The Bee Tree

The Bee Tree
The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco

The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco was our Sonlight p3/4 book of choice today. After Mary Ellen grows tired of reading, Grampa takes her, and an ever-growing number of neighbors, on a chase of pollen footed bumblebees around the Michigan woods. The illustrations are quite colorful and, while Bean usually won’t sit still for stories quite as long as that one, he had a great time looking for the bee and waiting to see who was going to join the party.

Bean and the yarn hive

After the Bean goes to bed, I generally set up the trays for the following day. Since our book was all about chasing down some honey, I decided to combine a bit of the Sonlight activity ideas, and throw in a little “hopefully tire the kid out enough that he won’t be completely insane from having so much honey”. I tied a black skein of yarn from the ceiling and stuck a honey stick in either side. In the corresponding tray, I put some oven mitts and the book. Just in case, you know, some rogue honey-stick-bees decided to attack. It had nothing to do with wanting to watch a 2 year old attempt to get some tiny honey sticks out of a swinging skein of yarn. Nothing at all.

Lobster Boy!

After reading the book, he put on the oven mitts. Although he was entirely dubious of my intentions despite the promise of honey sticks. And he remained so for at least the first 2 minutes in front of the “hive”. What do you do with a 2 year old who is already convinced everything you do is the lamest thing on earth? How is he going to act when he’s a teenager? I sing, he sighs and says, “Mommy, please don’t.” I dance and he says, “I am not going to do that.” I should just lock him up and get it over with.

He's having fun! But don't tell...

Eventually he did soften up and have a whole ton of fun.

No mouthsies!

After about 10 minutes, he decided the hands were worthless (as he’d expected from the beginning), and went at it with his chompers. If at first you don’t succeed, use your teeth! …And I wonder why I have hundreds of dollars in dental work looming.

The hive, already in a swinging frenzy, swung a good 4 feet away from him then came hurtling toward his face. He did what any normal person would do and stepped back, tripping on his alphabet box, falling flat on his bottom and crying for 5 minutes until finally saying, “A little honey will make me feel better….wif my gwoves.”

He’s the Rocky of toddlers.

To the victor...

He did, rather quickly, get both the honey sticks out and promptly stated, “I wuv da Bee Twee.”

Then began using it for baseball practice with a piece of our Bristle Buddies.

Bee Tree Baseball!

Because everything has multiple uses.

A word of caution, however, to anyone deciding to set this up. You may want to pay attention to where your kid’s eye level lies. Being that my husband had just come home from spending 5 hours in traffic in the worst mood ever a not entirely fabulous mood, and it was midnight, I made a quick guess. A really, really awful guess.

Honey eye

It’s okay, sweetie, chicks dig eye patches. *insert annoyed toddler sigh here*

The Beginning

In 2006, my not-yet-husband and my pregnant self moved into our very first house in an immigrant neighborhood in Denver. A neighborhood with an amazing history, amazing people and a really, really bad reputation – both environmentally and economically.  The house itself was a steal, a 1940 bungalow with a finished basement, newly painted interior, and enough ground to start a semi-decent garden. However, between the lack of care it was given by the people who previously owned it, the soggy foundation, the amount of goat heads covering every inch of the south side of our yard, and the stink coming at us from all sides, well, there was a ton of work to be done.

Civic Association Meeting

The first thing we did was join the neighborhood civic association. I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of activist power in that group. They had fought (and won) one of the only lawsuits of it’s kind against a company that had leached chemicals into the soil. They were fighting everyday to help beautify the neighborhood, by starting a citizen graffiti removal program, by having the pool repainted, by taking their kids and grandkids on “trash cleanups”. They are amazing.

The house took a couple of years to get going. The first year and change we spent using a hot plate, as we had no 220 for a stove.  My husband managed to repaint the poo-brown bathroom a respectable white and did not kill himself in the process with the fumes. We learned a very good lesson there, do not use the Big Lots paint on any non-white surface. It took about 10 coats. In a tiny bathroom. In winter. With no window.I’m daily surprised he still remembers his own name. We were lucky to have a group of kids come and remediate the external lead paint, and paint over it.  We still have an intermittent doorbell and lead paint in the window sills that needs to be painted over, but we’re getting close.

The biggest battle with the interior of the house has been finding enough organized room for everything. Including our basement, we are at about 1,700 sq ft. It’s “tiny” by suburban standards but actually pretty well sized for urban. We’ve had to build shelves, shrink tables and generally find sneaky ways around not having the extra space for organization. It’s a never-ending battle and, as Bean really begins to homeschool, I have a feeling we’ll only need to get more creative in our organizing.

I’d say the second biggest battle (I mean, beyond my complete lack of talent in the interior design realm), is attempting to clean and run the house in an environmentally friendly manner. My husband, despite being a bit of an enviro freak most of the time, will regularly use Dutch Boy cleaner or Clorox on our dishes. It freaks.me.out. We’re regularly trying to find a happy medium between “clean” and “not-going-to-give-you-some-horrible-growth-on-your-face” clean.

The Old Coop

The exterior of our house has been a lot more work, and the jury is still out on whether it’s less traumatic or not. Currently the thing causing us the most worry is that rotting, lead-covered and adorable building right there. It was the chicken coop that was originally built with this house and, after trying our darnedest to figure out how to keep it, we’ve decided it needs to come down. In it’s place, we’ll be putting down a foundation for a place to park our cars off street. But, not to worry, a chicken coop will be going up in it’s place, only closer to the house and devoid of lead based paint. Bean is ridiculously excited about the prospect of having some chickens to take care of and so am I.

Speaking of Bean, who will probably end up being the sole focus of this blog in more ways than one, he was born in July of 2007 at the same hospital in which I was born. Before he was even a thought, I was sure I would homeschool him. When he began showing signs of being “gifted”, my decision was officially solidified. While I vacillate daily on whether or not it’s the right thing to do, I always come back to knowing this is what I am meant to do with him. Except when I start to think about calculus, then I want to roll myself into a ball and call Denver Public Schools to just take him already. It’s a good thing his dad has a degree in mathematics.

So, that’s the beginning. I’m hoping this blog will center around our home fixes, our building, our “green”ing up our lives and our homeschooling adventures. I hope to share a few good ideas with anyone good enough to read us, and hopefully get quite a few from everyone, too.

And, if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a cookie!