Friday, July 24, 2015

Nature Study and Growing Monarchs

It has been a summer for camping, sailing, bonfires and way too much indoor time because of illness. Ordering monarch caterpillars was an idea that came before kids got sick, one after another, but it has been a wonderful starting point for observation and discussion of life cycles, metamorphosis and the botany we began in the spring in grade 5. A couple of days ago, our lovely critters began to emerge; this is number four and counting. It is so exciting! We have been growing milkweed for six years or so. It all began with our wonderful friends Henry and Vivian who brought us our first monarch caterpillars in mason jars, sealed with cheese cloth. They also brought along milkweed transplants for our backyard. We were all hooked from that very first magical chrysalis rimmed with gold and the naissant butterfly that was reborn out of it.

In the past two years, however, our milkweed seems to have been planted in vain. We had zero eggs or caterpillars two years ago and just one or two last summer. I did not exactly panic, but I do have to fight a little to keep the towering milkweed from being tidied up by some family members, and I wanted to make a difference in the restoration of these beautiful butterflies. So, this year, I ordered bugs, online, and they arrived already rather large and ready to go into chrysalis. Here is where you can find the company: Butterfly Bushes. I would recommend ordering as close to home as you can, so that you can enjoy the caterpillars for longer before they go into their next stage of life. However, this company is excellent: all 20 of the beasties arrived alive and we have had almost all of them survive to chrysalis form. 

We will be avidly observing our milkweed for eggs that may be left on the leaves, and hoping for our next crop or two of monarchs before fall. The children are really good at spotting them and bringing them in before they can be eaten by something else. 

It is the right time of year to raise them, if you have a desire to do so; as late as August the milkweed is still very nourishing, after that the success rate can decline because of the dwindling power left in the plant as autumn approaches. Happy butterfly discoveries!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Darling Graduate: Congratulations!

So, here are the photos, in case you missed the party. Thanks to Joseph Maciejko and Jay Strickland for the lovely photography! If you did not receive an invitation, you should have; my apologies! We missed you! You have been a part of this fabulous community that has helped raise these kids so far, thank you. Cate and her friend, Mina celebrated the end of homeschooling, the beginning of college and the rest of life. This is Cate with Mina, whose family clinched the question of whether or not to homeschool that had been gnawing at us for years. Mina who reads over 400 books a year; thank you to you and your wonderful family for the inspiration and years of friendship.

Little sister on the right
It was a great day for babies
The youngest of my bandits

My friend, Audrey, from Africa, and her mother and infant son, Phanuel (you can see him better below)

My wonderful neighbors, holding the darling baby, Phanuel, and my dear ol' Dad, thank you, Dad!

The parents at the end of the day; Thierry, Angela, Cecilia, Mariano

I wish I had more photos with my mom, she's the one in the middle; thank you! She, like Cecilia, Mina's mother, was a moving target, tirelessly making sure STUFF GOT DONE all day. Elizabeth, in purple, has been a true friend, math savior for my children and knitting and writing companion. I couldn't have done it without her! There are others, but if I start naming names, I will forget someone, so thank you all!'

Monday, June 15, 2015

You Need this Bag

I am all about promoting and supporting local and small businesses. Today's choice: the best bag ever (and you know, I really love bags.) It was made out of 100% recycled materials (old pants' leg and an old tie)  by a lovely friend of mine with a fab etsy shop. What do I use it for? EVERYTHING! It began as a knitting bag, and quickly became my pick-up-and-sling-over-my-shoulder-to-go-anywhere (especially a walk with my puppy: poo bag holder, or to the gym: keys, license, towel) bag. I also use it for my knitting in the afternoon and evening.


I know, I should have had one of my super-cute kids model this, but it is MY bag and here I am; sweaty and post dog-walking, in real life, with my companion bag. If you are short-waisted or long-waisted, you can custom-order the length, choose your colors, etc.

The best part: only $10 on Etsy now! Here: The Gin Blossom

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spin on Mama Fitness: and Caution! my fitness challenge to a new level with a cycling class. I am 99.9% sure my derriere will not be functioning tomorrow. Not to sit on, not to move my legs, nothin'. But just as I start to think maybe one track will be sufficient for my first day of class, the smiling face of my Body Pump teacher stops by; "hey, are you taking up cycling?" -"Yeah," puff, wheez, "just starting, gasp, "think my butt will be sore tomorrow." "Good for you! Buy yourself a pair of padded shorts, that's less weird than a padded seat, right?" "Huh?" Bottom line; I stayed until the end of class; I had no idea whether or not my instructor was lurking in the shadows, waiting to see if I made it all the way through.

...that was a few short days ago, and incredibly, my tush suffered no lasting damage, but I am icing my knee for the 3rd day in a row. It quit. I hate that.

That knee injury may either be because of the running (just intervals I began again a couple of weeks ago), or the cycling or the crazy elliptical spree I went on for 15 minutes before class on Saturday. Hard to tell. (Update from the physical therapist: it was probably the running, or the standing up while cycling. Serves me right, show-off.)

The point is; I am trying new things, shaking up the routine, upping the ante, and in the process, breaking the barrier of the pounds that would not part ways with my middle. You have to try this once in awhile.

But please: proceed with caution!
Sadly, your body is not as young as it once was, it may take a minute to adjust to a new demand on the joints. So why do it?

Because: it feels like you are starting all over, it is motivating and fun...and even having to ice your knee has advantages; more knitting time! I have lost some weight; that last 15 lbs. I would like to see gone has begun to melt away; ha! That sounds way too easy! It is a process; I'll say healthy food choices and more exercise has been chipping away, very slowly, at it. Keep the faith, change your routine, share your journey below!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Humor Help

My sense of humor is something that seems to be tampered by my own (and my family's) intensity much of the time. I want to thank them, as well as my friends, for the many times they crack me up. Some days, I would not survive a minute more without comic relief.

I returned home from a 5-minute, "drop Cate at work," errand on Tuesday to find a car frantically signaling and my friend waving me down as I pulled into the driveway. She just needed to let me know she was kidnapping my children for a minute for a duck rescue...? Here's the story:

Then there is the daily drama with the squirrels, which, in the winter, is limited to the dog giving chase like a crazed hell hound, but in the summer, takes on a much more dire tone...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Original Sweater for my Niece

I mentioned the sweater that I made which inspired the dog needing his own sweater. It's been at least a year, but here is the original (she was born with my hair, isn't it cute?) It was very fun to make, as I ran out of yarn, I grabbed another skein of cotton and kept going, and the sheep are simple little fuzz balls.

It is from Stitch n' Bitch Superstar Knitting, but I can't tell you what the name of the pattern is because the person to whom I loaned it did not return the book. Not sure who it might be, but if you are reading this and you have a copy of it with no name in it...well, you know where it lives now.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cultural Spring

...sort of...knitting a pink elephant:

on becoming a "Hawkeye Mom:"

Researching far away places becomes so much more fun when we receive a package from afar: (Tahiti)

Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam and Hong Kong!!!

Taking in a few plays with kids, this one in Galena, Il, on the life of Grant and a painting commissioned to celebrate the end of the Civil War:

Beginning viola, for the two youngest:

Really enjoying Waldorf math lessons with this lovely book: