Finn and Charlotte finished their rigorous (by our standards) hybrid schooling, and they had two requests–creek exploring and milkshakes. I was happy to oblige my lactose tolerant naturalists.
When school let out, I took the big kids to a creek to hunt for critters. Finn has an uncanny knack for finding cool animals when we are in a parking lot much less in a creek. So when Charlotte nabbed a few tadpoles without her big brother’s “help” it was exciting. To encourage her and because of a botched tadpole experiment last year, I agreed that we could bring the tadpoles to our house, and we could watch their metamorphosis. The last time we did this I didn’t do a detailed enough google search, and the poles started breathing air before I provided them with a rock that they could use to escape aquatic life. The transition they go through is incredible and very well suited to life in a creek vs. a bowl on our counter. We got home with five tadpoles and went looking for the thrift store fish bowl we used the last time. We couldn’t find it. Oh yeah, I remembered. After the untimely deaths of the last batch, we left the fish bowl on the railing of the deck for like two months, and the dog jumped up to bark at a squirrel, knocked it off, and it shattered. That fishbowl needed to sit out for a good six months before I took 20 seconds to carry it down to the basement. So, no, fishbowl. Since I leave most tasks unfinished, the tadpoles were still in their temporary Kroger water bottle home when Riley got home from work. I reminded him of the broken fishbowl, and we joked about how we can’t be trusted with nice things, but we also can’t be trusted with thrift shop items that someone (with better life skills) had for like 15 years and we broke it in about 4 months of ownership.
Riley, the task completer of the relationship, found the perfect bowl. It was a smooth-sided, modern salad bowl. One of the types I saw in a Crate and Barrel ad and then saw a striking replica at Target 8 or so months later. It was a little sad to see the cool bowl full of murky brown creek water and slimy critters, but the person that leaves the tadpoles in the water bottle should NOT get huffy with the one who finds the tadpoles a more suitable environment. That’s some free marriage advice for ya.
Last time around, the tadpoles were sort of out-of-the-way. This time, I put them right in the middle of the table. They were a science centerpiece. And we were going to observe the heck out of these things. Honestly, it was great. Having them on the table where we eat all meals, draw all pictures, play all games, was perfect. We saw their bodies and their behavior change. It was great early summer fun.
But the tadpoles started breathing air and going up the rock we had provided for them. And it started to rain, and it rained for four and half days straight. And Finn started having a panic attack. Rewind. Finn is a purist and is almost always VERY opposed to removing animals from their natural habitat. First born. So, we had made an agreement on the shores of the creek that if we took the tadpoles from their habitat, HE would get to decide when it was the right time to release them. He couldn’t stand the thought of us accidentally killing off another set. The tadpoles were starting to breathe air, they were leaving the water and going up the rock, it had been pouring rain for days, and it was raining that morning, and Finn, amphibian oracle that he is, said we had to release the tadpoles that morning. I thought he would insist we drive like 40 minutes to release them back in the same creek where we got them, but he admitted they were pretty generic tadpoles, and that he liked the idea of them being in the neighborhood.
So, I got the kids ready to drive to the “pond” that is a few blocks away. We live in an urban area that is FULL of cool old houses, businesses, hipsters, people dumpster diving on the sidewalks, bicyclists, hustlers, political signs of all liberal descriptions, etc. It was 8:30 am, raining, and everyone was trying get to work while the kids and I were trying to re-home the 4 remaining tadpoles. I let Finn sit in the front seat, much excitement, and hold the bowl of poles. In the front seat there happened to be a huge trash bag full of socks that no longer had a mate (another long and bloggable story) that I had intended to drop in the trash, but I had stuck in the car instead. It was raining, I was in charge of the lives of 4 kids and 4 tadpoles, I didn’t have all my faculties. So I told him to nestle the bowl into the bag of wayward socks on his lap. I am not kidding. We started to approach the first stop sign, not even 20 yards from the starting line, and water sloshed all over the stray socks and Finn’s shorts. He yelled, “Did we lose one? Are you guys ok in there? Are there tadpoles in my shorts?!” After I swallowed my immature laughter, I realized that we had to pour some of the water out before driving any further. He got the bowl out of the sock nest and handed it to me. I opened the van door and a white work truck with 72 ladders on top nearly took the door off. I tried a second time, leaned out, and prayed that no tadpoles got poured out onto the street by mistake. It was like trying to drain ground beef without one of those splatter covers–a very delicate dance against gravity. I handed the bowl back to Finn, and we get back on track.
The drive to the pond is a mile and half at most, but it was the most nerve-wracking and hysterical drive I have made in some time. 13 miles per hour was too fast. That sleek, straight sided bowl was just impossible. The previously perfect habitat was now a death trap. Every seam in the road, every curve, every stop sign was a brush with death. Plus Finn was cackling each time his shorts got more and more wet. And Levi, from the back was yelling, “Are there swimmers on you Finn?!” It was too much. Then we had to turn onto one of the commuter thoroughfares. We are, no lie, moving at about 14 miles per hour. Cars are honking, crossing double yellow lines, speaking unsayable curses, it was hilarious.
The “pond” is located on one of the biggest streets in the neighborhood, a street that folks use to get downtown to work. I had to wait in the car for over a minute before it was safe for me to exit. I walked across the flood plain to see if there was a place where the kids could release the tadpoles. My feet were soaked, my shirt was getting really wet, but I found a good spot. This is one of those tasks that would have been relatively easy with 2 kids but was exponentially more difficult with four. I made Finn wait to get out until all three other kids were unloaded. Despite being the oldest, he’s probably the least trustworthy around wetland environments. Charlotte couldn’t get out on her side because the street was just too busy, so I unclipped Jo, Chottie climbed over her car seat, and I turned around and Levi was running through a puddle in his sneakers. “LEVI! KNOCK IT OFF!” A car went flying passed us and launched water up over the side of the van and sprayed me in the face. Clearly this was no nature preserve, but here I was in the middle of the city with four kids and four tadpoles. Finn got out and looked into the ravine and saw a basketball floating in the water, and asked me if I would hold the tadpoles while he ran and got it. No lie. We slogged our way to the water, and the kids started fighting over who would release which tadpole. This tadpole thing was an awesome idea. Charlotte accidentally kind of released them all, we acted like Levi was releasing a tadpole, but I am pretty sure it was a wad of creek sludge, but he bought it, and we made our way back to the van. The rain was starting to let up a bit, so that was nice. All four kids climbed in the van with muddy, grassy feet. We called goodbye to our squiggly friends, and I turned the car around. We drove off and talked about the tadpole’s chances for survival.
Now, I do not fully understand the science of this, but the windshield started fogging up. I mean, we were wet, and it was wet outside, and I know there is something to do with the internal vs. external temperatures, but I could not see. I started pressing the defrost button, and wiping the windshield, rolling down the window. This has always been a deficiency in my driving skills. Cold air? Hot air? What do I do?! I was getting a little frantic because I really couldn’t see and there were cars parked along the edge of the road, and lots of cars driving the opposite direction. Charlotte, beacon of practicality, says, “Uh, Mommy? Can you see?!” I had to slowly pull over because the windows were so fogged up. It was fogged up. I waited until I felt like the windshield was clear enough, and there right next to where we had parked was a sign in the yard, “Drive like Your Kids Live Here” Finn giggles, “Better yet, Drive Like You’ve Gotta Bowl Full of Tadpoles!”