lots of sequins!) and the boys in their school colors (lots of t-shirts posturing their institution of secondary education).

Happiest moment? Julie won the award for "best dressed freshman." Way to go, Julie!