Posts tagged Toad

Saving the Oregon Spotted Frog

“We are going to save The Frogs!” Teddy announced yesterday as he arrived home from school. What I heard was, “Mom, I need 20 bucks!” He proudly presented a round, pink paper-maché pig, which, in his little mind, made perfect sense in connection with saving The Frogs. Although the details were sparse, the connection in my mind was clear: Teddy’s school needs more money.

Let’s just say I wasn’t too enthusiastic about throwing money at frogs. The kids’ pizza order forms are still lying around on my desk, waiting to be filled. Our friends are going to Thailand and are asking for our support. The Kidney Foundation wants our money, as does the Humane Society. Our el Cheapo BBQ needs to be replaced, Caleb has no summer shoes, and some months our grocery bills are dangerously close to the four-figure mark. I don’t need another thing to throw money at. (Did anyone notice that I stifled the urge to include rising gas prices in my list?)

At supper, Teddy finally filled us in on the details, which were surprising to say the least. Apparently the Northern Leopard Frog and the Oregon Spotted Frog are both endangered in North America. The fact that the kids are learning about endangered species is not surprising to me. What is surprising, is that the kids are supposed to fill that pig with money raised by the sweat of their brow. In other words, they’re supposed to work for mom and dad’s support! I have decided that his teacher is a genius.

What makes her even more of a genius is that she’s asking every child to raise – get this – one dollar. Not $20. One dollar. I had to read that several times to be sure I hadn’t misplaced the decimal in my mind. Given that Teddy and his classmates have been primed to seek work vacuuming, clearing the table and drying the dishes, I can get a lot of mileage out of this buck. He received a quarter for clearing the table after supper yesterday. This morning he helped Sam clean out the dishwasher (Sam’s morning chore) in hopes that it would garner him a dime. All of this from a kid who, together with his brother, earned almost $10 picking up sticks from the lawn during March Break. To be specific, Teddy and Sammy picked up 960 sticks, which, at a penny per stick, added up to a handsome $9.60. Teddy was already earning $1.00 picking up sticks when he was five or six years old, so this assignment seems almost too easy.

I suppose his teacher has to consider the lowest common denominator though. Our children learn to work almost from the time they can walk upright, whereas some of the 7 and 8-year-olds in his class have probably never made the acquaintance of a kitchen towel. Kudos to the grade 2 teachers at Teddy’s school for reintroducing the long-forgotten idea that kids can do real useful work to raise money for a cause they believe in.

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The Prodigal Returns

He found him while mowing the lawn. When Oliver told me that he had found toad #3 in the grass, I immediately feared the worst. When you’re a ground-dwelling animal so small that you can have a picnic on a postage stamp, and you’re found by a person mowing the lawn, this usually means that you’re either squished or shredded, depending on the path of the mower. Evidently though, my husband has the eyes of a hawk, because he carefully returned our prodigal little amphibian runaway back to his terrarium-dwelling brethren, much to the delight of the family.

What is not so delightful – disturbing, in fact – is that our wandering friend is now almost twice the size of the other boys on the team. While we have been diligent about feeding the little buggers, it is apparent that we cannot keep up with the demand of these bug-eating machines. I am now a woman on a mission: let the poor frogs go so they can fatten up before they have to hibernate for the winter. The problem is convincing their “owner” of that.

For the first day Teddy was in denial: no, the vagrant frog had always been the fattest, he insisted, and the others weren’t that much smaller anyway. By pure chance, the toads all assembled for a little frog huddle as I broached the subject of their release from captivity this morning. Seeing them next to eachother it became clear even to Teddy that yes, the Prodigal is definitely fatter and bigger, and the others need to be released as well.

As we were talking about an exit strategy for the frogs yesterday, Daddy suggested making one of our clay “stepping stones” (an upside-down flower pot-saucer) available as a toad house. It’s crawling with living things on the underside, has a convenient toad-sized hole on top, keeps the tenants safe and warm, and will hopefully keep our much-loved toads “at home” and eating insects in our vegetable patch.

At the outset of this experiment in pet care I was sure we would all learn something. And so it is that our family has learned the following things about toads:

  1. Pets need food. Toads need more than we thought.
  2. Toads eat only live food, and it’s really cool to watch. I must say, though, that I have trouble with the spiders. Seeing wiggly spider legs protruding from hungry toad lips is disturbing. Seeing a toad spit out an unpalatable spider is even worse.
  3. Toads hibernate
  4. Toads need to be fat to hibernate.
  5. Wild animals should be free to be just that: wild.

 Hopefully our toads will like their new toad house and make themselves at home in our vegetable garden. I hope they have a restful winter sleep burrowed snugly under the soil of our lettuce patch. And I do hope they stay off the grass. Oliver’s eyes may not always be so keen.

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And Then There Were Two…

Look closer... it's right there!

Wrapped in bathing towels, Teddy, Caleb and I came home two days ago from the neighbour’s pool to witness what nobody ever wants to come home to: the toad’s terrarium stood open, empty of everything but the plantation soil and the rock puddle. The only clue to the tiny amphibians’ whereabouts was the guilty look on Sammy’s face, who had – until that point – been busy playing in the sandbox (Sammy was at home with Dad). Upon closer inspection we realized that two of the three toads were squished between Sam’s little fingers – his sandbox toys, evidently.

Guilt-stricken and fearing the wrath of his older brother, Sam ran back to the terrarium where he deposited the poor toads upside down in their little puddle. The sight of them just lying there belly-up not moving will probably always be etched on our collective psyches. Were they dead? Alive, but severely shaken by their ordeal?

Teddy quickly righted them back onto their legs, at which point it became clear that the breath of life was indeed still in them. It also became clear, however, that one of their brethren had been released into the wild blue yonder. A search was immediately initiated, but the chances of finding a frog small enough to bathe in a thimble in a dense patch of clover are about as slim as finding a parking space at the mall on Boxing Day.

Eventually Teddy called off the search, consoling himself that now he had “one less mouth to feed.” That, and the missing toad was the fattest one – too fat to fit into the mouth of any predator. Absolutely right on both counts, I assured him.

Still, the animal fever continues to rage at our house. They’ve taken over the house: chameleons, koalas, toads, frogs, lizards, and whatever else the boys have seen on TV. To be clear, we don’t keep all of these animals – the boys pretend to be them. Believe it or not the boys’ creature personas were not the result of any children’s programming, although certainly Zooboomafoo with Chris and Martin Kratt laid the groundwork for their current passion. Their current animal zeal is fueled by occasional family movie nights featuring BBC Earth’s Life documentary. The exceptional footage of this series (as with all of BBC Earth’s documentaries) leaves the children with scenarios that they just have to re-enact. Could previous generations of children have known what a chameleon’s long, slimy grey tongue looks like in slow-motion as it greedily snatches a preying mantis? The way that suction-cup tip envelopes the unsuspecting insect and rudely plucks it off of its perch in the blink of an eye is impressive and worthy of an attempted emulation, at least if you’re four and six years old.

Image: africa /


Source: africa/


Anyone who can still argue that children are not heavily influenced by what they watch on television need only watch our children’s play immediately following what we have just allowed the BBC to put into their little heads. If it’s not a komodo dragon lying in wait for its little brother err… prey, it’s a chameleon stuffing his cheeks with cherry tomatoes and storing them for the winter (it seems they’ve created a brand new sub-species by crossing a chameleon and a squirrel).

Beyond just being entertaining to watch, our children’s role-playing has reiterated for us the importance of our role as sentinel at the media portal of our children’s minds. Whether we like it or not, we have a very strong influence over our children’s behaviour simply by determining what we allow them to watch. Let’s give them wholesome material to emulate.

  • Toads! (

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