30 Day Fast

Today is the first day of our 30 Day Family Fast.  Not a fast from food, and goodness not a fast from wine, one from electronics.  I recognize that we’ll need to modify the rules as we go, but for now it means no television (including you tube), no video games, no Nintendo DS and (according to the kids) NO FUN for 30 days.  There are a ton of reasons we are doing this but to list a few here they include.

  1. Our focus needs to be on school and getting organized.
  2. We have a limited amount of time together, it would be nice to actually see each other when we are home.
  3. Video games and TV shouldn’t replace the desire to read and do well in school….unfortunately, we’re gonna have to force it a bit. 
  4. The grown-ups are constantly complaining about not enough time to do things around the house we need to do….cut TV and we hope to have more time.
  5. We have a million board games we need to break in.

Wish us luck on our adventure.  I think it is fair to say we are all a little scared and excited at the same time. 




Death and the Mantises

If finding a praying mantis alive is good luck, I am forever plagued by bad karma.  I was so excited a month ago to finally get the praying mantis egg case from insect lore.  This had been a gift for one of our kids last year as an experiential learning opportunity.  In secret though, this was going to be a good time for me.  Last year, however, when I went to order the case they were all out of them for the season.  I had to wait almost a full year to get my case.  In April we did get the case.  We finally put together their little pagoda and mesh home.  I had to tape the little pagoda inside because it wouldn’t stay together.  Not that the mantis would have minded, but I thought it best to kept he pagoda intact. 

Mesh case Praying Mantis Pagoda

The mantis egg case hung in our mesh container for nearly 4 weeks.  I began to believe that they would never hatch.  This weekend, I didn’t have a chance to really observe them to see how things we progressing.  Sleepy sand eyed on Sunday morning, I noticed that there were hatchlings all over the inside of this mesh container. 

tiny cute hatchlings

I woke the kids up, my daughter was thrilled and son couldn’t have cared less.  I remembered from the instruction booklet that they should be separated pretty soon after hatching to avoid them eating each other.  Not knowing if they had hatched Friday, Saturday or Sunday, I decided, better safe than sorry….I needed to separate them now and set them free.

Lessons learned while releasing praying mantis:

  1. Mantises hold on to the inside of the mesh container.  They do not WANT to come out.  Shaking them with all of your might will get them out, maybe legless and shocked, but on the ground at least.  Once on the ground, the ant population of the world will really appreciate your efforts.  Tribes of ants will gather to carry off mantis body parts.  The mantis head being carted away by the ants is an image I will never quite get out of my head.  (so sorry Manny)

    Ant food

  2. The information sheets say that fruit flies are an ideal food for the hatchlings.  Online information says that the food has to be smaller than the head of the mantis.  Well, either I have extra tiny mantis or Precambrian fruit flies because my fruit flies are 10 times bigger than the head of the mantis.
  3. Flightless fruit flies are available at Petco.  Call before you go and ask if the containers they have actually have LIVE fruit flies or your trip will be a waste of time. 
  4. The cute little pagoda that you taped has become a death trap for 2 mantises that no longer have their legs…thank you very much.
  5. Tiny spiders while food to the grown mantis are actually killers to the hatchlings.
  6. To stop the ant buffet in the backyard, I took my remaining 20 – 30 mantis to the backyard with a bunch of Tupperware containers (holes punched in the lids)  I decided to put in each container, 1 – 2 mantis, 3 fruit flies + fruit so that they could multiply if necessary, and some leaves.  I got the flies and the fruit into the containers just fine.  Again, the struggle was getting the mantis in there.  Finally got them in when a big wind picks up and blows the containers.  When I pick them up the mantis are flattened and stuck to the fruit. 
  7. Put them away for the night and fill the whole thing up with fruit flies and when you wake in the morning it will be a carpet of tiny dead mantis on the floor stuck to the goo of the banana and the carcasses of fruit flies that didn’t make it.
  8. Don’t get excited that you may have saved 3 because when you wake in the morning, the three will have become 1. 

 I am resigned that this experiment was a failure.  I secretly pray that some of the 100 or so that I let go of actually lived, there is always a chance I guess.  I plan to write to insect lore to inform them of my grim reaper status and ask for forgiveness and advice for next year.  I need to redeem myself.  I really wanted a mantis.  Can you believe Sears sells egg cases?

Mantis and the Butterfly lessons

I was looking forward through my calendar when I saw a February entry that said “order preying mantis”.  I chuckled because I bought my daughter a preying mantis habitat to hatch eggs and watch them grow.    By the time I ordered the habitat, the eggs weren’t available.  I have a coupon to order them later this month. 

There are all sorts of rules about when to order, how many to keep in the cage at a time, there is some rule about the number of mantis that allowed in the cage at a time.  I’ll study a little more before we reach the date. 

Last spring I ordered caterpillars to raise and release as butterflies.   The kids loved the experience and were thrilled when they saw how much the worms grew each day.  When they turned to chrysalis it was so cool and then to actually watch the butterflies hatch was wonderful.  We decided to make a big deal about releasing them and do it on my birthday.  The weather was on the warm side and it seemed the perfect day to let our new winged friends go.  My kids and some other neighborhood children watched as we let the first of them go.  Up, Up, Up, she flew.  We watched as she made her ascent.  All of a sudden from the park across the street came a red breasted robin who chased and chomped that butterfly in one bite.  The shrieks from the children and adults were heard through the entire neighborhood.  Releasing the rest of the butterflies was more of a fearful act after that.  To this day when my daughter sees a robin, she points him out and says, “Mommy, that bwird over dere, he ate my butterfwy.”

Hmmm, I wonder what we’ll see the mantises eat?