Thursday, August 19, 2010


:the elongated wormlike larva of a butterfly or moth

Last fall, B found a monarch caterpillar.  She loved him and named him Artie (after Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl #1)).  She cared so much for him that we borrowed a butterfly habitat from her second grade teacher so that we could watch him transform into a butterfly.  B knew exactly what to do for this caterpillar:  she knew which leaves he would eat, she knew when it was time for him to make his chrysalis, she knew it would take a while for him to emerge and she was completely willing to let him go when the time was right.

Last week, K found a caterpillar.  A different, unknown kind of caterpillar.  She wanted to keep him.  B now owns a butterfly habitat (thank you Uncle J and Aunt A), so we had a place for him to live.  K found him on a branch, so we knew which leaves he would eat.  We looked him up online to see what kind of butterfly he would turn into and found out he'll eventually be a moth, not a butterfly.  K wanted to keep him anyway.  Like B, she named her caterpillar Artie (which pretty much infuriated B, but that's another story).

Unlike B, who took care of Artie the First, K is a little afraid of her caterpillar.  She doesn't want to collect the leaves or put them into the habitat for him. She wants me to do that.  She certainly doesn't want to clean caterpillar poop out of the habitat or remove the branches after Artie the Second is done munching.  But she still cares about the caterpillar.  When K found Artie the Second, he was bright green with yellow spots.  A few days into our caretaking, he turned a brown color.  I, of course, was afraid we'd killed him.  But it turns out he was just changing colors.  He's still hanging out days after his color swap, gulping down leaves like nobody's business and showing absolutely no signs of heading into that chrysalis.  Which, frankly, it a bit of a problem since we leave in about three hours to go out of town for the weekend.

We can't exactly bring him with us.  We probably have room for him in the van, but where would we find the right leaves?  What if he decided to form his chrysalis on the trip and got knocked loose?  What if my husband threw me out of the van for suggesting he drive twenty hours with an insect on board?  (He's not a bug guy, this man of mine.)

I jokingly said, "Too bad we can't find someone to babysit for us for the weekend."  At which point J offered a fabulous solution: "You know, I think O is the kind of child who would gladly babysit a caterpillar."  He was right.  Even better, O's mom is a fun, engaging mom who has gone on many an adventure with her children.  And I had a feeling she wouldn't think I was completely crazy for asking her to feed our bug for a weekend.  I was right. 

K will be so relieved since I warned her this morning, "Honey, if Artie doesn't make his cocoon before we leave, we'll have to let him go.  He can't make it all weekend without us and we can't take him with us to the wedding."  She said OK, but I was envisioning heart breaking sobs, pitiful tears and/or numerous complaints when the time came to actually put Artie back in our yard.

I'm thankful once again for the opportunity to see a life transformed.  I'm thankful that K watches her big sister B and learns from her.  I'm thankful for a husband who thinks creatively and a friend who is willing to babysit a larvae for a weekend.  Life is good.


rufusjt said...

Thank you L (O's mom)! There's no way I would have taken a caterpillar along for our Milwaukee wedding weekend, especially to spend 20 hours in the car with it.

I am thankful too for friends who didn't really consider this request out-of-line, a wife who wasn't afraid to ask, and girls who are interested in things I'm not - like nature. :)


Variations On A Theme said...


The Mom said...

of course you could have called me...remember I am the person who had all the frozen bugs in the freezer in little baggies that somehow made their way into everyone's ice one year?! Glad, however that you have a foster home for Artie Too (my variation of his name)