caterpillars, butterflies, Jesus, and Aunt Flo

I’ll just give you a moment to absorb those concepts…go ahead, take your time.  See if you can find the connection between the four.

Give up?

Yeah, I don’t blame you.  I wouldn’t believe it either if I hadn’t been there myself.

The children’s program in our church did a really neat activity for Lent.  About 40 days ago or so, the kids all showed up for Sunday School to find tiny little plastic cups containing caterpillars.  (And by tiny, I mean tiiiiiinnnyyyy.  Those things were only slightly bigger than a thimble.)

They learned how the caterpillar goes through a period of transformation, spinning its cocoon so it can change into a beautiful butterfly.  The teachers compared this to the season of Lent – how Jesus walks the path toward resurrection, eventually enduring death on a cross to save the world.

I thought it was a pretty cool analogy.  The kids?  They thought bringing home caterpillar cups was pretty awesome.

Yep, that’s right.  Each kid got to take home their very own cup so they could watch the transformation during Lent.

We were lucky enough to bring home three cups, two of which held two caterpillars each.  That makes for five – count ’em, FIVE – caterpillars that abruptly became our houseguests.  Five little critters I was responsible for getting to the butterfly stage.  Have I mentioned I’m not really an insect person?  Don’t get me wrong, I think butterflies are beautiful, but the pressure of not killing them before they have the chance to become butterflies?  Stressful.

I carefully chose a location where we could watch the caterpillars’ progress without risking Gracie eating them.  Gracie’s got a lot going for her, but I think even she would have a hard time bouncing back in the kids’ eyes if she ate the Jesus butterflies.  Better safe than sorry, I always say.

At any rate, the kids were super invested in this project.  We kept a close eye on things (because I didn’t want to kill the Jesus butterflies either), especially since we’d been told we needed to transfer the caterpillars as soon as they were in their cocoons.  You know, since butterflies can’t hatch in a thimble.  BrightSide saved the day by finding a habitat in a local pet store so we were as prepared as we could be.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional intensity of having those caterpillars in the house. Are they in their cocoons yet?  If there were two in a cup, had they both spun their cocoons yet? Why is this one in a cocoon but that one’s just crawling around like it’s got nothing to do?  Is it time to move them yet?

Yeah.  I mentioned I’m not an insect person, right?

Our next trauma came when we lost some of the caterpillars.  Two simply died in their cups. Another spun his cocoon but didn’t do it from his lid, so I couldn’t see a way to save him.  (That was particularly disturbing to T-man.  He was obsessed with how that butterfly was gonna hatch from its cocoon in the bottom of the garage trash can.  Little dude really knows how to make a girl feel like a butterfly murderer…)

In the end we were able to transfer two – two! – of the five into the habitat.  In case you’re keeping track, that’s less than a fifty percent survival rate.  I was feeling particularly incompetent by that time but we were already in it so there was nothing to do but see it through and hope Gracie didn’t attack the habitat once butterflies started fluttering around in there.

About a week later we were starting to see signs of hatching.  (At least it felt like a week.  Maybe it was only a few days…)  T-man’s first panicky moment was when he saw a small puddle of red underneath one of the cocoons and he shouted, “Mom!  It’s bleeding!” all I could think was Crap! I DID kill the Jesus butterfly.  I kept my wits about me, though, and googled it, feeling very knowledgable indeed when I could tell him it was only meconium and things were fine.

Well, things seemed fine anyway, but that was before the second butterfly hatched and fell to the floor of the habitat.

Are you freaking kidding me, Jesus butterfly?  Why?!  WHY?!?!

Now the kids are traumatized because butterflies are supposed to flap their wings to dry them, but this guy had one wing that was stuck to the bottom.  I braced myself for the butterfly death and whatever fallout would follow, but he was a fighter.  This was actually pitiful to watch since it meant he just kept flapping the one free wing and trying to get up.

It was around that time that Bear finally noticed the meconium and cried out, “Is that BLOOD?!” In all honesty I must have been distracted because I simply muttered that I wasn’t sure, to which Bear replied, “Well…maybe butterflies have periods.  Maybe that’s how we know it’s a girl butterfly.”

[blink, blink]

Okay, let’s recap.  We brought home five living caterpillars with the goal of releasing the butterflies once they’d hatched.  Two died in their cups and one spun a faulty cocoon, so we only transferred two into the habitat.  Of those two, only one successfully hatched and dried its wings.  The other ended up being released with an amputated wing, with Bear hopefully saying that maybe its “butterfly friends” would come and help it survive.

I was not quite as optimistic, but I kept that to myself.

So basically I killed four of the Jesus butterflies, and Bear’s convinced that fifth one had her period.

There are no words.

 

 

6 thoughts on “caterpillars, butterflies, Jesus, and Aunt Flo

    • Well, it felt like serious pressure to me, but my kids went to a nature camp last summer. Ever since then they’ve been SUPER attuned to all living creatures. Which is a wonderful quality, until you’re the schmuck unable to keep those creatures alive…😳

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