For years now I have been knocking things off my to-do list, most often big, nerve-testing things that have brought me greater confidence and a better understanding of myself. But, I’ve realized recently that some things that have been grand adventures were never on my list to begin with. Some of the smallest choices I’ve made have brought the greatest, most unexpected joy and taught me the biggest lessons.

Years ago, my oldest son asked me for a turtle. I’m not anti-reptile, so I told him I’d think about it and did some research. Turns out that a common box turtle, the kind you would get from a pet store for your son for example, can live for thirty years. Deciding I did not want to be moving into a nursing home with a turtle (which, let’s face it, is the probable outcome of that scenario), I gently nudged my darling son towards a different pet.

After a lot of discussion, we decided to get a tadpole and grow ourselves a frog. The tadpole experiment was far more interesting than I imagined it would be. For weeks, we waited to see some limbs develop. I swear I was more excited than Joe was when we first noticed legs beginning to form. Over the couple months of development, we anticipated the time when we would begin to feed him “real” food. Real food, it turns out, is live crickets. That took some mental finagling on my part. I was all for a frog pet but was not really thinking about how keeping a frog pet meant that I would have to keep cricket pets as well.

When the tadpole was starting to lose its tail, I began the odious task of raising crickets. I decided they would have to live in the garage; I pay an exterminator way too much money to keep bugs out of my house to move some into my house intentionally. I bought the smallest crickets I could get because our frog was still very small as well. Finally, when most of his tadpole tail was gone and he was starting to come out of the water for longer periods of time, I dropped a couple crickets in with him and crossed my fingers.

For days I watched that frog, but it would not eat the stupid, teeny crickets. I checked on it every couple hours. I was starting to fret that froggy might not make it so I decided to visit the pet store to see if there was something else he might eat. I went in to check on him before I left and found he was dead.

I was heartbroken. I cried over the loss of that little frog, sobbed and carried on in what had to be one of the world’s ugliest cries ever. I was the one who had convinced Joe that he needed a frog, and then I starved the poor creature to death. I had failed as both froggy parent and real parent. And then I had to pull myself together, go pick up my son from school, and tell him the horrible news. Sensitive boy that he is, he was convinced that it was his fault. We spent hours discussing life and death, crying, and finally burying that frog out on the open space behind our house. We decided no more small pets for a while.

Then, a year ago I saw our next adventure in a Brookstone store. It was a small aquarium holding two tiny, aquatic frogs. The frogs eat (get this) food pellets and not live anything. I knew that we might finally be able to put the great tadpole experiment behind us and have a potentially more positive amphibian experience.

So, in addition to four people and one neurotic border collie, we’ve had four African Dwarf frogs in our house since last May. These frogs are more my pets than my boys’ pets, and I am fine with that. I love those little frogs. I love them more than any creature has loved a frog since Miss Piggy worshipped Kermit. I am rather partial to Luke’s frogs, who seem to recognize my voice and swim over to see me when I come to their aquarium. Splashy and Swimmy love classical music and especially enjoy swimming to Beethoven’s 9th. Every day those silly frogs make me smile. They are constant reminders that sometimes life’s most rewarding and educational adventures are the small ones that we don’t plan for.