Wednesday, July 8, 2009


We haven't had dinner inside since Father's day. We got D a gas grill, and he loves it! He and the kids have probably eaten more meat in the past three weeks than in the past three years combined, thanks to the wonders of propane and a good set of tongs. I've learned to make a pretty mean grilled sandwich with fresh mozzarella and basil. (well, OK, D still does the grilling but boy can I slice those tomatoes!)

I love eating outside! Be in on a picnic blanket, a fancy table or just a patch of grass, there is just something special about food consumed under the blue sunny skies of summer, no? We have this great old silver maple whose branches just drape over the back yard, creating a delicious breeze and dappled shade. Our "dining set" is an old, rusty number I scored at a yard sale for $25 years ago. The thing is charming since I coated it with "cornflower blue" spray paint.

Dinner was positively lovely the other evening, a sunny, breezy night. We had just sat down to feast on the vinegar-and-salt roasted potatoes (Yum!) that I had made when our party was spoiled by -who else-a bee.

To say that L freaked would be an understatement. She screamed so loud I was worried the neighbors would call 911. She pretty much lept into my arms and buried her face in my neck, screaming the whole time.

We retreated to the safety of the kitchen where she managed to calm down a little bit, and I explained to her that bees are mostly harmless, that they don't want to hurt people, they only sting when scared, and that they actually die if they sting. Oh, and they do something pretty neat: help spread the plants and flowers that we love. Help the plants that grow fruits. But I backed off on that angle. She was so not there yet. She was still fearful and freaked out.

Since she is still fuzzy on the whole "death" thing, I explained: "The stinger is at the very end of the bee. And when the bee stings, the back of their body rips off. And that hurts the bee too. So, you see, they don't really want to sting you."

A couple of days later, she was still asking me to explain this. "Mommy, tell me what happens to a bee when it stings you?" "Mommy, why does the bee's body rip apart?" So I told her, again and again.

I love bees. And although I was tempted to seize this as a "teachable moment" and expound on the virtues of bees, I also recognized that she was still in a place of fear. Rather than inundate the girl with facts and information about how great bees really are, what an important role they play in nature, I just wanted her to not be afraid. That's the first step toward appreciation. After all, she's not going to give a hoot what bees do if she's terrified of them. Right now, she just needs to know she's safe around bees.

In our mail that afternoon was the DNR's great magazine, the Volunteer, and this month's issue had a feature on bees! Wonderful! We got to look close-up at the bodies of different species of bees, and L actually saw how cute and fuzzy the little things are! She was really interested in the pictures and picked a few "favorites" from a page with a dozen or so pictures. Here's a link to a great article on bees from that magazine. I mentioned very briefly that bees help spread plants around, and help fruits and flowers grow.

My hope, of course, is to help her move from fear to curiosity. I want her be intrigued enough by what they do, that she is curious and wants to learn more. So, the next day when we made strawberry popsicles, I had to put in a good word for the bees who pollinated the strawberry plants.

cool bee links to check out:
And did you know the honeybee population is on the decline? It's scary and true. Something big is happening, and scientists are not sure what. Read more about "colony collapse disorder" at this link:

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