Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Teeter & the bees

Friends are like flowers. Some are lilies, some are sunflowers and some are more like roses. While some flowers are thorny, others are just sweet. J.D. and I are lucky to have great friends in Teeter and Brian. We just wish they lived a little closer to us. To see them we have to drive about three hours. It’s worth the drive though.

Teeter and Brian have five kids ranging in age from 13 to 19 and they run a large milling operation in Northern California. I marvel at their ability to run a large family, a labor intensive business, take care of all their friends, plus home-school their kids. Like us, they like to entertain, and when they do, it’s always a great party. I was so excited that we were able to drive up to their place for St. Pat’s weekend. I knew we could kick back and take it easy because we were staying the night. It felt good to get away. The kids were in ‘fun mode’ and J.D. was excited to get away from working for a few days of relaxation.

Before we cracked open the first bottle of wine and appetizers, Teeter suggested that she and I take a walk around the orchards. It was a great idea given the long drive, the gorgeous day and the fact that I had never seen the mill or the orchards although I’ve heard about them for several years. As we drove out to the orchards with the dogs tailgating in the back of the truck, we talked about family and friends. That morning their family had all gone to a funeral of an old friend and we talked about him. This topic led us onto talking about other people who were close to us who had died in the last year that we missed. I reminisced about my Aunt Carol and she talked about a girlfriend she loved that passed away last summer, a woman who was like a sister to her. Every time Teeter talks about this woman, she laughs, so I know they were close friends and shared a lot of good times. As we talked, our discussion turned to the deeper topics of our fears. I related to Teeter an absolutely bizarre dream I had just had, and she told me that she was deathly afraid of bees. I asked her why and she told me a story of being attacked by a swarm of bees while out walking with her good friend. As she described in minute detail every moment of the bee attack, she said the only thing that bothered her was that her good buddy did nothing to help her when it happened. She just stood there. As we laughed (I, a little more nervously…thinking that I’ve never been stung by a bee, so I have no idea how it feels to have a bunch of them trying to sting you at once nor what I would do if I saw someone else being attacked)…she went on to talk about how bees target a person, leave a scent and attack all at once.

“Huh?” I said, “I’ve never heard of that before…” I tried to imagine how awful that must have been…and we arrived at the orchards. Hmm….well I couldn’t see a bee for miles, so I was excited to get the lay of the property, see the orchards, the pond and enjoy the views of Springtime in a walnut orchard.

As we exited the truck, the dogs took off running in familiar territory and I followed Teeter down the dirt road into the area of the orchards. Blooms only come from trees that are pollinated and of course, you need bees for that and as we got closer, Teeter pointed out the hives and mentioned that one of their foreman warned that the bees might be angry in the evening because they had just been moved in the morning. She redirected me around the area where the hives were “just in case” and we walked away from them. The dogs chased a chipmunk or a squirrel and were ahead of us when we noticed “Beebee” (Yep, the dog’s name was Beebe) running in circles, whining and biting herself…”Oh no!” Teeter shouted….”it’s the bees!” As she ran to help her dog, the bees started to swarm Teeter! As Teeter ran around screaming that the bees were all over her…she cried out for help. I could hear them in her hair and as I ran my hands through her hair, I demanded that she take off her shirt…”Take off your shirt now!” I repeated it…I could hear the bees but couldn’t see them. “Get them off me!” she cried. As she took off her shirt and we swatted them away, we ran across the field with the dogs and the bees behind us. DejaVu set in as we contemplated in amazement finishing a conversation about history that repeated itself within seconds of discussing it.

A single dying bee lagged behind her ear the entire time we walked back to the truck and as I flicked it off from behind her ear, I saw stings all over her neck and arm. She was clearly marked. I’d never seen anything like that in my life. Hugging her, she reassured me as having passed the friend test. For some reason they didn’t sting me once. I concluded it must be partly due to the combination of my Irish luck and my English blood because they clearly love the sweet people. Teeter is sweet…one of the sweetest people in the world. I know it and the bees do too.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at familyfare@sbcglobal.net or on the web at http://www.familyfare.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

Yeah, OK...so we watched the premier of “Are you smarter than a 5th grader”, the new FOX show, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy The new format features bright, articulate animated young geniuses, purportedly real life 5th graders, although I am more apt to believe they are Cal Tech midgets. In the three night premiere, all of the 5th graders answered every question correctly. Amazing…simply amazing; or maybe not.

Our family waited around after American Idol to watch this latest spin off from Fox, primarily out of curiosity more than anything else. After all, we live with a Fox40 meteorologist who also happens to be a 5th grade teacher. Armchair producing results in brilliant observations in this family.

The show launches with 40 year old Seth, a UCLA History graduate, who, when posed with the first grade Social Studies question, “In what month do we observe Columbus Day?”, crumbled under the pressure of it and resorted to taking one of his 3 cheats. Yeah, let’s just say old Seth got off to a bad start. I was horrified. So was my 10 year old. Most pre-school kids know that one; at least the Italian ones.

For the most part, the questions were set up for the first through fifth grade student, but somehow the adult college graduate contestants struggled with simple answers to mind bending questions such as “How many e’s are in the phrase “pledge of allegiance?” Yeah, Larry, the Worcester University Graduate, answered incorrectly, but luckily his “5th grader” bailed him out. Larry went off the episode failing to calculate the number of teaspoons in 5 tablespoons. Worcester University assumes most of their students know the answer to that by the time they get there; however somewhere in Massachusetts sat a retired third grade teacher very disappointed in Lawrence’s performance.

It really became too much for computer consultant, Lakisha, when faced with the really hard question “How many decades are in two millennia?” She decided to opt out. Good thing. Her answer would have been 20. That puts her only into the second century…about 1800 years short. She also had a very difficult time determining whether the Canadian border was longer than the Mexican one. Yikes.

Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for the grown-ups, along comes Susan, the real estate agent who indicated quite confidently that only “three states bordered the Pacific Ocean, Washington, Oregon, California and Mex…wait…not Mexico!” She forgot about Hawaii and Alaska…but hey, who’s counting? 5th grader Spencer bailed her out and we’re left wondering if she knows anything at all about real estate, let alone geography.

Are the fifth graders smart? You bet. Are the adults a little dim? Well, that’s debatable. J.D. thinks they freeze when the camera’s rolling which can sometimes happen to people, like Jan Brady. I wax a little more skeptical. Surely they test potential contestants, take all the airheads and their wrong answers and formulate a show around them.

Perhaps the worst part of the show for me was when the UCLA, Worcester, and Oregon State graduates “flunked off” by officially declaring as they stare into the television camera, “I am not smarter than a 5th grader!” I’m thinking that if you are smarter than a 5th grader, then you probably can’t be in the show. Poor Lucy.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at familyfare@sbcglobal.net or on the web at http://www.familyfare.blogspot.com/