It started innocently enough. The four girls found a gaziilion baby frogs in the muddy ruts of the Beechwood Farms trail and three of them spent ages catching some. (Shockingly, Bea did not want to get her hands dirty. Huh?)
At one point, R had 10 frogs in her hand and was working on 11 and 12.
"Hey, is anyone hungry for strawberries?" one of the girls asked. A moment of silent hesitation, and then she continued. "You know, so we could eat them, and then I could use the container for my frogs?"
You've never seen strawberries eaten so quickly.
Into the container went the 10 frogs, some muddy ground, and some water.
We continued on our hike. A few minutes in and the container had been handed off to Bea so the older girls could use both hands to eat some CheezIts and scale a natural tree trunk bridge. Now, you know Bea. You know she doesn't walk when she can run, doesn't step over something when she can do a kangaroo hop, and is generally windmilling her arms around wildly in order to make as much of a ruckus as possible.
Now, imagine that while holding onto a container of little bitty frogs. Yeah.
I made Olivia take the container back. In the span of five minutes, she managed to drop it off a treetop lookout (John, I hope there wasn't poison ivy down in that ravine) and -- my favorite -- trip over a root and send the circular container flying like a frisbee... right into a wooden trail marker.
Grace, right there.
A bit further on, M found a cricket and carefully added that (amid much girl shrieking) to the habitat.
By the time we ended our hike, the habitat of horrors looked like this:
"I don't see anything moving? Do you?"
"Maybe they didn't survive the drop..."
"Maybe it was when they got flung into the signpost..."
"Hey, did anyone put any air in here?"
As it turned out -- through careful investigation with a plastic spoon that had been licked clean of post-hike ice cream -- two frogs and one cricket survived the little habitat of horrors. "I hope mom lets us keep these!," said M. "The garden snake can eat the cricket!"
I whipped out my phone and texted their mom:
Dear P, we are on our way home with some amphibians and insects in tow. I owe you some takeout containers. I'm sorry.
Also, I'm sorry, little froggies. I had no idea you'd be subject to such, um, jostling at the the hands of my two kids. Next time, I will carry the habitat. I promise I won't trip, windmill you, or drop you into a ravine.
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The rest of the day was pretty awesome. The girls learned how to eat honeysuckle, do a delicate two-step to avoid thorns, and build a crazy dam out of sand. They chattered about school, sports, friends, and random junk. They got dirty and itchy and scratched ("Do you have any bandaids? Because I have some places where I could put them...") and ate ice cream for dinner. It was, for me, a fantastic summer day. I'm thankful for my friend P, who let us borrow her two girls for the adventure.