I might not be the coolest dad in the world but… well, I’m not sure how to finish that without hinting that I secretly believe that I actually am the coolest dad in the world. And I’m probably not. But I’m not bad. Mostly.

My kid loves insects and lizards and small animals of all sorts. My wife mostly doesn’t care and I definitely encourage it. This year, I got around to ordering the cool butterfly chrysalis set I’ve wanted to get for her. It seems like monarchs are no longer the butterfly du jour, but painted ladies will do just fine.

They were here in the mail when I got home today, and I just casually set the little box down next to her where she was setting up to do homework. The cute, CLEARLY LABELED, colorful box got her attention right away, and she read what was inside.

I’d only ordered them a week ago, so I was mostly pleased. I feel like I got slightly ripped off in a way, the “kit” I purchased had a coupon for them redeemable for a reasonable-sounding five bucks. I didn’t want to fill the card out and actually mail it, what with it being the 21st century and all, so I used the recommended web address. You put in a specific coupon code (which seems a little curious I guess), and it gives you the appropriate package because they sell more than one variation. Come checkout time, the five bucks has mysteriously ballooned to $14.95. I did it anyway, partly because I’m an idiot, and partly because it’s about what everyone seems to charge. I have to cynically wonder if that’s not why the mantises I ordered under similar circumstances last year were “out of stock” – maybe if people send in the five dollar coupon, they’re out of the five dollar mantids. I digress. And I also need to look into mantis pods…

Anyway, they’re cool. We have a big mesh cage for them to hatch into, but for now, they’re in a little jar with some foodstuff in the bottom. There are five of them, and they’re making little silk structures to get comfortable. Happy, healthy. We keep an eye on them for a couple of weeks, and once they do their pupae thing and form chrysalissssesses (yes, that’s how it’s spelled; I’ve read a lot of books) at the top of the container, we carefully remove them and place them in the larger mesh thing to mature and hatch. Once they hatch, we get some fresh flowers, sprinkle them with sugar water to nourish ’em up good, give them a chance to eat and inflate their wings and whatever else newborn butterflies do, and we set them free. I’m looking forward to it, and she’s already excited about it. She’ll probably stop checking on them every five minutes at some point, but it’s great to share my enjoyment of literal little things with someone.

5.12.2011 UPDATE
The little guys have tripled in size, from a little less than half an inch to about an inch an a quarter. The good/goo in the bottom of the container has gone, their silk nets are all over the place, and a couple of them have started hanging from the top. If it’s not just a caterpillar fire drill, that means they’ll form chrysaliiii now, and we can remove them from the plastic container and suspend them in their mesh cage and start to watch for the next big transformation.

Even my bug-averse wife is pretty interested in them.

Also, caterpillar crap is called frass, and it’s proportionally huge. It would be like crapping out something the size of your head several times a day. With the amount they eat and the pace with which they grow it’s probably not surprising.  Frass.