Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Update: On Getting Moving

Shortly after the first of the year I admitted to you, my loyal reader(s), that I was determined to move more in the new year. I was going to get up off the couch! I was going to sweat! I was going to be work it, girl! And I encouraged you, my loyal reader(s), to hold me accountable for my resolution.

During the past weekend TWO of you asked how the exercise plan is going, so it must be time for me to 'fess up: It's going shockingly well.

I am not a mover, and don't especially enjoy getting up before the sun. And yet...I'm doing both of those things, and have done them five times a week since the Monday after Thanksgiving. I've only missed three days, one when I was sick and twice when I was out of town. My fitness routine is 25 minutes on the exercise bike, followed by 15 minutes on the elliptical trainer, concluded by a five-minute walk around the block to cool down.

You'll be shocked when I tell you that the illustration with this blog is not an accurate artist representation of my current state of fitness, inasmuch as I do not have matchy-matchy shoes and shorts. No, when I'm exercising I look more like those wretched souls on Biggest Loser with the sweat and the gasping and the red-faced effort. All I lack is Jillian screaming in my ear.

And yet...I'm enjoying this. With a few exceptions (when finishing was a slogging struggle) I've come to look forward to plugging in the iPod and opening the Nook Color for a few more pages of Game of Thrones. I pick up the pace when "Santa Baby" comes on, and slow it back down for the Billy Joel ballads, and manage to keep my heartrate in the target zone.

Have I lost weight? Not so much. I'm still in the running (see what I did there?) to be crowned the world's slowest loser.

Do I feel better? You know, I think maybe I do. My knees definitely are less painful, and I seem to be keeping up better with Husband's Bataan Death March pace when we walk somewhere.

I think I'll keep moving.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Can See Clearly Now

You may think this blog is only a repository of stories about my inability to cook, or stories that embarrass my children, or oversharing about my eyebrows. No, this site is much more than that.

When I started Empty Nest Feathers I was determined to Keep It Real, where "real" means sharing the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the ins and the outs of moving out of the child-rearing stage of life. And oh, have I documented the good/ups/ins. My Boys!  I loooove them! They are woooonderful! Husband! So swell! Father and siblings! Best ever! Friends! Superb! Et cetera, ad nauseum.

The past few days have reminded me that this stage of life also has downs, or at least one down.

The body! Aging at warp speed!

Sunday morning I leaned down to pick something off the floor, and when I stood up I saw a flash of light in the corner of my right eye. Huh. Well, that was weird. Later, when I bent down to tie my shoes, the flash happened again, this time accompanied by a dark line at the edge of my peripheral vision.

(A word to the wise: If you are going to Google "flashing light in peripheral vision," wait until a day when doctors' offices are open. Doing this on Sunday will not add rest to your day of rest.)

Monday morning bright and early I called my doctor, as Dr. Internet urged. Dr. B took a look then referred me on to Dr. G, my eye doctor, who dilated my pupils to the size of pancakes and took a look inside. I'm quite sure that at the diameter of dilation reached she could see my appendix, but she was pleased with what she saw.

The good news is that I am fine. Take a moment with me and enjoy the relief.

The bad news is that I am getting old. Dr. G did not mince words. In fact the phrase "as we age" peppered our conversation so liberally that I thought perhaps she had chosen this as her new branding slogan. As we age, it turns our, the liquid that keeps the eyeball round and squishy starts to dry out. (It is labeled vitreous humour in the illustration--hahahaha!) For some of us, as we age, this liquid becomes more and more jelly-like until it pulls on the retina when the eyeball changes position. So as we age, some of us are more prone to retinal tears because our eyeballs are PULLING THEMSELVES APART.

So, Dr. G, what can I do to prevent this happening? I rather like being able to see. Dr. G looked at me thoughtfully. She had thoroughly described the conditions under which I should call her immediately (sudden burst of floaters, impression of a curtain being drawn across my vision) and probably thought I was being just a touch hypochondriacal. (Who, me?)

"Well," she said slowly, "first of all, no boxing. Also, no gymnastics."

It's a shame, really. I had almost perfected my triple-back-somersault-with-full-kick-out.

As I age, though, perhaps I should cut back on the eye-rolling.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Another Food Post

Brother Fred was in the House on the Corner over the weekend, and as everyone knows, this kind of visit can only mean one thing: Tall tales and laughter and food from Pinterest!

Oh, yes, another opportunity to take on the challenge of recreating the best of the internet, and this recipe for Apple Pie in an Apple looked delicious. Instead of a fat-laden double crust, it uses the scooped-out apple shell as the bottom crust, with a darling little hat of pastry on top. And because I've been trying to watch my nutrients and increase my apple intake but it's easy to be distracted by ....Hey! There's some pie over there! was a good compromise with my neophyte good eating habits. I pulled out the apples and began to work

If I were truly a food blogger I would have photographic documentation of each step of this process, but since I remembered I should be doing this at about Step 47, you'll have to take my word that I followed the recipe carefully. Slice off the top of the apple. Use a sharp knife to cut around the edges, cut an X through the middle, scoop out the sections, swing your partner and do-si-do.

The crust was a little different from normal pie crusts, but I'm sure that can be attributed to the recipe's Portuguese roots--I think I forgot to mention that this recipe is from a site called Testado, Provado e Aprovado!, which I believes can be translated as "We end every word with Ado and scatter random vowels around." Also, some of the measurements were in grams. (100 grams of butter? Say what?)

Anyway, after 40 minutes at 370 degrees the baking Apple Pies in the Apples made the house smell scrumptious. I opened the oven door expecting to see this:

Well, maybe not the placemats.
Instead, I saw something else. Something that looked less pretty and neat, something that looked, well, pre-chewed. Even possibly pre-digested.

Another angle.
Either I translated a step wrong or those Portuguese are amazing food stylists. Either way, I was not going to sacrifice what had taken me an hour in the kitchen to make, so I went ahead and served it to Husband and Fred. They were most appreciative--Fred even said it was (and I quote) "very good."

I'm sure he was talking about the Pie in an Apple, and not the three scoops of butter pecan ice cream I used to almost completely hide the unattractive mess scooped into the bottom of the bowl. After all, everyone loves a healthy dessert.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Personal Quirks

I was moving pictures from camera to computer when I came across this artful shot and had to pause a moment in silent reflection. I took it last week during a women's basketball game at Small College, when I realized I was having one of Those Moments when many things I love intersect.

I love Small College, and I love its scrappy basketball teams that sometimes win and sometimes lose but are almost always competitive. I love our seats in the geezer section with our names stenciled across the chairbacks.

And oh, how I love thee, basketball game popcorn. Mmmmm. Let me count the ways:

I love your salty crunch, and your neon-yellow color. I love the grease spots on the bag when I have munched my way to the bottom creases. I love rolling my eyes when Husband blows up the empty bag and pops it during an opponent's free throw.

Oh, yes, he does. He has a graduate degree from a major university, is an elected public official, and laughs like a five-year-old when I jump at the mini-explosion from the next seat. (Lest you think he's a bad sport, there is no evidence that it affects the freethrow-shooting player in any way whatsoever.)

At the last game I refused to give him the empty sack, knowing his nefarious plans.

"Honey, you'll just pop it and then people will think you're completely weird."

He looked at me for a second, then said, "True, but if anyone ever steals your camera and finds pictures of your half-empty popcorn sack, do you think they would find you any less weird?"

Point taken.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Icing on the Cake

Before the recital, when the punch and M&Ms hadn't yet been added
Boy#3 obviously had the hardest job at the senior recital Monday night--he had to play that music which, seen on the page, looked as if the printer had jammed and all the notes from a whole piece had been overprinted onto the same staff. With sharps and flats.

But if his job was hardest, my part of the evening had the most pressure: I was the reception coordinator.

Just saying the words makes me shudder. Three loves to play the trombone, and he's very, very good at it. I, on the other hand, love to think I know how to throw a reception but I'm not very good at it. Even obsessively poring over internet entertaining sites haven't helped my ineptitude in planning a get-together with just the right combination of sophistication and whimsy. Martha Stewart I am not. Nevertheless, this was my job, so I forged ahead.

I decided early on that this would be a good excuse for using up all the recipes I'd pinned to my Pinterest board when I was feeling really, really hungry. Cookie Dough Truffles. Cake Balls. Cake Pops. Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread.

Still, I worried. I don't have much of a sense of style--what I did have, with one hour until the recital started, was a big box full of tablecloths and platters and three on-sale daffodil plants. 

It wasn't until just before the recital that I knew everything would be okay. That's when Much Older Sister showed up, and I grabbed her and hugged her and told her she was in charge.

"Not a problem--put the white cloth on the bottom, then crunch up the checked ones on top, and here, we'll turn these flowerpots over and make the daffodils higher, and how about putting the cake pops in vases..."

In 10 minutes flat my delightful sister had turned some cookies and tablecloths into A Reception.

When the recital was over, it was just a matter of filling the M&M bowls, turning Three's wonderful  friend loose with the punchbowl, and keeping the cookie platters filled. (As we dragged in coolers filled with cookies I thought I had enough food for eight or 10 receptions, but as it turns out, college kids are pretty good eaters and the leftovers fit into one small box. Go figure.) People talked and laughed and congratulated the star of the show, and I grinned until my face hurt.

The secret to a good reception is not in the menu or the decorations. It's in the company and the goodwill that fills the room.

Also, in having a Much Older Sister who totally rocks.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

I wish I had a better picture of this kid in the grey suit, standing on stage beside the grand piano. I didn't want to disturb his concentration by turning on the flash so all of my shots are blurry. 

I don't need it for myself--I'm pretty sure I'll never forget Monday evening, when Boy#3 presented his senior recital at Big University.

He started playing in fourth grade, using a second-hand instrument I bought at a garage sale. Most kids don't begin band instruments until they're in the fifth grade, but he had heard his grandfather play the trombone and pestered me unmercifully until I found a college kid who could start teaching him the mysterious workings of this instrument with no keys.

It wasn't easy. As far as I can tell, the trombone is played as much by instinct and magic as by actual technique, and this is a kid who didn't deal easily with frustration. His bedroom is over the family room, and in the early years of practicing our television watching was interrupted far too often by stomps of frustration.

But Three is not one to be deterred by the difficulty of a task taken on: He had decided to play the trombone, and he was GOING to play the trombone. He practiced, and practiced, and stomped his foot, and practiced some more.

He upgraded to a better instrument, then to a talented professor who knew just the right combination of praise and push, and he practiced some more. By the time he was ready to look for a college he knew he wanted to do music for the rest of his life.

Monday night he played a recital filled with astonishingly difficult music. I'd heard pieces of it from the room upstairs from the family room, and I had listened to him take apart and put back together the most difficult passages, polishing each note to perfection. He practiced every spare minute, several hours every single day. I couldn't imagine, even in hearing those notes hundreds of times, how wonderful they would sound by the time he was on stage.

After the recital his trombone professor met Three's original inspiration for taking up the trombone. Dr. H shook Dad's hand, both men elated with the performance of the kid one taught and one loved. "One of the best students I've ever worked with," the professor said.

I'll never forget how proud I was of our son, of the hard work he'd put in so that when this moment came he'd be ready.

I wish I had a better picture, so I could show you how great it was.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Honey, Did You Hear Something?

The House on the Corner had an unannounced visitor some time Saturday night, as Husband and I discovered when we stepped out the back door to go to church Sunday morning. Apparently this visitor made himself at home by jumping the curb (which tops a drainage culvert, and is at least a foot high), spinning over the lawn next to the sidewalk, and...

 ...smacking into the corner of the backyard wall. My camera (and my photographic abilities) are not up to the documentation of this event, but blue windshield washer fluid was splashed over two sides of the wall and pieces of a broken headlight covered the ground.

Well, huh.

This was a surprise from several angles, but the most surprising thing wasn't that the impact didn't make so much as a chip in that horrible cinderblock wall, or even that my lovingly-constructed brick edging survived. No, the truly amazing aspect is evident in the shot taken from the spot the enthusiastic vehicle jumped the curb.

See that little corner of a window on the left side? That's the living room. Directly above the living room is our bedroom. Want to know how much we heard of what must have been a fairly significant crash?

Nothing. Not one decibel, not a whisper of a disturbance in the universe.

Either we are a couple of very sound sleepers or our age-appropriate deafness is catching up to us. Feel free to give your opinion on which you think it is, but don't expect a response. If we didn't hear that crash, we won't hear you, either.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Put on a Sweater

So far this week we have had snow (enough for the lucky schoolkids in town to get a snow day), fog (enough for a weather warning), rain (not much), and a forecast for 60 degrees tomorrow. If I'm splitting hairs, that's been over the course of five days and didn't even fill the full week.

I'm not complaining, mind you, because any one of those conditions is preferable to the ghastliness that was last summer's heat. But I must observe:

Kansas weather is weird.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


All the Valentine-y talk of love yesterday transported me back a couple of decades to when Boy#1 was born and I began the life stage that included endless singing of lullabies.

I wanted my dear children to drift off to sleep knowing how much I loved them, so I sang this:

And when they were still awake, I sang this:

Husband, on the other hand, was a youngest child and had avoided babies as if they had cooties. He is a fabulous father, but this fabulous-ness came because he was determined to be up to the role, not because he instinctively knew what to do. The first time I plopped a fretful baby Boy in his lap to be rocked to sleep my prince looked up me nervously.

"But I don't really know any lullabies--what should I sing?"

"Honey, I don't think he speaks English yet. Just sing anything you know, nice and soft, and he'll love it."

And that's why for the next 10 years my sons drifted off to sleep to the sounds of Husband's college's Alma Mater and this:

No wonder the Boys tend to fall asleep in church.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to Stop a Tradition

This is a story about tradition. As parents know, traditions are capricious characters. Try to build a tradition and you will fail (New pajamas for Christmas? Ha.) but do something on a whim and no matter how big the pain in the rear this something turns out to be, it will become a permanent part of your life ("But we allllllways dye our own Easter eggs!").

My father's mother was a tiny little lady. She was never tall, and by the time she was a grandmother osteoporosis and years of hard work had shrunk her down to kid-height. (To this day I vividly remember Much Older Sister, on a dare, creeping up behind Grandma and picking her up off her feet with a smug "See? I can lift her." Fortunately, Grandma laughed; for a moment I was sure I was about to become the oldest sister.)

Anyway, Grandma was the original MomQueenBee. She raised four sons to productive adulthood and still pretty much ruled the hive when she died at age 98.

One of her traditions was making Valentine's Day cookies for her sons. Every year on Feb. 14 my dad walk would in the door with a bag of heart-shaped sugar cookies, each topped with some kind of magical pink frosting that formed a rock-hard surface as it cooled. He doled out the cookies to us kids, and because they were never made any other time of the year, we ate them with almost sacramental reverence.

As her grandchildren got older and started leaving home, Grandma expanded her recipient list. Not only did her four sons get bags of cookies, Grandma mailed the delicacies to each of her offspring-once-removed who had left the nest.

It wasn't until half a dozen of us were out on her own that Grandma realized this had been a huge mistake. With four sons, six next-generation households, and eight more grandchildren waiting to fly their respective coops, let's see, the math would be 4 sons + six grandkids x four dozen cookies = starting Valentine's baking as soon as the Christmas lights were unplugged.

So the next year everyone received their customary bags of heart-shaped cookies with one slight change: Tucked into each bag was a recipe card wrapped in plastic. Grandma was passing her sugar cookie recipe on to us, dusting the flour off her hands, and hanging up her apron.

And that, my friends, is the way you stop a tradition, guilt-free.

I should have handed my Boys packets of dye when they were preschoolers and walked away from the eggs.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Boy#2!

A year ago yesterday I wrote the only post on this site that has ever completely embarrassed the Boys. It concerned childbirth and bodily fluids, and my women friends found it HILARIOUS, even while the men in my family were mortified.

I do not regret the post (hey, I warned the Boys that they should avert their eyes) but it occurred to me that as I was caught up in telling my own story I neglected to give Boy#2 his proper birthday greetings. So a year later, here they are:

Happy birthday, Two!

I look at your gap-toothed three-year-old grin and it occurs to me that those could be taken for uncomplicated days. A cake with chocolate frosting and dinosaur sprinkles and all was well with the world. You were not, however, an uncomplicated child.
  1. You were a big kid who was oddly fragile. This picture was snapped on the one-year anniversary of your first trip to the hospital for asthma. In spite of your robust statute (you outgrew Boy#1 pretty much as soon as you could stand up to be measured) and those rosy cheeks, we spent your pre-adolescent years measuring epinephrine into the nebulizer and waiting for the ensuing rush of hyperactivity that would accompany your re-acquaintance with breathing. You spent several months sleeping in leg braces for a tibial torsion and broke off your front teeth almost as soon as they grew in. Your physical complications were pretty straightforward, though, compared to your...
  2. Kind of freakish math abilities. This was not a bad thing, you realize, but it is a complication for a mother to realize that her four-year-old has taught himself how to work percentages. One of your grandmother used to tell of the time you were playing cards and you were in charge of adding up the score. She gently urged you to write your numbers more legibly, and you pointed out (quite reasonably) that the preschool hadn't taught you how to write numbers yet. But your math abilities might have flown under the radar if it weren't for...
  3. An excess of competitive spirit. Is that a good way to say it? That being one of four boys brought out the I-MUST-WIN in all of you and there were days when I thought none of you would ever have any friends because when friends play games with friends at least one friend will not WIN and all of you had trouble with that concept when the winner turned out to be Not You. 
But guess what? All of those boyhood complications have contributed to your being a pretty nice man. Always being taller than everyone in your class until you went off to college meant that you were expected to mature a lot earlier than your classmates because you simply looked older than you were. That helped you be a leader. Your math abilities have stood you in good stead, thank you very much, Duke University, for the spot in the doctoral program. And your competitive spirit, while it hasn't diminished, has become much more socially appropriate and you have fabulous friends who are among my favorite people.

You are kind and thoughtful, funny and caring, and I could not be prouder of you.

I only wish you were here so I could bake you a chocolate cake with dinosaur sprinkles.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

They'll Choose My Nursing Home

This picture was labeled "Mad Bunny."
If you came over today from Swistle, welcome! Good to see you! I probably should have dusted, but here, let me move that stuff off the chair so you can sit down for a minute.

I am hearing you loud and clear, that your teenagers are driving you crazy. They are fighting with you and with each other. (The picture above is of pre-teen Boys but Boy#3 clearly was not loving his costume and most likely took that out on everyone.) (Okay, so the bunny suit was lame. Rite of passage, son.)

I am also laughing at the aliens who are sharing your living quarters--Mr.Irritating McAsinine! Mr. Slyly-Passively-Disobey! Mr. Oppositionally Defiant! Y'all are geniuses who must have presciently been acquainted with the Boys.

But if there is one take-away from my experience that I will repeat and repeat and repeat, it is that if you liked your darling children before they were teenagers, you will like them again some day, and that day will not be as far away as you fear. They will make you laugh, at them and at yourself and at the world around you. They will be okay with your creepy stalking of their Facebook pages (or will know how to block you from the information they'd rather not share) and know you are seeing this message from Boy#3 to Boy#1:

Last night, I was up real late working on homework. It came time to start another assignment, and I was faced with the decision of whether to do my homework or go to bed. I looked at the homework, and thought, "ehhh, I'm not feelin' it." Thanks, One, you've been a great influence on me.

Then you'll see all of his brothers like this status, and you'll smile.

One of your jobs as a parent is to remove yourself from the center of their lives without destroying the centrifugal force that holds them together. You want these children to like you when they grow up, but it's even more important that they like each other because they'll have each other a lot longer than they will have you. They will not only choose your nursing home, they'll discuss in minute detail your actions and your words, and they will be each other's outlet as they laugh ruefully over the latest weird thing you've done. 

When they don't have you, they will have each other, and that's why you don't smother Mr. Stomps-Up-The-Stairs with a pillow. Some day, his brothers will need him.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Great Bowl Game

So how great was that Super Bowl anyway? Wooo! Great game!

I'm sorry--who won, again?

Last night Husband and I were like most everyone in the known world west of New Jersey, which is to say that we did not care one bit who won the game. This frees one up to have a wonderful time--all the enjoyment of football, with none of the emotional investment.

Since it was the Super Bowl, we conserved all the energy we normally would have spent cheering for a team and cheered for the commercials instead. Go, Doritos dog! Way to be, Weego! Good job, Mr. Quiggly! ( seemed to be a dog's year in the selling department.)

All of our non-commercial-cheering efforts went into the refreshments which, because I am a terrible party-thrower even if it's only for Husband and me, consisted of chips and some mango salsa I discovered when I cleaned the pantry on Saturday, plus my new favorite dessert.

But that dessert? Oh, my goodness. Baked Hot Chocolate is now officially the most delicious thing I have ever eaten, and well worth every one of the 16 Weight Watchers points it set me back.

Other than that, I spent most of the evening knitting and saying, "What just happened?" when the crowd noise increased. I missed two scores as I concentrated on some tricky stitches (the intarsia, it was difficult), but I managed to watch the last two drives, the excitement of which made up for my complete antipathy toward the two teams involved.

The dessert was spectacular and the company was even better.

It was an excellent Super Bowl, indeed.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Last of the Teens

Happy Birthday, Four. I'm glad I'm your mother.

When I was a girl growing up I knew I wanted a big family of my own. Lots of babies--I loved babies. I never thought much about anything past the baby stage, though.

I didn't think about having toddlers or children. Most of all I deliberately didn't think about having teenagers, because I  had heard older parents talking and I read the child-rearing section of the newspaper. Saying I wanted to have teenagers was practically like saying I wanted to have chronic migraines.

Even when I became a mom, and it was wonderful (albeit exhausting), well-meaning friends warned me about the years to come. "You may think it's hard now, with two in diapers and three with asthma, and with the three meals a day plus snacks, and laundry all the time. JUST WAIT UNTIL THEY'RE TEENAGERS." I could hear the ominous "duh-duh-duuuuuuh" notes unsung in the background.

I loved my babies, all cuddly and sweet-smelling, and thought "I'll never like a stage more than I like this." Then I loved my toddlers and their growing personalities and thought "I'll never like a stage more than this." When I had young school-agers, and we loved the same books and could watch World Cup soccer together, I thought "I'll never like a stage more than this."

Then they became teenagers. Yes, each one of them went through a completely unlikable year, but once that year was over, I began to enjoy my teenagers. They had opinions, some of which challenged my own beliefs. They made me laugh. They worked hard, when they needed to. They had smart, nice, funny friends. Also, they could take their own baths, carry in groceries, and sense when they needed give their mother a hug and when they needed to back the heck off and leave their mother alone.

Today is Boy#4's birthday and as of today we don't have any more teenagers. While I'm sure I'm experiencing parenthood amnesia (childbirth amnesia's more long-lasting counterpart), I look back on the Boys' teenage years with fondness. They were good years.

I'll never like a stage more than that.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Running on Fumes

So here's the scorecard for my health for the past week:
  • Seven days ago (Thursday): Woke up feeling 'meh.' Sick day.
  • Six days ago (Friday): Feeling better, but needed a nap before the symphony.
  • Five days ago (Saturday): Hey! I feel great! I think I'll do...something, the exact nature of which I cannot remember now but at the time I had plenty of energy for.
  • Four days ago (Sunday): Oh. My. Gosh. I am dying, and I believe this may be the end of my life so I'm glad it's Sunday and after I play at two church services I can die peacefully in my sleep.
  • Three days ago (Monday): I'm still alive, but I'm only going in to work for that meeting with my boss and then it's back to bed. 
  • Two days ago (Tuesday): Hey! I feel great! I'm Alive! I'm Well! My headache is gone and I have a spring in my step!
  • Yesterday (Wednesday): I think I'm having a relapse. I have a headache, and I am so tiiiiiiired that I just want to lay my head down on my desk and nap, but oddly, the other symptoms of my Great Illness are gone. 
Today when I pulled the coffee pod out of the coffeemaker I realized that I had inadvertently brewed yesterday's morning pick-me-up with the non-pick-me-up variety. I switched back to the customary morning pods today, and six hours into the day I'm feeling great.

My body is like a finely tuned machine, and this machine apparently is fueled by caffeine.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fly Away Home. Before I Swat You.

Awww, look at that ladybug. This is an even prettier picture than I took this morning of the ladybug in my office, the photographing of which was entirely beyond the capabilities of my point-and-shoot camera. (Seriously--I now have a dozen out-of-focus shots featuring a ballpoint pen for size reference. I do not concede defeat easily, but a good picture was beyond me.) My south-facing window sill is a haven for these little hard-shelled darlings during these unseasonably warm January days, kind of a ladybug Bermuda without the overseas flight.

Anyway, I wanted the picture of a ladybug (or, to be exact, a multi-colored Asian ladybeetle) because, oh, so cute! So nursery rhyme reminiscent! So miniature-Volkswagen-ish!

Also, because I was planning to dispose of this multi-colored Asian ladybeetle, and needed to remind myself that these are some seriously nasty adorably polka-dotted creatures.

Did you know they bite? I did not, until one bit me. More accurately, it spurred me. This important distinction was made by the Michigan State University Extension Service in its informational pamphlet, appropriately titled "Multi-colored Asian Ladybeetle Information." Right there it reassures me that I was not hallucinating when I felt that nip: Sometimes the Asian lady beetles bite skin, but often this stinging sensation is actually caused by small spurs on the beetle's legs pricking skin as they move and evaluate whether or not the skin is a food source.

Fortunately, this is not the most disgusting thing these ladybugs do.Thank you, Mich-St-Ext-Ser, for letting me know that "When multi-colored Asian lady beetles are agitated they give off a yellowish fluid that has a faint, foul odor. This is a defensive reaction to ward off predators. It is called 'reflex bleeding.' The liquid is exuded from its legs and it can stain."

Ewwww. I believe I will stop feeling guilty about sucking them up with the vacuum cleaner.