Horror at Botanical Gardens

This week I found out from another friend who is also homeschooling, that our local Botanical gardens is doing a membership swap with the YMCA. With your YMCA membership, you can get free tickets to Botanical Gardens this season. So, I was extremely excited because we could use it as a field trip for our homeschool studies, since we do not have school on Fridays.

The first mistake I made was attempting the field trip alone. My mom had a lot going on this week, and I knew she was tired, so I wanted to let her sleep in, so I decided to take all four boys alone, while the girls attended virtual classes.

We listened to our novel study book, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, on the ride up to the gardens. When we arrived, the attendant told us that the tram was leaving at 10:00am. We pulled up at about 9:35am, so we decided to finish the chapter of the audiobook, and do the tram tour first. Our large double stroller could not fit on the tram, so we decided to ride around the entire grounds and back to the visitors center, get the stroller, and then head to the butterfly garden, which was one of the main objectives of our trip.

When we got out of the car to wait on the tram, the horror started. I went into the visitor’s center to use the restroom, so I had the boys wait outside the door, and had my oldest son, Jordan, hold my two-year-old, Tristan, while I went in. As soon as I disappeared around the corner, Tristan let out his first wail like he was being abducted by strangers. So I began the day by using the restroom, in a public bathroom, while simultaneously holding my two-year-old. (Yes, it’s a torturous as it sounds).

We made it back to the tram relatively unscathed, and it was time to board. As soon as the tram began moving, the trouble continued. Tristan started screaming to take his shoes off. Josiah, my 9-year-old, and I tried to point out some floral flamingos, and jostle him on our laps to calm him, but that only made matters worse. He began to howl so loudly that we could not hear the tour guide, so I gave in, and took off his shoes. In true Tristan fashion, removing his shoes was the precursor to the “turn up”. He almost immediately began trying to hop off the tram bench. Screaming and fighting as we tried to restrain him, and keep him from going over the side, since there were no doors on the tram.

The wailing became increasingly loud and Tristan began to wrestle us with strength, that I would liken to a baby Tiger, and Josiah and I were losing the battle. I pulled out my phone and I turned on Cocomelon, also known as the baby whisperer. That worked for the remainder of the tram ride, and the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. Although, I was extremely surprised at Tristan, who loves being outdoors. I thought he would be extremely entertained by the tram ride, but the only thing that he was entertained by was Cocomelon.

Upon exiting the tram, back at the visitors center, I asked the boys AGAIN, if anyone needed to use the restroom. I was met with a chorus of resounding NO! So we got the stroller, strapped Tristan in, and began our trek, toward the Butterfly House. Just before we reached the Butterfly House, there was a field of multicolored flowers with a brightly colored seesaw in the middle. The boys saw it and exclaimed that they wanted to try the seesaw. I of course obliged, but quickly realized that I had forgotten to change into my sneakers, as the wet grass squished between my toes. Jaxson, my 5-year-old, was instantly wary of the seesaw, so my two oldest sons, hopped on. Tristan began to screech at the top of his lungs, once again, because he wanted to get on the seesaw. Which was fine, but keeping in mind that he was barefoot, I told him that I was going to pick him up and put him on Josiah’s lap. He refused, and wrestled until his little toes, met the wet grass. Still unbroken, I lifted him onto the seat with his brother, which seemed like the the safest option, since no one was the same weight as the baby, and the seesaw went pretty high up. When I put him on the seat with Josiah, Tristan began to howl again, this time with a slightly elevated pitch, that I’m sure upset any nearby woodland creatures. He pressed against his brother so hard, Josiah began to get nervous. I quickly hustled to get him, and asked Josiah to get off the seesaw so that I could let him try it alone while I was holding on to him. Once elevated, Tristan quickly realized he was in the air and began to WAIL again, this time because he did NOT want to be on the seesaw after all.

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When I got him off, having had his moment of freedom, feeling the wet grass between his toes, and having exercised his lungs thoroughly with all the screaming, Tristan was thrilled. So trying to get him into the stroller, to make it to the butterfly house, proved to be a task. While I was trying to get him back into the stroller, Jaxson started doing the potty dance, shifting from foot to foot, and simultaneously singing wildly —

“Mommy, mommy, I have to go potty,” he began to call.

It was at the moment, that all my hopes and dreams for the field trip began to fade fast. While fighting the straps on the stroller and also chastising Jaxson for not going to the restroom at the visitors center when I asked him, I began to sweat. Luckily a worker, who was watering some plants nearby, heard the desperation in my voice, and swooped in to let me know that there was another restroom right up from where we were, and also next to the butterfly house. So with renewed strength we scrambled up the path and to the restroom. Having just got Bear back into position in the stroller, I was reluctant to pull him out, so I asked Jordan, who is 10, and very soon be 11, to take Jaxson in the restroom. Botanical Gardens was practically a ghost town during our visit, so the restroom was empty, and I was standing so close to the entrance that I was practically inside the restroom.

As the boys entered, you could have counted to 5, before I heard Jordan telling Jaxson to wash his hands.

“What is happening?” I called into the restroom. You guys have only been in there for 5 seconds, how did he use the restroom?”

Silence, except the swoosh of running water.

“Hello, did Jaxson use the restroom?” I called back into the restroom.

Both boys emerged.

“Yes.” Jordan retorted.

“Jordan, he was only in there seconds, are you sure he used the restroom?”

“Yes mom, I’m sure I was standing right there.” He assured.

Still confused, but wanting to make it to our next destination, I silently led the march to the butterfly house.

When we got to the entrance of the butterfly house, the guide had a wealth of information. In front of her, she had plants that displayed caterpillars in various stages of growth, and also eggs. She had pictures and pamphlets that described the butterflies, the caterpillars, and what we would see inside the Butterfly House. We were all enthralled. She told us it was ok to enter, so we walked through the plastic divider, and stepped into a beautiful garden with butterflies of all sizes and colors flitting all around before our eyes. We all stood still, smiling beneath our masks. Our intense awe was immediately broken, by the shrill scream that erupted from Tristan, who had also realized he was surrounded by butterflies.

The eggs, and larvae in different stages looked so fragile, and dainty red ribbon was tied on to stems near where each egg or caterpillar were resting. Tristan screeched louder. Reluctantly I took him out of the stroller, and tried to hold him, as the guide began to show us around. Tristan immediately wrestled himself free and all I saw was a flash of barefoot, yellow shorts, and fury headed for a clump of butterflies. He trotted straight toward them, paused, and began stretching upward, as if to catch one. Horrified I picked him up and began to bounce him up and down to try and hold his attention.

“The pebbles don’t hurt his feet?” The guide pointed at his missing shoes.

“He’s his own man lady.” I shot back in my mind. Out loud I actually said “He refuses to wear shoes, he loves earthing,” and left it at that.

Then, for a few glorious moments, we were pulled into the magic of everything this field trip was supposed to be. Tristan was quiet, and the guide began explaining to us how caterpillars don’t actually turn into butterflies, instead they actually liquify in the cocoon and their stem cells reassemble to form the structure that turns into the butterfly. We were mind blown. She drew us in further as she lifted a leaf to reveal a swallowtail with what appeared to be large eyes on its end, while pointing out a teeny tiny, caterpillar eating the leaf next to it. Just as I leaned forward a bit more, completely captivated, a tiny head popped up to my face. It was Jaxson, and he was leaping full force toward my face, in between the guide and I. He leapt up for the third time and I questioned —

“Bubby what are you doing?” Before he could respond I continued, “Calm down! Aren’t these caterpillars cool?”

“I.” Leap

“HAVE.” Leap

“TO.” Leap

“PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” he wailed, obviously about to burst.

“I am so sorry, please excuse us,” I apologized to the guide.

“Did you use the restroom before?” I hissed at Jaxson, while simultaneously ushering him away from the butterflies.

“No!” He cried.

I knew it.

We sprinted out the back door of the Butterfly House, and I began to bark orders for Josiah to run with Jaxson straight to the restroom, while I tried to quickly wrangle Tristan into the stroller. We began to dash behind the boys, as I scolded Jordan for telling me a fib before. He began to mumble some type of lame response. But I was so focused on getting us to that bathroom, that I let it go.

Jaxson made it, and emerged from the restroom triumphant.

“I made it,” he smiled, “where are we going now?”

“Home.” I muttered.

And with that, our field trip was over. With my spirit completely broken, we started the trek back toward the visitors center. As I pushed the bulky stroller up the hill and back down again, I glanced to my right at the rose garden. As if to mock me, there was a mom — with a perfectly poured cup of Starbucks in her hand, smiling. Behind her, her daughters, both in matching dark pink t-shirts, and stylish pink shorts, a matching light blue back-pack on each girl’s back. Each girl’s smile was just as grand as the moms. They practically skipped through the rose garden, imaginary theme music guiding their steps, as their hair blew in the wind. Disgusted I rolled my eyes. So much for this field trip.


Raquel Phillips is a writer, digital creator, CPT, certified group fitness instructor, and entrepreneur. She is a wife and mother of 6 amazing children. She resides in Virginia Beach, VA.

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Raquel Phillips is a writer, digital creator, CPT, and group fitness instructor. She is a wife, and mother of 6 children. She resides in Virginia Beach, VA.

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Raquel Phillips

Raquel Phillips

Raquel Phillips is a writer, digital creator, CPT, and group fitness instructor. She is a wife, and mother of 6 children. She resides in Virginia Beach, VA.

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