Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Best Birthday Gift Ever

For Tot's birthday, my Dad and Tamara got Tot the BEST present. They got her Butterflies! Well, technically, they got her larvae :).

Let me explain.

About two weeks before Tot's birthday we got a box in the mail. It had a pop-up butterfly net house and a coupon for 5 butterfly larvae - caterpillars! We redeemed the coupon online and a few short days later, our caterpillars arrived in the mail. Dad called and said he thought it was a weird gift, but that Tamara had assured him a five year old girl would love larvae. She was SO right.

Oh. My. Gosh.

You can not imagine the insanity that followed their arrival. Tot LOVED the caterpillars and went to look at them every five minutes for two solid weeks. We read about butterflies, drew pictures, and watched their every move waiting to see when they would inch their way to the top of the container and make their chrysalides. We made "hypotheses" (Tot's new favorite word and activity) and waited.

Tot taking her picture with the caterpillars.

And sure enough, the morning of her birthday party they all made their way to the top and by the time we got back all five were firmly encased. It was nuts how fast it happened! We made the transfer from caterpillar container to butterfly house and tossed in a few leaves to make it feel more welcoming.

Then we drew up a diagram of the chrysalides and named them, so we would know who had hatched first. Tot named them Pappaw, Tamara, Cheryl, Paul & Angelina. I know where she got Pappaw & Tamara. I know where she got Cheryl. I know where she got Angeline (Ballerina). I have no clue how she came up with Paul. Her normal made up names are repeated syllables like "CaCa" (seriously) or "TooKaToo". So for her to make up a real name was kindof weird.

The habitat.
(And the decaying apple we are observing. Yuck.)

The diagram :)

The chrysalides.

Anyways. Having transfered them, we waited. And watched. And drew more pictures and read more books and looked at more butterfly videos online. It was the best science project I could have asked for.

And then it happened.

We went to see a movie two Saturdays later and when we came back, we had butterflies. Contrary to all of our hypotheses, they all hatched on the same day, within the same three hour block. It was SO COOL. The whole family stopped what we were doing and gathered around the house and watched them slowly move around and slowly test out moving their wings. Oh, and for the record, when butterflies hatch it looks BLOODY. It's just their meconium (the first poop, just like babies, but red instead of tar colored), but I was not prepared for how it would look like they had literally battled out. Way cool.

So, we kept them for a week, watching them learn to fly and eating and sleeping. Tot LOVED them and even made a special "Do Not Touch" sign for them - LOL. She was very concerned that she would forget and try to move them.

After a week of watching, we decided it was time to let them go in the wild. They only have a two to four week adult life span, and I really didn't want to wake up to five dead butterflies one morning. So, last Saturday we all went out into the backyard for a release party.

We weren't exactly prepared for how slow they would fly, and so while it did offer opportunities for the butterflies to land on the kid's hands, it also allowed our dog Annie to catch two, and actually eat one. Sigh. Great visual lesson in the circle of life. You should have seen us all run after the dog frantically trying to distract her. Dave and I were laughing in total shock and the kids were screaming "Bad Annie! No Annie! Let the butterflies GO ANNIE" while trying to remove them from her mouth. Alas, one of the butterflies was no more.

The kids running after Annie the Bad.
They forgave her when we explained that everybody has to eat something.

After that, we put up Annie and enjoyed the remaining butterflies.

Thanks Pappaw & Tamara! You guys are the greatest!


Tiffany said...

OH MY GOSH. I am so jealous I cannot even begin to put it into words. I lovelovelove every single thing you all did along the way -- making hypotheses, naming them, reading up on them, Tot's reminder sign to herself (definitely my favorite part) -- you are such an awesome mom to embrace it so whole-hog! Too bad you're a hippie food-making, cloth-diapering, homeschooling... oh, wait. That was yesterday's post. :)

Major kudos to you dad and Tamara for such a fabulous gift! I can't even begin to tell you how severely that rocked my face off. Even Annie's contribution to the experience was worthwhile -- way to turn it into a lesson on the food chain!

It's always exciting times in La Casa de Chapman!

April Spicer said...

So awesome. I think I'll be ordering some larvae. :)

A Fancher said...

We did that with the kids, too. Jarrod's grandmother got them some last year. It was great. I wish I had made it into more of an educational learning experience like you did. That's awesome how you were able to use it for science.
I think the same company does a frog habitat too, but I can't remember.

Nicole said...

Love, love, love this idea! Way to make a fun activity a learning experience. Definitely want to do this with Braedon.

amber said...

We also got this for a gift for Carter...but all of the catepillars arrived DEAD!! I need to send in my form again!! Carter would love it!!