Saturday, May 22, 2010

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

First, let me start by saying I loathe that old nursery rhyme about what little boys and girls are made of. You know, the one that says that girls are "sugar and spice and everything nice," and boys are "frogs and snails and puppy dog tails." Uchhhhh.

Because I'll tell you, my boy's veins practically run with sugar. And his friend Evie, Kita's daughter, is responsible for introducing us to snails when we all lived in Los Angeles, and she had one living as her pet in a little terrarium she carted around with her; so clearly little girls have a bit of the snail in them, too. The adage essentially runs to the core of what's wrong with gender roles and how they are foisted on our children, in cute little rhyme-form, from day one. It makes me all kinds of angry, but that's another blog entry that I've been tossing around in my head for awhile. Today I'm just using that line as a title because I'm going to write about snails. Lots of snails.

We have, in our front yard, what you might call as snail farm. A community of squatting snails who are taking over our front walk, our driveway, and pretty much any other place they can get to between dark and light, or during a rainy day. Ethan is fascinated by them. Fascinated. And strangely, inexplicably? I love them. Quite simply, I think they are freaking awesome.

I know. They are absolutely disgusting. Seriously, I know. And I don't know exactly what they do to plants and grass that make companies produce snail killing pesticides, but clearly it can't be good. But there is something about their tenacity--they stick to everything and their nightly journey--out from under the shrubs, across the walkway, party in the grass all night and then, in the wee hours of the day, while it's still dewy out, shlep back across the lawn, across the walkway and back up under the shrubs--is impressive to me; so slow and determined. Like the turtle in Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, stoically facing, and steadfastly overcoming, whatever impediments present themselves in its journey across the highway.

Um. Have I been drinking? No. Sadly friends, this is me, undrunk.

I just like them. Their weird little antennae-sort of eye-things that wiggle in every which direction as they mind their own business, just trying to get where they're going. The strange little spotted stuff (yeah, I know it's slime and that it should make me want to puke. I KNOW! I'm really as horrified as you that it doesn't make me want to puke!) they leave behind all over the sidewalk as sort of a "I've been here! It took me an hour to get back to where I came from, but I was here!" For some reason, I love it when I go out at night, especially if it's raining, and I have to tip-toe in a zig-zag down my walkway to avoid the small army of snails oozing their way from the shrubs to the grass (remember, party in the grass all night!) (also, interesting to note: the last time I ran anywhere in a zig-zag fashion was when I lived outside of Washington, DC during the sniper scare and people ran through parking lots in a zig-zag, erratic fashion to better their chances of avoiding being hit by a bullet if they were the next ones caught in the sniper's cross-hairs. I'm not kidding. We all looked absurd and it would have been hysterically funny if we hadn't all so scared for our lives that autumn).

Anyhoo, back to the snails. I'm slightly horrified that the neighborhood kids take some serious delight in killing the snails. Like, giddy, giggly, crazy-eyed glee. One of the little girls likes the huck them into the street and watch them get smooshed by a passing car. The little boy stomps on them and laughs at the crunchy sound they make and the giant snot-like smear (which should gross me out and remind me that these things are GROSS! but it just makes me sad) left on the sidewalk when he lifts his feet.

Ethan is equally fascinated by and protective of the little slimy beasts. He practically hyperventilates when the kids next door get to snail-massacring. To the point that I've had to tell them that they are absolutely, no questions about it, NOT allowed to mess with the snails in our yard. If they HAVE to fulfill their bloodlust and kill the poor saps who slime their way over to their yard? Fine. So be it. They leave my property, it's out of my hands. But in our yard? Hands off! No snailocide on my watch, people!

We have a new gardener (comes with the rent; I'd rather do it myself, but we're already paying for it) and he's a bit heavy-handed with the trimmers. Some gardeners lovingly tend the greenery, coaxing it grow and flourish. Not this guy; he gardens like his mother was eaten by a Venus Flytrap and he's out for revenge. For example, he did this to a tree in our front yard, a formerly gorgeous purple-flower flowering tree:

About 28 hours ago, it was full and lush with cute little purple flowers that almost looked like they were made of silk. And now...seriously???!!! Ugh. The man hates ALL flowering trees--he did this to three flowering trees in our backyard about a month ago and I assumed he was just a little over-eager with the sheers that day. But no. Come to find out, if it's got a flower on it, his goal seems to be to pare it back to the point that will ensure it doesn't flower again for the rest of the season. Mission accomplished, Edward Scissorhands. Mission accomplished.

And while I'm horrified by what he did to the tree, I have to admit, it makes our snail watching a just a leeeetle bit easier. See, they live in the shrubs to the lower right of the picture and around the vines and rock wall of the front porch (where my "jogging" stroller sits...idly). When the tree was in full bloom, it took up a lot more space, and the tree is just ONE example of the destruction he wrought on the front yard, so without the excess "over"growth (read: just regular old growth that normal gardeners would have left the hell alone), its easier to see where the snails are sleeping or heading to on their epic treks.

Upon discovering a little cluster of snails, some napping, some sauntering around the tree, we had to stop and investigate. Oh, and a point of clarification, I do not require my child to wear a helmet every time we go outside; he was riding his bike moments before we switched gears to snail-watching. Just so you know.

This picture cracks me up every time I look at it. I have never seen him make that face before and it is so hilarious. He got so close to the tree that he bonked his helmet on it, but he would not be deterred from his quest to inspect the sleeping snails (as seen in the first picture of this post; which, by the way, I love even though I know I should find it revolting. I KNOW!)

"Wakey wakey, snails!"

Posing with the snails--you can't see them, but believe me, they are there.


Mama & baby snail. SO GROSS! But we lurve them.


Corinne said...

Those snails are something else... I've never seen anything like that!
(and yay for taking part in the Creativity Boot Camp!!)

gringa said...

A budding biologist!

MamaBear said...

I secretly think baby snails are adorable. Don't tell anyone.

Becca said...

Better snails than roly polies!

Anonymous said...

i could handle the LA snails, but those look like some SERIOUS snails! i mean, those are huge! i'll have to show this to evie when she gets home.

sarah said...

Kita, they are huge! the shells are big enough, but when those suckers stick their bodies out, they are 2-3 inches long. we've had a lot of rain in the past few days, so they are just everywhere.