Friday, October 8, 2010

Ralph I

Seventh grade was torture. We dissected worms. And by "we," I mean the guys in my group because I quickly assured them that I had the best handwriting & should therefore be the note-taker. Anything to not slice into a gooey dead worm.

Then there was the shark dissection. We were supposed to bring money and order either small, medium, or large-with-a-baby sharks. I found the loophole in that one, though, & simply did not order a shark. Boy was my teacher mad the day that the room was filled with the scent of formaldehyde and my precocious answer to her inquiry.

Where's your shark, Aubrey?

Like I'd brought one from home or hidden it in my backpack.

The bug project was not so easily side-stepped, though. We had to collect fifty bugs. 50 Oh, excuse me, not bugs, but insects. So spiders don't count. I lived in an apartment at the time, and despite their buggy reputation, we had little other than cockroaches and spiders. Sure, roaches count, but only once, and only if you had the guts to catch them in the first place.

Besides hunting down fifty different species of insect, we also had to kill them in such a way as to preserve their color & shape. (No squishing, vacuuming, or bug-spraying.) Then we were supposed to pin them to a board & label them. Labeling's fine with me, but piercing the hard shell of an icky dead bug was not. I figured I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.

I'd collected 5 bugs when my ratty box of insects disappeared. We were all keeping them on the back table of our science class, and until now, I'd always assumed that a custodian had thrown mine out. Considering everyone else's bugs were still there, though...I bet somebody nabbed mine & added them to their own collection!

Either way, those five bugs represented everything I'd done—all the sweat, tears, and general ICK. The project was almost due. I did the only thing I could: I went to my teacher. She was relentless. I'd have to start over. I should have taken better care of my bugs.

I negotiated: what if I did a more in-depth project, detailed drawings of each bug? What if I did 100 like this? What if I wrote reports? Anything. Just don't make me go after more bugs.

She would not negotiate. I worried for a little while, and then I realized: I'm not doing this. Period. It's yucky.  I've tried to be reasonable.

So I failed that 6 weeks of science. It was the first time I'd ever failed anything.

My mom was furious. When she heard what had happened, she decided the best consequence would be to make me collect & label bugs for her. She was always a homeschooler at heart. I cried over the torture of it for about a week. By then, though, she'd had to take me out looking for bugs. She liked bugs about as much as I did, so when she stopped mentioning it, so did I.

Until last week, I'd caught 5 bugs in my whole life, all of them for 7th grade science. I'm 30-something now, and my kids have mysteriously fallen in love with the hobby of catching grasshoppers in the backyard. For a recent science project, they were bringing in leaves for us to identify, press, and label, but one had a bug on it.

It was a pretty cool bug. A yellow-striped beetle-looking thing. I happen to have mason jars sitting around, one of the few things that have been unpacked since we moved last month. I looked up how to kill bugs for collecting, but it turns out, you don't need the freaky cotton ball soaked in stinky stuff. (I can't remember what we used in 7th grade.) You just throw the mason jar in the freezer for a couple of days, & voila! Dead bug.

So yesterday when my 3yo began crying about a bug in the was pretty easy to scoop him into a mason jar. So he's in my freezer now, too. Just an average ugly black beetle. Maybe a click beetle.

Today we caught a moth. It was trying to get out the window & scaring the kids, so it really needed to be dealt with somehow. So what if he's in the freezer?

It's funny how life comes back on you like this. I guess I could say homeschooling is its own punishment? Or curiosity breeds courage? But I haven't had to go after one cockroack, and nobody's stealing my collection. Plus, it's a group project. If I get too wigged out, I've got a 9yo boy. He thinks icky bugs are pretty awesome. He's hoping for a dissection. ICK!

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