Thursday, July 19, 2007

Think about this the next time you chew a hangnail

So July is almost over already. Can you believe it? And you know what that means…it’s time for the mid-summer caterpillar project report.

This is Steve. He enjoys eating, pooping, and white water rafting. Most summer days you’ll find Steve at the beach, or clinging to the underside of this leaf.

This is Darcy. She’s fond of masticating, defecating, and scrapbooking. Though she’s only a week old, Darcy is already looking forward to being a mom someday, laying over 500 eggs on milkweed across the county—perhaps two of which will actually survive to become monarchs. Ah, it’s rough, the life of a butterfly-in-training.

The highlights reel:

1) Even faced with a bounty of available leaves, three will cluster on one leaf, battling over it like toddlers. (They actually rear up and head butt each other. It’s quite amusing.)

2) Because they are eating machines that quickly outgrow their own skins, they molt five times before forming their chrysalis. After each molt, they lie very still for an hour, then turn around and EAT THEIR OLD SKIN. Apparently, this little crumple of old cuticle is delicious, because I actually saw one little guy sneak up behind another that had just molted to poach the newly-shed skin.

Is that gross or what?

They’ll be butterflies in roughly two weeks. And then I can stop shaking my fist at them, saying, “All this cleaning of poop and disgusting skin eating better be worth it!”

It’s been interesting, but never before has the lack of an eight year-old in my life with whom to share such a project been so apparent. And that’s as good a segue as anything, so here’s the news I’ve been sitting on since January: I’m going to be aunt for the very first time in approximately one month! My younger sister Maddie is expecting a little boy, and we are positively bubbling with excitement here at Casa de Caterpillar. I am already stockpiling gifts for the little guy, who—if he looks anything like his parents—is destined for years of running from girls on the playground. Here’s a picture of Maddie and me on vacation in Bayfield, Wisconsin:

Oh wait! That’s not us. Let me try this again.

Isn’t she adorable? I must really love her to post this picture, in which my upper arm threatens to hold us all hostage with its ginormitude. I believe this is the shot in which I am about to launch into a vigorous rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot.” And judging by the red in my eyes, I look possessed enough to sing it in Latin, backwards.


  1. oh, sweetie. You call *that* a 'ginormitudinous' upper arm? You should see my tree trunks.

    Congrats, auntie. And keep us posted on the skin eating poop machines.

  2. You are both adorable!!

    Please taste the caterpillar skin and report right back on its tastiness. You may have discovered the next big foodie item!

  3. Oh shut up. Hotness apparently runs in your family.

    Thanks for the caterpillar highlights. Me? I'm being overrun by earwigs. They're EVERYWHERE. I blame you. I think you jinxed me. ;)

  4. You haven't seen ginormous upper arms until you've seen mine. Yes, being a serious high school gymnast develops your upper arms beautifully.

    But then? When you're about to turn 40? They're colossal, these sad arms with muscles that don't know what to do with themselves except atrophy, only to be replaced by fat.


    Those caterpillars are adorable. And not an upper arm among them!

  5. Hey,

    My name is Steve and I DON'T enjoy pooping...or, do I?

    Hmm...I'll get back to you.

  6. Your upper arms are FINE. Mine make me look like a lazy milkmaid. And you and your sister are so cute!
    Your caterpillars are spiffy.

  7. Anonymous6:23 PM

    Relax. My finger probably weighs more than that arm...

    And enjoy the caterpillars and butterflies while we still have them. I hear their numbers are dwindling every year.

  8. Since this is All About Jess' Arms, let me chime in. I'll arm wrestle you any day, and I'm gonna win. I think it's wrestling a neon yellow 200' hose onto a plastic reel meant for 100' that did it. (Bill picked out a color he could see while mowing. But I'm the one who mows, and the kelly green is obnoxious enough). Enough about hose. You are adorable, and so is your sister. No surprise there; you write adorably. Best wishes on the nephewtude! Baby boys, so sweet.

  9. Your upper arms? Are TEENY. Seriously, there is nothing remotely resembling large there.

    Your caterpillars rock. I need to find some of those in my little corner of the world.

    Congratulations on the nephew! My birthday is in about a month, so I'm (well, not so much now) secretly hoping she delivers a lovely, healthy baby on the 18th of next month. :)

  10. Those caterpillar pictures are fantastic! First caterpillars, then we'll get butterflies, and then we'll get baby boy pictures!

    And in the meantime, we've got your upper arms to ogle. You're too good to us!

    (Seriously, they are slender.)

    Major earwig freakiness happening here too - there must be a bumper crop of those suckers this year.

  11. What mothergoosemouse said....
    And I think everything yucky is have a bumper crop. Have you seen the JAPANESE BEETLES?????
    Shut up about your arms, Jess. Really. We will have to slap you.

  12. Maya bought some caterpillers at the farmers market last year, and when she was at school, I kept them on my desk so I could watch them. It was AMAZING. Hell, enjoy life, even without an 8 year old. Think of the adult TV you get to watch, when you get tired of the bugs!

    And congrats on being an auntie very soon!

  13. I love Bayfield. We pretty much go every year. Let me know if you're going to go again and we can hitch up for some serious laughs. No really.

  14. You feel exactly the same way I feel about my arms, and YOURS ARE PERFECT!!! Nut-case!

    Cute catepillars--what is masticating. Is it something Darcy does when she's alone and does it involve a shower head!?!?

    Oops, did I just say that out loud?

  15. You gals sure are cute. Wow, she must be due right around the time of my wife. Wow, being an aunt sure is fun.

  16. Anonymous6:51 PM

    Darcy. Best name ever.

    And baby boy! Yipee!

  17. Jess, I have a nature blog (sort of...) and you have me beat in that category. I don't have catepillars because my yard is young but you have them pooping. You Go! Don't forget to show us more.

    You are lovely and stop complaining about arms and other stuff. Like Susan said, I will have to give you a virtual slap. What I like most about you is your honesty, wit, and incredible writing skills. I can't wait to read your book! YOU are special and please keep posting. I look forward to it every week.

    Congrats on being an Aunt! Little boys are eager to please their beautiful Aunts :o)

  18. Jess, saw an earwig today. Thought of you.

  19. Anonymous10:54 AM

    Why didn't you invest in a tiny caterpillar litter tray?

    You have upper arms smaller than my first grade teacher's wrists (which, it seems, I simply cannot forget).

  20. Anonymous12:53 AM

    I LOVE the upper arm issue. Every woman I know bitches about their upper arms in photos, moi included. And then you see some delusional woman like yourself thinking that yours are big and think, 'hey, maybe I'm delusional too.'

    Those butterfly wannabes are really beautiful.

  21. Oh please, you're so hot, Jess. Seriously.

    And that "eating their own skin" thing?

    I knew a nurse who confessed to gathering all of her nails (finger and toe) after she clipped them, and SNIFFING THEM!

    I bet she has since graduated into eating her own skin. She was edgie like that.

  22. Anonymous11:38 PM

    I am pretty sure I have more in common with Steve than with any human male I have met recently. The big difference is that I rarely hang out on the underside of leaves. No, really, I am serious. I wouldn't be caught dead there. Leaves make my ass look fat. Anyway, could you give Steve my number and maybe we could hook up??? No? OK, well regardless, I still love your blog.

  23. That last picture (to me) is cute of both of you! You couldn't ask for nicer smiles! ~ jb///

  24. My how you've changed in merely 2 pictures.

    Congrats on the novel - Ben O.