The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Ethiopia gave me the gift of outside…trying to pass it on

Even kids who give little ew shudders for bugs in general usually have a soft spot for two citizens of the bug world.  One?


When I was doing research for the Lanie stories, I was startled to discover that non-native ladybugs are crowding out native ladybugs–and there’s a very cool citizen science project (as readers of Lanie will know) for kids who can look for and photograph native species.  The details are at this link:


Roly polies.  (That doesn’t sound like a very scientic name and, indeed, when I look it up I find “isopod crustaceans of the family Armadillidiidae, also known as pill bugs.”)  As I mentioned yesterday, I tried valiantly to make pets of the Maji cats when I was growing up in Ethiopia (I’m the one on the left).  When that didn’t work, I convinced my younger sisters we could surely turn frogs into pets…or what about roly poly bugs?  We spent hours making little mud houses we were sure they would develop a fondness for sooner or later.

In the gorgeous weather of Ethiopia–and home schooled as I was–I could be outside all year long.  For my own kids, the long days of finding insects and otherwise exploring outside happened in the summer time.  August was often camping month when we lived in Colorado–and my big extended family has had camping family reunions, so far right up until last summer.

The thing is…as gorgeous as the mountains are, I remember just as much outside joy from sitting in the grass and watching roly poly bugs curl and uncurl.  It has been rather shocking to me these past few years to hang around with my grandkids outside in Lawrence and sometimes be the only people on the entire playground or field.


I know air conditioning in Kansas is great.  Sometimes I tell my husband I can’t imagine people lived here, non-air-conditioned (he just laughs at me and talks abobut the Kansas wheat fields he spent time in when he was young and hot).  But…overall…what are we thinking?  There’s so much joy to be found on every sidewalk and under every tree.

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