Santa

Rainbows and Butterflies

Sometimes life is rainbows and butterflies.

Of course the standard answer from Prima when I ask her what rainbows are is, “Unicorn farts.” Awesome parenting once again but today’s story will not focus on mythical flatulence. Today will be all about the butterfly.

It all started when Santa brought a Butterfly Garden on Christmas Eve. Jane received the gift along with her tent because it supported an outdoors theme. Immediately upon figuring out what the Butterfly Jungle was all about, she insisted on ordering caterpillars.

Now for those of you who have been reading for a while you might recall we have trouble raising anything with the ability to die. Outside of larger mammals that can fend for themselves like the cat and dog. We have accidentally killed lots of things through misunderstanding or sheer bad luck. Feel free to catch up on that here.

Surely, we thought, Butterfly Garden could be different. The instructions said that you buy the caterpillars and put them inside. Boom. Done. Seal it up and watch them go. That sounded pretty fool proof so we thought that we might as well try and it falls under “Educational Experience” so it was for the children. We check the website and sure enough you can order caterpillars at any time and they ship in a couple of days.

Jane was on her best behavior for a full three hours one day in mid-January and convinced us to order. A few days later a package arrived at the house. I had forgotten that caterpillars were coming in the mail so the package confused me for just a minute. They might want to consider some extra description because the mailman still looks at me strangely.

Butterfly_Nice Try

So these little dudes crawl around a food paste in a plastic cup and grow into big fat worms. Once they attach to the paper in the lid of the cup you have to transfer the paper and all of the hanging pods to the Butterfly Habitat (ie. Plastic cylinder with paper aquarium-like background). The transfer was trickier than I thought it would be. The cocoons are barely hanging from the paper and when they feel movement they start swinging back and forth wildly. Think of a magician in a straight-jacket hanging by his feet and violently trying to get free. That is what it looked like to me.

This is about the time when things start to go south for the butterflies. One of the pods falls off and the online instructions said that cocoons that are on the ground will die. So I use a piece of tape and attach the end and hang the little dude back up in the air. I guess the tape covered an air hole or something because it turned black and died. That wasn’t nearly as disturbing as the ones that lived. About day seven they started dripping blood. Dark red liquid oozed out of the ends and splattered the ground below. More online reading assured us that the liquid was just a byproduct of wing color development. Another milestone passed.

Then the first butterfly emerges and crawls around the box. It is too fat to fly and the wings have to dry off so we have to wait for the majestic Butterfly Habitat experience. That doesn’t mean that the girls don’t still want to look so we try to turn the box so the girls can see and the new butterfly falls and is wedged between the aquarium-backdrop and the side of the box. They can see very clearly that it is wedged in really good and cant crawl out. The only problem is that we have five other pods at the edge of hatching so we don’t want to ruin them too. Sorry buddy. Another one bites the dust.

While further researching as to whether or not we can touch them and save the abandoned first born son, we realize that another step had been skipped. They needed food and the recommended setup was a slice of banana in a shallow dish of sugar water. Dammit. Now we have to open this thing anyway and soon because it will be easier to do this before all of the butterflies emerge.

We managed to get the food and sugar water in place and the lid closed just as another butterfly emerged. *Phew* Then another. Then another. “Okay this is going really good”, I thought. There were some brave soldiers who didn’t make it but we were going to win the war. Then I look into the enclosure and notice one of the butterflies had fallen face down into the sugar water and drowned? Maybe placing the watery death trap directly below the pods wasn’t the best idea? Three of seven are dead and none of them are flying yet. Awesome start. We should farm or something.

Empty successful butterfly shells.

Empty successful butterfly shells.

The next day all of the remaining butterflies have emerged, dried their wings, and survived the pool. They are flying repeatedly into the side of the plastic box trying to fly away. Really violently and steadily into the side of the box. At first I didn’t know what the thumping sound was but it was the butterflies. The girls liked watching them for about 4 minutes total but the cat was another story all together. The cat stared for hours on end at the box of victims. I wonder if the surviving butterflies could see the cat and feel panic? I kind of wanted to turn them loose and watch the cat go crazy but we had made it too far. Success was going to be achieved.

Just at the apex moment where we felt like maybe, possibly this adventure could be counted as a success one of the girls asks a key question.

“Daddy?”

“Yes honey.”

“Are they ready to be set free?”

“…..Well…..It’s February”

“But my teacher says you have to set them free or they will die in the box.”

“Yeah I see her point but I think these are special butterflies. They might have to be released at night when it is cold.”

“Butterflies don’t like cold dad.”

“Do you want a brownie? Who wants a brownie? Everybody lets go get brownies.”

So we went to the kitchen and everyone got a treat to distract them from the butterflies’ fate. We purposefully bought living things in the dead of winter with the sole outcome of nurturing them into butterflies that we could watch die horrific deaths of suffocation, crushing, drowning, and starvation. It is like we are the mastermind behind the Saw movies but with butterflies. Maybe for the sequel I can grow them inside a microwave with a motion sensor. For now I will just watch the one remaining butterfly as he lays on a mold slice of banana with one leg twitching, questioning why life would bring him here to die. IT WAS ME MR. BUTTERFLY! I MURDERED YOU AND IM SORRY!

He is looking at me and demanding answers for his life.

He is looking at me and demanding answers for his life. His only friend is dead in the background.

So if you have done something educational but ended up questioning your decisions, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Californication

Underdaddy, Supermom, and Lady Bug took a trip to partly cloudy California last week. A dreamy wedding in San Jose. It was a really good trip and I will probably have a couple of blog posts that reference it in the future but for now I wanted to share some of the more interesting discussions/sites/situations that we encountered.

The only natural place to start would be the flight out. Our secret lair is in middle earth where the temperature fluctuates between hell fire of a volcano in Mordor and that icy mountain pass place. (Someone fluent in Lord of The Rings please give me some help here.) Currently the temperature is somewhere between 30 and 50 consistently while temperature in California was projected to be 50-70 each day. So warm clothes and a light jacket would work. Awesome.

One problem. The layover in Denver was in nine degrees of wintery pain. Adding to the pain is the fact that United Airlines runs the most ass-backwards boarding program I have ever seen. They board the plane in groups 1-4. Groups one and two appear to be special needs, priority club, and first class. Groups three and four are the economy class passengers. United loads the planes from the front to the rear to make sure that each and every passenger is loading an overhead bag and slowing down every other passenger still waiting to board. Maybe there is a reason for this? If someone knows some inside information please comment so the rest of us can stop having a brain bleed while we watch the madness.

Landing in the San Jose airport was like stepping into a space terminal. Denver was nice and big and technological but San Jose had a minimalist feel that seemed like some dystopian empire type building.

Oh I almost forgot, before we even left the airport we encountered a man on the Interstate who was playing a horn while driving. He would play for a second and then put it down and then do it again. Really kind of strange. Anyway back to the trip.

I have a checkered history with travel so I go everywhere with this deep gut feeling that I’m going to be screwed by a reservation, a flight delay, or some other unforeseen problem. I go up to the rental car counter and the young man helping me starts reading out the facts on my reservation to confirm.

“Okay let see here. I have a five day reservation. A standard vehicle.”

“Yep”

“That will be one of our two door models.”

“Wait it was supposed to be a Sedan, I have a baby who needs a seat. Here is my confirmation. See it says Ford Fusion or equal.”

“I don’t know why they do that? We don’t even have Fusions.”

Here we go. Took all of thirty minutes for this party to get started. I was about to lose some religion in the lobby but the CSR kept talking, “I guess we will have to upgrade you for free.”

“Wait what? Okay what is the upgrade?”

“We have a Dodge Challenger.”

“Sounds good.”

One disaster averted and the rest of the trip was ahead of us.
The first day the grooms party went to play golf. The course was beautiful and overlooked the valley. There were a few notable things about the golf outing.

Complimentary gift?

Complimentary gift?

A hidden treasure in our golf cart. A complete skull from a ground squirrel. I don’t know what they are really called but they travel around in burrows but look like squirrels.

So close.

So close.

I hit an awesome shot from 165 yards out to set up for a birdie putt that I totally screwed up.

After golfing I had an interesting conversation with a new friend about guns. He looked at me with sudden seriousness and asked, “So is it really like everyone has a gun in the South?”

“Pretty much.”

“Everyone?”

“Well not one hundred percent but enough that I assume everyone might have one.”

“Are there a lot of deaths from people arguing and they have guns so it goes too far..”

“We have a lot of gang shootings and hunting accidents but I can’t remember too many manslaughter cases from arguments.”

“Hm. Weird.”

“Yeah”

I never really thought about it but it was interesting to hear an outside perception.

At some point I was in charge of watching the house for a few minutes and our gracious hosts had a small dog and a big cat that lay around the house pretty self-sufficiently so I didn’t worry much. After a few minutes of quiet reading on the internet I hear this wheezing noise coming from the living room. I know the dog is around thirteen which isn’t super-old for a small dog but still some age. I jump up and go into the living room to investigate. The sound is louder and I am thinking heart attack, poisoning, choking on some baby toy, or some other kind of death that I will have to explain and will probably be blamed for through negligence.

Instead I find this and video while I try not to laugh too loud:

http://youtu.be/VMqktdFuC40

The cat was awesome too. He didn’t hump anything but he is the biggest cat I’ve seen. He is fat but he is a big cat too. His body is built like a low-rider truck and when he eats he just sets it down on the frame and pulls up his wheels.

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Jose Canseco lost a finger? Now it is for sale on Ebay.

On our last day we went to the Redwood Forest in Big Basin National Park. The trees were amazing and this was truly a bucket list type of sight. Some of the trees were up to 1,400 years old. I could have walked around all day just staring up into the canopy and feeling small.

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Then I stepped in poop. It was a large wild animal or an inconsiderate hiker. Either way it made the ride back down the mountain unpleasant.

I did learn about Banana Slugs and that they can look like an accurate depiction of a yellow penis.

Left handed banana slug

Left handed banana slug

That night we went to a mall in California to see if it was different. Some of it was different. Some of it was the same. While we were walking around we passed an area being prepped for Santa. There was a huge Christmas tree shaped cabin that housed what I had to assume was Santa’s chair. I could see inside part of it and the walls were lined with lights and reflective surface like an inside out disco ball. The sign at the entrance summed up a lot of the culture of California for me.

SantaFastPass

I wonder if anyone sits back and thinks, “We are paying money to save time to see a fairy tale figure whose entire gig is bringing free stuff.” Then again that line looked huge so maybe it would be worth it.

Don Henley knew what he was singing about, “You can spend all your time making money or you can spend all your money making time.” It is probably the same whirlwind culture that inspired Hotel California. Good job Don.

The next day was our flight out around noon. We dropped off the rental car early and one of the employees offered to drive us to the terminal in the car we had just returned. It was about a ten minute walk so that was a nice gesture.

We all get back into the car and the employee leans forward as he gets into the car to avoid bumping his turban on the edge of the door opening. I think the gentleman was Indian and the turban is part of his culture but I don’t see that every day so I noticed it as different. Then as we are leaving the garage I notice the radio is still on an playing, of all songs, Alan Jackson – Where Were You?. If you aren’t familiar it is a song about the 9-11 terrorist attack.

I was instantly panicked. Even though I knew this man was totally separate from radical Islam all I could think was, “he thinks that I think he is a terrorist because of his turban.” How strange that I had assumed he had a prejudice towards people who look like me because lots of people who look like me have a prejudice against people who look like him.

Read that last sentence twice.

So here, in the midst of an Alan Jackson song with an Indian man in a rental car, I was able to cement in my mind the true battle of bias. Weird huh.

The flights back went fine and Lady Bug cried for an entire hour at the end of the trip. Then the plane landed and we were back to the real world; getting home too late, waking up in a rush, and going to bed exhausted the next night.

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-Underdaddy to the rescue