Saturday, May 6, 2017

4-H Butterfly Emergence Project: Part 3

If you happen to be curious, you can head over to this link for Part 1, and to this link for Part 2 of our Butterfly emergence project.

Today, we pick up on day 21 as we continue to just wait and watch.

Day 21 Photo--

FOUR chrysalis now!  Caterpillars number 12 and number 11 were added to the others who had already formed their chrysalis.  A few more should be coming soon.  Thanks to a smart friend who is also doing this project, you can see in the photo that we have fashioned some Chrysalis hammocks.  Haha!  We were given glue dots to fashion the lid tops to our mesh bag (the chrysalis themselves are attached to the lids with the caterpillars silk) and the glue dots did not work.  After our first one fell more than once, I moved onto duck tape which also didn't work and then my friend said that she found needle and thread to be tedious but it held them up.  Chrysalis safety is of utmost importance around here.

In other news, we have officially declared caterpillar number 7 dead.  Certainly sad, but it is part of the life cycle indeed.  

Day 28 Photos--

We FINALLY have our first two butterflies who have emerged from their chrysalis.  This has been a whole lot more waiting and watching than anyone anticipated.  Still waiting on the rest, and with our supplies due back to 4-H in only a few days, I'm a little nervous that they will not be out in time.  

You can sort of see the broken chrysalis in the left of this photo that one of the butterflies emerged from.

Some banana and sliced strawberry was put in for them to munch on.  And as you can see, the wings of the "Painted Lady butterflies" are orange with black spots. 


Out of 12 caterpillars, we ended up with 8 painted lady butterflies.  We released 4 of them into the wild on Sunday April 30th, and then see below that we released the last 4 on Saturday May 6th.

Lost count of the days (haha!):  Butterfly release video

Having caterpillars was definitely a fun learning experience for the kids.  Leeland says "seeing the chrysalis" was his favorite part of watching the cycle and Hayden says "releasing the butterflies" was his favorite part.  I have to say that they took WAY longer to transform and go through the cycle than I ever anticipated, and for that reason, I'm not sure that I would keep them again.  Or if we ever decided to watch and release them again, maybe I would wait until further into Summer in hopes that the heat would be better for them.  Remember from my first post, their ideal temperature is 85 degrees so I sort of wonder if the wonky NC weather made the cycle longer.  Regardless, still fun to learn about them and watch them for sure!  Hope you all enjoyed learning and watching right along with us. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

"New" School Space

Summer of 2015 as we began our first "official" year of homeschooling the oldest as a kindergartner, we put together a fabulous school room with an extra bedroom in our house.  I was smitten.  I spent many days just sitting and looking at the curtains and maps and organizing our supplies both excited and anxious for our upcoming year..... And then having a separate school space didn't exactly go as I had planned it all out in my head.  (You can check out our old school room at this link over here.)

We spent at least a month or two religiously doing our school work back in our designated school room each day, and then the room slowly began to become a catch all, started losing it's allure, and became a little bit of a nuisance for life with a toddler.

With baby number four on the way, it was time to sit down and think about how practical it really is to utilize that room as a school space and evaluate it's usefulness.  And at the end of the day having a separate school space definitely has it's pros, but it also has some cons too.

School Space Pros-
  • A plethora of storage for all of our schooling supplies and books.  While the extra bedroom was not huge, it's still an EXTRA space meaning we had a closet and lots of wall space for bookshelves, filing cabinets and an array of storage.
  • A space to be hopefully distraction free.  I don't know that the kids struggle with it quite as much, but I have a habit of getting distracted by things around me such as a full sink of dishes, a floor covered with toys, and a couch covered with clothes.  When we had a separate space, we were basically locked away and able to focus.
  • It was pretty.  Can I count that as a pro?  I mean seriously though, we kind of had the maps and decor JUST right.  And this year we hung from the ceiling some really cute paper lanterns of the planets that we painted-- the space itself when tidy and kept up was quite mesmerizing.  (Have no fear, our beautiful planets were not tossed and are now happily hanging from the ceiling in the big boys' bedroom.)
School Space Cons-
  • Our school space was not by any means toddler proof-- I mean you can imagine shelves and cabinets full of books.  Maybe there's a way to toddler proof those, but the reality is that there were many days of fighting the toddler as he ripped items off the shelves in a tornado like fashion.  Due to this issue, there were many days of pulling our books out to the kitchen table so that the toddler could be with us or roam the living room in freedom and in eyesight.  
  • While being distraction free is nice, we were shut off in the back of the house.  I was not able to give the oldest an assignment and go wash dishes and still be able to assist him.  However, when we school at the kitchen table, I can be within earshot of him as I prepare breakfast/lunches or load the dishwasher.  
  • There's just something cozy about gathering around the kitchen table.  I mean, let's get real.  In most houses, the kitchen is the heart of the home.  It's where we host company and friends, and where we gather together as a family at least once a day but more often 3 times a day.  Even on the occasion we have people over, how often we end up standing in the kitchen chatting!  We totally have comfy couches only a step away in the living room, and yet, the kitchen is where gather.  
  • Also taken into account is baby number 4.  The reality is that 2 out of 3 of our boys have spent their first year and half sleeping in our room, so it isn't necessary for her to have her own bedroom right away, BUT what does reality look like schooling next year with both a toddler and a newborn underfoot?  Will I be able to move all of us to a secondary space and keep the younger two amused while the big kids do school?  OR will it look something more like nursing an infant on the couch while the toddler runs amuck, the 5 year old reads me a book and the biggest kiddo is a few feet away in earshot at the kitchen table working on his math worksheet?  I'm a realist, so I'm bracing myself for the chaos of the latter.  
Maybe it's just our time and our season.  I know that a separate space works and is praised by so many in the homeschool community, but it just wasn't working for us in this time and in this season, and that bedroom CAN be utilized for baby girl.  So after spending much of this year dragging our books back and forth to the kitchen anyway, we have officially moved into our "new" school space-- our kitchen table.  

We've had to do some interesting consolidating and cleaning out when it comes to our supplies and storage of our books, but overall, I'm incredibly happy with our new space!  We get to gather around the table each day, do our devotion and read aloud time of an array of books over breakfast, and then easily pull out supplies for our school day from the kitchen cabinet.  It also means that Mommy is a lot closer to the coffee pot throughout our school day AND my nesting can kick in as we decorate the nursery and prepare for the excitement of our first little girl.  

Here's a peek at our humble eat in kitchen.

The toddler on the table is pretty much a regular occurrence and battle.  He's learning lots with us though!

Same white boards and Ikea wire that were in our school room, just transitioned to the kitchen.  We use the wire to hang our Classical Conversations weekly timeline cards when CC is in session.  And the silver sign is new-- "Plant something and watch it grow."  Thank you Target "dollar" spot!  I just couldn't resist considering our school name has "Harvest" in the title.  And I'll pick up two new frames to add pictures of Joel and Evelyn to the wall in the Fall.  They aren't yet official schooling age, but they are very much enrolled in our school. Haha!

Remember I said the toddler is learning right along with us.... well today he taught himself how to use the pencil sharpener while he was on the table raiding our things.  It is as dangerous as it sounds.

So while I was looking for inspiration for our kitchen school I found that small space organization for homeschooling is lacking quite a bit.  I know many folks use their kitchens to school in.  That is not unusual, BUT many folks have space to add in a hutch, credenza or bookshelf nearby to store their supplies.  The reality is that with a second high chair being added to our small eat-in kitchen soon, we just don't have the space for an extra piece of furniture nearby.  We thankfully have plenty of kitchen cabinets and after doing some SERIOUS cleaning out and a run to Goodwill, I had an empty one to store our supplies.  It's working so far!

Want a peek at what all of these bins are?  Then feel free to watch me awkwardly show you our school stuff and how it's organized in the video below. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

First Family Camping Trip

We spent the last few days quite literally "off the grid" even though we weren't all that far from home.  We went on our very first family camping trip.  The big boys have been dying to go camping for quite a while now, and when some sweet friends asked us about going the same time that they were planning a trip to celebrate their son's birthday, it seemed like a pretty perfect opportunity.

The big kiddos have spent one night out in the backyard in the tent with Daddy in the past, but when it came to packing, cooking, sleeping, and being away from home and outside quite literally all day long.... I'm gonna be honest that I was not really sure how it was going to go.  I just knew that I was thankful that we would be there with friends and we'd be in it and enjoying it together.

As I packed the van up on Thursday, I had a new found respect for "backpackers."  Even with passing my list through my simple and minimal check list, we still had a full trunk, and I removed a seat from our van.  What happens when we go camping with 4 and don't have the luxury of removing that "extra" seat any longer?

.... And yes, we had an electric camp site so a few of our "essentials" included a coffee pot, griddle and the Instant Pot.  One, I can't live without coffee, but it also provided us with hot water for washing dishes too which was nice.  And you can't camp without pancake breakfast, and the Instant Pot made dinner the 2nd night easy peasy on a hot day.

Loaded up and ready-- the big kids and I were chatting about how Joel had no idea what camping was because he was too little understand where we were headed.  Joel gave us quite the laugh as he continued to make a grumpy face and insist that "NO" he was not sleeping outside whenever I would ask him if he was excited to sleep outside.  

I had no idea going into our trip that my phone would be so trippy only an hour and a half away from home, but apparently we were in the wilderness and it decided that it wanted nothing to do with it.  Honestly, while it made me nervous should we or someone in my family have an emergency, it was also such a blessing to turn it off, unwind and be free for a few days.  

Have no fear.... the pack and play was moved inside the tent for sleep.  We didn't really make the baby sleep outside, but we did contain the baby while we did things like set up camp.  

I asked the boys what their favorite part about camping was...

Leeland says that he loved roasting marshmallows and making s'mores.

Hayden says having fun with his friend Matthew and playing in the mud.  

And the big boys and I guessed that if Joel could answer the question, he would say the freedom.  He's the 3rd kiddo, so if we're really honest, he's very much "free range" as it is, but it doesn't get any better than running around barefoot outside all day doing whatever you please.  

I spent nearly two days prepping and packing, the temperatures were unexpectedly high for April, setting up and taking down a tent was hard work, my 25 week pregnant self couldn't get all that comfortable on an air mattress in the heat at night, we had thunderstorms and lightning the first night, and we brought home an entire van full of laundry for me to work on.... BUT I had such a great time!  The work was so worth it and I came home with a big smile on my face.  I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.... and while we have a little time before our 2nd trip will happen because of a new baby coming and all, I have to say that I'm super excited for another camping trip.  

I now understand the appeal of camping-- I understand the relaxation because we can sit back and have no agenda.  Three days of just being present together as a family and with our friends.  Three days of yummy food, of kids running around making memories, of gathering together for 3 meals a day, of just being. Just simply being. Memories were made and even amongst the work and the little bit of chaos, there was still a great feeling of peace and rest.  I could not be more thankful with how our first family camping trip went.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

4-H Butterfly Emergence Project: Part 2

If you happen to be curious about caterpillar growth and you missed Part 1 of our project, you can go check out how TINY our caterpillars were to begin with at this link right here.  You can also find a little bit of info over there about how we ended up with 12 caterpillars dining with us each day at our kitchen table.  This homeschooling life is an adventure, no doubt!

In an effort not to bore you with daily photos that aren't showing much as the week has progressed, we'll skip to Day 13.

Caterpillars number 1 and 2 that I was originally photographing in the part 1 blog post are still incredibly small.  Honestly, if it weren't for the occasional movement that I have witnessed, I would believe that they are dead.  It's also concerning that there isn't many holes in their food meaning they haven't eaten much and as mentioned before caterpillars eat the majority of their food and nutrients now in the caterpillar stage.

Day 13 Photos--

In our training, it was said that it should take 7-10 days for the caterpillars to get through the first stage of life and move onto making their chrysalis.  However, it was also mentioned that they enjoy light and warmth, ideally 85 degrees.  Our house is definitely not 85 degrees, and we have had several cooler temperature days in this last week.  Hoping the ones who have progressed will begin to move onto phase two of their life cycle this week as it warms up.

Above is caterpillar number 11.  This is more of what some of the others look like, though still all varying sizes.  The varying degrees of growth is not something that I was anticipating.  I sort of assumed they would all hit each phase at the same time and that we would have one butterfly release at the end-- but at this rate, we may be releasing a few at a time.  You can see that big black spot in front of it which is an exoskeleton that it has shed during a molt. 

Caterpillar number 6 which is the second largest of the twelve pictured up above.  You can see lots of frass (poop) and there is a lot less food in this one's cup.

And above is caterpillar number 5 which has been the biggest one from the start of our project.  There's hardly any food in his/her habitat, and I'm unable to take a photo with the lid off because of all the silk around it.  Plus, this one is currently lying upside down so I'm hoping that means we might be headed to phase 2 (chrysalis) and I do not want to disturb it.  Hopefully there is some excitement to come in the next few days!

Day 18 Photos--

In the last 2-3 days, we now have our very first two fully formed Chrysalis.  As expected, they are our larger caterpillars number 5 and 6 that we have been documenting closely.  I transferred them over to the mesh bag today so that when the butterflies emerge from them, they have space to move and fly.  Now more waiting.

Have no fear, the bag stays zipped!  No butterflies will be roaming the house. 

We have one more caterpillar that has attached to the lid and formed it's "J" shape so it should be a Chrysalis within the next day or so I would believe.  (Caterpillar number 11)

... And we also have 3 very large caterpillars that are still roaming and eating their fill of their caterpillar food goop.  (Numbers 3, 4 and 9)

And sadly, I think we have one caterpillar death.  One tiny, tiny, tiny one that just hasn't grown.  We're keeping an eye on it, but I fear that it's been a goner.  All part of the life cycle learning process I suppose.

Just more watching and waiting and observing.  Another update to come!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Leeland turns 7!

Tonight we celebrated the biggest kid.  The one who made us parents first. 

On this day seven years ago, we were nervous, anxious, smitten and in total awe of this little boy that God has gifted us with.  

Our celebration tonight with family consisted of Grandparents, Great Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins running amuck.  After seven years, I think we're finally finding our groove when it comes to parties, and it doesn't seem to get any better with excellent grilling weather each April.  

We had burgers, hot dogs, watermelon, deviled eggs, chips, baked beans.... And of course cake!  Pikachu chocolate cake to be exact along with some "energy ball" Pokemon cookies. 

Pokemon is the latest craze in the Kroh house with cards everywhere and binders taken here and there for trading with friends all the time.  One of his favorite Pokemon cards happens to be his awesome birthday invite though.  ("Venue" blurred out for obvious reasons.)

Not much brings me greater joy than spoiling my children.  And I'm so thankful that we have family and friends who love them and enjoy spoiling them too.

Our Leeland is kind, genuine, and smart.  He tells it like it is, is curious, and he's one fantastic big brother to his younger siblings.  I'm excited and thankful that I get to watch him grow year after year. I can't wait to see what God has in store for his future and continue to pray that his light shines bright.