It’s Not Easy Being Green

All year, my middle son's fourth-grade class has had an aquarium full of African Dwarf Frogs.  The kids have cared for them as a class, learning about their diet and ecosystem.  But the end of the year is upon us, and the frogs needed homes for the summer.

And I have SUCKER written on my forehead, so it's a perfect match.

My son presented a compelling case, complete with bullet points and a closing argument, as to why he would like a chance to adopt one or two.  They're small, easy-to-care-for, and (he knew this would be the deal breaker) they don't smell.

(I have a fair amount of tolerance for annoying pet behaviors.  But I cannot abide bad smells.  Not a whiff.  Not a fraction of a whiff.)

My son brought home the paperwork (oh yes, there was paperwork).  He and I had to sign an agreement that we would care for the frogs and absolutely, under no circumstances, would we "release" the frogs.  And by "release", I can only assume they mean "flush".

"Are you absolutely, positively sure they don't smell?" I asked for the fourth time.  He nodded solemnly.  I looked at the paperwork again.  Then I remembered that episode of LA Law from 1987 that taught us that all legally-binding contracts pertaining to the adoption of African Dwarf Frogs become null and void in the event of a vile stink.  Really.  I'm just sure I remember that one.

I signed the paperwork, as did mothers of many other fourth graders, and my son anxiously stewed over whether his name would be drawn in the frog lottery.  (Oh yes, there was a lottery.)  There were 16 frogs, and there are 22 students.  You could take those odds to Vegas.

One afternoon this week, my son bounded out to the car with a plastic-wrap-covered Solo cup.  We were now the proud owners of not one, but two African Dwarf Frogs (Bud and Lou), and we headed to the store for supplies.  My son, having studied the frogs all year, was very well-versed in what they need (which thankfully, isn't much.)  They need to swim in distilled water, in a glass bowl with a vented lid, and they need regular fish food.

So I grabbed a cheap little bottle of fish pellets off the grocery-store shelf. 

"NO!" shouted my son.  "Not THOSE!  They will make the frogs constipated, and they would explode!"

This is the point at which I must pause to point out that I consider myself a reasonably well-prepared mother.  I studied ahead and braced myself for teething, potty training, stomach viruses, orthodontia, sleepovers, ER trips, sibling rivalry, The Talk, video games, and fractions.

But I will confess that in all my years of looking ahead, never ever did I factor in the possiblity of exploding, constipated frogs.  (It's created a crisis of confidence in me, actually.  What other unexpected dangers might be looming?  Guinea pigs with cholera?  Lactose-intolerant squirrels?)

I am happy to report that we dodged that particular bullet.  Thanks to my son's extensive frog knowledge, Bud and Lou swim happily in a bowl next to me at this very moment.  Nobody has exploded, and nobody stinks.

(I am struck that when one considers "nobody has exploded and nobody stinks" a statement of achievement, then one may have set one's bar a little too low.)

This parenting gig is full of surprises.

62 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being Green

  1. BlueCastle says:

    The mental image I now have in my head of a poor, constipated, exploding frog is simply hilarious. I’m a really horrible person because I would secretly be tempted to “plug” one of the frogs up. But, of course I would never do that. Even if it would be educational. 🙂 I’m not that demented….

  2. Dorci says:

    My son brought home from school two snails in his charge one year. Taking care of them was easy. It was the two days that they, one by one, each stuck to the side of their glass home. My son knew that meant only one thing. Poor thing has lost those two snails, two guinea pigs, and a dwarf hamster and our aging dogs can’t be too far behind. I’m counting on the fact that God’s going to use those boy-sized trials to grow his faith and compassion. I’m glad we moms don’t know every danger that looms ahead for our children. I can only take them one at a time.

  3. MM says:

    LOL! Cute post!
    I’ve always wondered why mothers get a bad rap when it comes to pets. Now that I have a kiddo, I understand. Before offspring, my dogs and kitties WERE my babies. Now that I have a baby, my dogs and kitties are just that…dogs and kitties. I hate to say it, but there is a whole new perspective to furry creatures running underfoot when you know you have a child to take care of.

  4. Krystal says:

    I literally laughed so hard I cried. Who knew that constipated frogs would have to be at the top of your worry list as a parent? This is great!

  5. *~Michelle~* says:

    You, my friend…..are one of the funniest people ev-a!
    I don’t know what made my coffee spray further…..the exploding constipated frog or how you articulated with your list of preparing for parenting.
    Too funny!
    OK, have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend…

  6. Jessica Ryan says:

    May I suggest live crickets? I kid you not! My husband (aka my oldest boy!) has collected toads for the younger boys… gone out and purchased terrariums and after extensive research on the internet he learned that a steady diet of crickets was perfect for their digestive tracts… no explosions whatsoever! A huge (size of a grapefruit) bull frog was caught just last weekend. We had to let Jeremiah go as he was just too large!
    And if you happen to have any goldfish with a constipation problem — this happens when eager little children over-feed, cut up a green pea and put it in the tank!
    Sheesh, had I not had boys I would never have been filled with such silly information!

  7. Juanita says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog. “nobody has exploded and nobody stinks” sounds like one of life’s wisdoms that we all need to remember…

  8. Missy says:

    Love this especially since we are considering getting a fish for our 19 month old. And we’re not talking about the stuffed or edible variety. I think I’ll blame it on the grandparents!

  9. Linda Sue says:

    Let’s see, Shannon, you cannot abide bad smells and have how many BOYS/MEN in your household? You must be under odor attack on a fairly regular basis. Great posting – yep – you’ve graduated from rats to swimming supposedly male (might there be baby froggies in your future?) frogs who have a problem with a lack of fiber in their diets. It is going to be an hysterical summer – looking forward to your adventures.

  10. Lisa Q says:

    great story. I’m adding “nobody exploded and nobody stinks” to my list of achievement checking benchmarks! Most days I can actually say that is true!

  11. Ashley says:

    I’m not looking forward to the days of pets (I have awhile, my daughter is 5 months old). I’m not much of an animal person, but will most likely cave in when I get the batting eyes and goofy grins asking “pleeeease, can we have him mom!!”

  12. NCV says:

    Ha! I love it! I went through the very same process a few years ago . . . I said no, but daughter persisted and I interviewed the teacher and finally agreed! But lo and behold those little frogs became one of my favorites! They’re easy to care for and loads of fun to watch! You won’t be sorry!

  13. Lucy says:

    This is funny. 🙂 We’re entering this world ourselves. DH and I were talking just last night about possibly giving our almost eight-year-old son a rodent pet in lieu of a dog (which I absolutely do NOT want). I even told him about your rat experiences!
    Fortunately for me, my mom loved animals and our house was a zoo when I was growing up. I rescued everything – squirrels, turtles, kittens, birds. Yes, we even had jars of spider egg sacs in our house. Which then hatched millions of tiny spiders. That may have pushed my mother to the edge.
    Good luck with the frogs!

  14. Cheri says:

    My then 10 year old son found a snail in a lake and brought it home. We already had two fish, so it just took up residence with one of the fish.
    Did I mention the snail was pregnant? When it was all said and done, we ended up with 9 snails crawling all over the inside of the tank.
    Never once up to that point in my life, did I think I’d be Googling “lake snail care.” They lived a couple of years and started dropping off one by one. Oh and I killed one or two . . . . they started out REALLY tiny.

  15. Jo@Mylestones says:

    “never ever did I factor in the possibility of exploding, constipated frogs” Oh my word, that had me laughing.
    And I’m thinking that if you’ve managed to create an environment where “nobody exploded and nobody stinks”, you’re doing just fine!!

  16. Tracy says:

    (I own a degu. They are diabetic by nature. Yes, a diabetic rodent. I never thought I would have to say “NO, don’t feed the degu so many raisins, she’s a diabetic!”)

  17. Kelley says:

    A point to ponder (and further encourage you to ALWAYS have the right food on hand)…if said frog becomes constipated and explodes, it probably WILL stink. I’m just sayin’.

  18. Kayla says:

    I have to warn you about crayfish aka crawdad(dy)s here in Oklahoma. They STINK to high heaven. I was misfortunate enough to learn that the hard way after a school even very similar to yours. Our crayfish was released back into his natural environment (because I didn’t have to sign the no release clause). However, being an Oklahoma girl I impressed my kids when I actually knew how to pick him up! Have fun with the frogs.

  19. Nicki says:

    Too funny!! Enjoy your frogs this summer.
    We’re caring for snails right now. My daughter stuck them in her pocket while camping last weekend and I found them when they fell to the floor as I was switching laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. I posted about it at my blog.
    So, you have rocks in your dryer and I have snails in my washer. 😉

  20. Becky@oursweetpeas says:

    I have twin sons who are two and as I read this I think that these days will quickly be upon me. Now I can check “must learn about african dwarf frogs” off my to do list. Thanks 🙂

  21. JD says:

    Priceless, simply priceless. Did he turn many heads by yelling that out in the pet store? Imagine being in the next aisle, overhearing that conversation?! LOL
    It’s going to be one wild summer.

  22. fern says:

    The visual of an exploding, constipated frog is just too much.
    While guinaea pigs probably do not get cholera, they can get scurvy (just speaking from experience).
    Oh, and if you ever get toads–feed them fireflies and then turn off the lights!

  23. mzzterry says:

    never,ever even considered a constipated frog. you have opened my mind to a new realm of thoughts.
    parenting. it isn’t for the faint of heart!!

  24. Anna says:

    That is great! I laughed out loud cause it SO sounds like a situation I would get myself stuck in. 🙂
    We have had all sorts of critters in this house. The least stinky are the sea monkeys that have managed to live for well over a year now. I am ready for them to be gone but they have not given up yet.

  25. Richelle says:

    we love frogs, toads, chameleons (that being my kids, not i… i tolerate said critters because I love my kids)- and i totally agree. if nothing or no one is constipated and expoding, celebrate.
    you can set the bar a little higher tomorrow!

  26. aimee says:

    My fiance and I have some of those frogs – he had one for 7 years…he used to chirp. It was the cutest thing. But we uh, released him awhile back, if you know what I mean.
    Whatever you do – don’t get snails. THEY MULTIPLY LIKE RABBITS. 😦

  27. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

    Oh, that’s too funny! I have a super sniffer, too, so I can understand needing reassurance that the thing wouldn’t stink. 🙂 But still, that lottery sounds like the one in the short story – you know, where you don’t actually want to be the winner!

  28. mumple says:

    Too funny! I am thankful that the Howler’s teachers (so far, at least) have aversions to live things that are not children in the classroom.
    This year’s teacher wouldn’t even trust herself to keep marigolds alive, and sent them home promptly!

  29. Hope says:

    I can so relate! We’ve some *exotic* pets of our own! Once we were trying to get our sick snake to eat and it was suggested that we heat up the frozen pinky mouse to make it warm and then slice it’s little head to entice the snake to eat. Ewwww…my son took care of that one…and the poor snake still didn’t make it. 😦 Said son plans on being a herpetologist. Ewww.

  30. Christine says:

    Nope, release isn’t a euphemism for flush. They mean you are not to release the frog into local ponds, streams, etc. They are likely not native frogs, and invasive species can cause some rather interesting ecological problems. Look at kudzu vines for an extreme example.

  31. angela says:

    “NO!” shouted my son. “Not THOSE! They will make the frogs constipated, and they would explode!”
    I’m at work, on the phones and THAT made me laugh out loud

  32. Cathy says:

    Haha! You laugh about constipated frogs, but we really and truly just had a constipated chicken. I NEVER in my wildest dreams, even as an animal lover, imagined myself giving an enema to a bantam rooster, but I did, not just once, but THREE times. However, poor Fluffy did not make it. Thankfully, he didn’t explode, though.
    BTW, I’m the mom of four who lives down here in SW Oklahoma and also had pet rats, though they all lived to a ripe old age and are now in pet heaven.

  33. peggy says:

    I actually LOVE the “Whenever I Feel Like It Linkage” title so much better. It is real. It is genuine and NOT ordinary at all. Can’t you just feel the freedom that title brings?

  34. Miche says:

    Oh my gosh, I almost spit my coffe out all over the computer screen-that was just too funny to not comment. I just love reading you! Hmmm, sounds odd, but I don’t know how else to say it…lol

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