(1) I'm a natural procrastinator. In college I carried an announcement for a procrastinator's support group meeting in my wallet for a year, but never got around to going. True story.
(2) I'm a natural hoarder, not level 5, but the scrapbook I made in high school is on the floor by my bed even though I graduated in 1979. I'm clearing house right now, going through my writing too, and want to share pieces that seem worthy. Anyone who reads this also has to take my broken pen collection :-)
Here it is, a piece called Feeding the Family:
Ever wonder why the airlines tell parents to put on their oxygen mask first before tending to the children? This morning, while getting everyone ready for the first day of school I figured it out. Why tell us every time we fly to save ourselves first? Why do that? Because it goes against natural parental instinct. Take care of the kids first. Take care of the kids first and then and only then do you tend to your own needs. Survival of the species trumps survival of the self. Despite their selfish efforts, even the last few decades of me-gens can’t compete with thousands of years of instinct. The feeding order at breakfast in my house is a daily reminder of this drive to keep the species going strong. Feed the kids first.
Sure, that’s easy enough. But as they’ve grown older, we’ve added pets into the mix. Where do they fit into my theory on species perpetuation? This morning I fed two children, two dogs, two lizards, a hermit crab, a praying mantis, and a few dozen crickets who eat like little pigs and need to stay fattened up (it’s called gut-loading in the exotic pet industry lingo), so the lizard and mantes can get their nutrients. The children are the easy part. I’ve lost so many crickets while trying to use my son’s bug vac during feeding time that my house sounds like a forest, full of cheeps and scurrying noises.
At least the mantes have outgrown their appetite for fruit flies. And thank goodness, since my husband (yes, there is a husband, but he has to forage the forest for his own grub) was getting tired of smelling the tub of fly larva I kept in the kitchen cupboard next to his ice tea glasses. This summer, I learned that fruit flies can be bred not to fly, which technically makes them fruit walkers. They come in a plastic tub, like the kind an old aunt might pack a nice potato salad into for the family picnic. At the bottom of the tub is a gooey mixture that squirms. On close inspection, which I don’t recommend, it’s easy to see that the squirming is hundreds of maggots as small as dry risoni pasta. They smell like old garbage, the moist sticky bits that cling to the edge of the trash bin. The forty praying mantis hatchlings that dripped out of the two egg cases I had bought at a plant nursery for my four-year-old son’s bug habitat must have thought the fly smell was delicious, since they hovered at the habitat opening every meal time.
Praying mantes are fascinating to watch. They grow like mad, shedding old tight skin every few days, emerging big, soft, and younger looking. A bit like a skin peel/reverse lipo combo. After they harden back up a bit, they can snatch prey with lightening speed and graceful dexterity. According to a praying mantis web site (yes, there are many such sites), they bite the neck of their prey first and paralyze them so they can devour a meal that doesn’t fight back. And by the by, they are cannibals. I know some bug advocates might send me scolding letters if they read this next paragraph, but here goes.
I allowed the mantes to eat each other. Yes, I confess to turning a blind eye to cannibalism in my very own kitchen. Here is how I rationalized it. In my house the mantes were guaranteed a last meal, while out in the garden it was anybody’s guess. I live in the desert where all summer long outside temperatures hover in the triple digits. It is hot and miserable. While my garden offers insects more than the usual fare found in the outlying desert, it’s not air-conditioned and fruit flies don’t fall out of the sky like manna. Of the forty or so baby mantes, three survived to be big fat ladies. I call them the three witches, like the ones in Macbeth, since they ate their siblings and looked like they could still go for a little eye of newt or toe of frog. It was only a matter of time before they made a meal of one another, so we released two when the fruit flies ran out. The lone captive moved up to eating crickets.
I’m hoping the two out in the garden among the vinca leaves make egg sacks. Before releasing witch one and witch two, the headless carcasses of smaller males that lay on the floor of the habitat suggest they may be with child. That’s right. The preferred après amour snack of the female praying mantis is its lover’s head (minds out of the gutter ladies, I’m referring to the part of the male body with eyeballs and a brain). For now we’ll search the undersides of leaves for their babies, at least until it’s time for me to go in and prepare lunch.
That was then. Now my family includes the same two kids, same husband, three dogs (new golden retriever), two cats (feral mom birthed in our back yard. Husband still mad at three dogs for allowing this to happen), the same hermit crab, and a psychotic fish that eats all our other fish. I'm retired from bugs and maggots, except when I forget to change the hermit crab's food dish.