Don’t judge a Christmas gift by it’s box…

"Mommy, look how much fun they're having with their butterflies!"

"Mommy, look how much fun they're having with their butterflies!"

Christmas is more like Hanukkah in our house.  Gifts start arriving in the mail from friends and family weeks before the 25th so we let the boys open one package a day. (That and the fact that Nate is enamored with the Shamas candle on the menorah and demanded that we get one.) This leaves just the gifts from Mommy, Daddy and Santa on Christmas morning. When your kids are young, I’ve found it’s good to spread out the joy. Besides, it’s great to have something to bribe them with everyday for a month. “Sorry, Pal…no soy cheese covered tofu…no box from Nana & Papa.”

We all get very excited when a box comes from anyone of our family or friends, but when the box came from my friend Julia I got extra excited. She’s always so creative and thoughtful with her gifts. One birthday, she made Nate a treasure box out of a cigar box with a treasure-holding apron hidden inside. Awesome! Another Christmas, she hand-made a fabric doll that looks just like him. Amazing! So when we opened the package and saw the “Butterfly Garden” we all were thrilled. Nate saw a cool creature habitat that he could “watch caterpillars turn into butterflies right in front of his two eyeballs!” I saw an educational gift with live creatures that will be set free in a few weeks and not sitting on the toy shelf unplayed with for so long that I finally have to sneak it out of the house and into a donation bag. Yippee!

So we sent off for the catapillars and waited. “This is gonna be awesome!” said my husband who turns pre-pubescent  when it comes to all things crawly. “Why do you say that, Mark?” I queeried “Well…remember how much fun the ant farm was?” I thought for a minute. “You mean the fun when you tried to get the ants from the tube into the habitat and they spilled all over the kitchen table? Or the fun when they started fighting and ripped each other apart and we had to explain to our horrified 3 year old that they were just wrestling? Or the fun when the ants started to die and we tried to dig out the carcases so Nate wouldn’t be scarred for life?” “Yeah! All that!” he said, oblivious to my sarcasm.

I have to admit that I was sucked in by the photo on the box, too. Butterflies! Pretty little butterflies…what could go wrong? 

It started off great. The caterpillars came in the mail. (another box to open weeks after the Christmas buzz was gone…bonus!) They came in a plastic container. It had everything. The food was already in there so we didn’t have to do anything but watch. (Love that!) When they doubled in size we were all amazed and thoroughly entertained. Then, one by one they crawled up to the lid of the container and hung upside down. “It’s cocoon time!” yelled Nate “Hey, Mommy? What are all those little brown balls on the bottom of the container?” he asked right before he took a big whiff.  “That’s caterpillar poop.” I explained. Uh-oh…Nate started to gag and almost puked on my sofa. He has his father’s constitution when it comes to smells. We’re all so proud.

About a week later we decided it was time to transfer the chrysalides to the net habitat. The directions said to remove the lid, pull out the white paper they were attached to and pin the entire thing to the inside wall of the habitat. I stood by and watched. This was a job for my expert-on-everything-that-crawls husband. I’m happy to report that the operation was a success. The transfer went without a hitch…right up to the part where my 16 month old grabbed the habitat and started to shake it like King-Kong shaking a phone booth. The Chrysalides went crazy. They started shaking and spinning and convulsing for an hour after we shot Kong with a tranquilizer gun to rescue them. “Uh…Honey? Are they supposed to be shaking around like that?” I asked the expert. “How am I supposed to know? I majored in reptiles!” he said, getting very defensive. “I bet Steve Irwin would know.” I attacked. I know, it was a low blow but I didn’t want Nate to go through life hating his baby brother Zeke for killing his butterflies. Therapy isn’t cheap.

We decided to put them up on a high shelf, out of the sight line and hopefully mind of our very sensitive 4 year old…just in case. We didn’t have to wait long. The next day, they started to emerge from the cocoons. I yelled for Nate: “Nate, come quick…a butterfly is out!” We watched as the butterfly crawled up the net wall and stopped to dry his wings. That’s when things went bad…really bad.  All this red blood started dripping down off the butterfly! “MOMMY! The butterfly has a boo-boo! What’s wrong with the butterfly? MOMMY! Get a band-aid!” All I could think was 1. “King Kong” had done some real damage and 2. How the heck am I going to get a band-aid on a butterfly?  I ran to get Mark. “Mark! The butterfly is hemorrhaging!” “What are you talking about?” he said. “Either the butterfly is having it’s period or we have a problem.” 

The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.

After the family was completely tramatized, we decided to read the directions that came with the kit: “There will be a red discharge from butterflies when they emerge. This is not blood and is completely normal.” Thanks.

Maybe they should write that…ON THE FREAKIN’ BOX! 

{sigh} Thanks for the gift, Julia…it’s the thought that counts.