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.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

4-H Butter Fly Emergence Project: Part 1

We are not members of 4-H, but they offer some wonderful resources to local teachers and schools, one of them is a yearly project learning about science and life cycles.  Typically it involves incubating fertilized chicken eggs and getting to see them hatch and later returning the baby chicks to 4-H.  Awesome, right?  We were so excited to participate for the first time with our boys (and homeschool) this year, and then the bird flu happened in neighboring states and sadly 4-H was not able to get the eggs from their distributor.  In an effort to still offer something to those who had signed up to incubate eggs, the idea of butterflies was brought to the table.  I asked the boys how they felt about it and naturally they were thrilled!  So while several teachers dropped out of the project as they were not interested in butterflies, we carried on and here we are.

While I'm absolutely NOT a caterpillar or butterfly expert, and am learning right alongside of the boys with this one, I thought it would be fun to document our findings here.

The caterpillars were shipped to the agricultural extension on Wednesday, March 29th and we picked them up at our information meeting the afternoon of March 30th.

For the sake of tracking and observing, we will say that these pictures taken on Friday March 31st are day 3 for the caterpillars growth.  They are much smaller than I was expecting, but I'm told they grow very fast.  These are "Painted Lady Butterflies" and like all butterflies, their life cycle is comprised of 3 stages-- Larval stage which lasts 7-10 days (caterpillar), Pupal stage another 7-10 days (chrysalis) and adult stage which is is 2-3 weeks (butterfly).   There are 17,000 different species of butterflies and the Painted Lady butterfly is found on every continent except Antartica and Australia.

Day 3 Photos--

Our 12 caterpillars.  We've numbered the bottoms of the cups to track them and observe them.  The beige "goop" is their food.  The majority of their eating in their life is done as a caterpillar.  They are getting all of their nutrients for growth now, and once they are butterflies they only eat to sustain energy.

To my knowledge, the little sand looking granules in the photos is frass.  Frass is the caterpillar word for poop.  Naturally one of my children who is prone to potty humor, loved learning about this part.

Later on we will begin to see black specks in the cups which is from them molting.  They will molt and shed their exoskeleton up to 5 times before they form their chrysalis.   

So far, we just know that they like light, warmth and they eat a lot. 

Day 4 Photos--

Day 5 Photos--

So all of the photos thus far the last few days have been of only caterpillar number 1 and number 2.  Taking pictures of the same caterpillars each day gives a more precise picture of growth and what's happening.  But today, our biggest caterpillar number 5 has silk all around it and it looks super interesting.  None of the others look like this-- it's almost like a spider web around it.  Wondering if caterpillar number 5 may actually be older than the others simply because of it's size and the amount of silk it has produced.  Maybe we'll start seeing the chrysalis in a few days?

Day 6 Photos--
Oops!  My apologies, no photos on this day.

Day 7 Photos--

So now that we are a week into this project, I'm realizing that I randomly picked the smallest two caterpillars to photo for progress.  Yep, caterpillars 1 and 2, which I have been following all week, are indeed the tiniest of the bunch.  I can still see that they have grown since the first pictures, just not as much or as fast as some of the others.  Hopefully they develop and grow soon because here is what numbers 5 and 6 look like currently.

.... More photos to come in future "parts" of our project.  Channeling my inner Ms. Frizzle!

** You can check out our Part 2 Post over here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Baby FOUR is......

The guessing game has come to an end as we got a peek at our precious little babe Thursday and found out the gender of our fourth little one as a family today.  I applaud all of you Moms and Dads out there who are able to wait until birth!!  Seriously.  That takes some amazing strength.  I tried hard with the third, and this time I just knew that I did't want another ugly cry meltdown over it.  Haha!

Seeing this precious little one the other day was the biggest treat of all.  Even the fourth time through, I'm just in awe at technology and the beauty of God's creation.  Even more exciting that this was Daniel's first time seeing baby number 4, and hearing baby's heartbeat live rather than a recording on my phone from a doctor's appointment.

Tiny little baby feet


This sweet little face just has me an awe.  They estimate that baby only weighs 10 ounces.  Can you believe the beauty of God's creation?  Just AWE! 

Over the last 19 weeks, my ideas for a gender reveal have changed and evolved and in the last couple weeks we had to change our original plan because space and time was not on our side.  With a little improvisation though, we're super excited that we were still able to have a little fun with the reveal and find out together as a family of 5.  (Which was the end goal!)  They don't allow children under the age of 7 in the ultrasound room at the doctor's office (totally understandable) so the important thing was just being surprised with the big boys and having them involved.

I have no doubt that many of you just scrolled right through the above in excitement.  I would probably do the same if I'm really honest with you, so without further ado, baby number four is....

20 weeks on Monday!!  So we are half way to meeting our first baby girl.  We can't wait to meet you Evelyn!! Keep praying that she grows healthy and strong.  

Friday, March 3, 2017

The guessing game!

I thought it would be fun to build up the excitement a little with some guessing games in regards to number four's gender before we find out.  This pregnancy has thrown me for a loop.  It has definitely felt different!  (In more than one way.)  But the question is, does it feel different because we are adding our first little girl to our family? OR does it feel different simply because it only took FOUR times for my body to finally figure out how to be pregnant?  Ha!!

Let's go through some wives tales and see what they say:
  • Carrying high-- girl
  • Baby's heart rate over 140-- girl
  • Sweet cravings-- girl
  • LESS morning sickness-- boy
  • Acne-- girl
  • A "ball looking" bump-- boy
  • Craving less protein-- girl
  • Happy mood-- boy
  • Headaches-- boy
  • Age + month of conception (even number)-- boy
A little bit all over the place to say the least when it comes to the wives tales.  And the reality is that when I was pregnant with the other three, predictions were all over the place too.  

So naturally I decided to take a closer look at some other tests....
  1. The Chinese calendar-- girl
  2. Pencil test-- boy
  3. Urine/baking soda test-- girl
  4. Ring on a string test-- girl
So we're up to 8 tests that say girl and 6 tests that say boy! 

Our ultrasound with our doctor is scheduled for March 16th.  It's taking everything in me to not go up to Tiny Toes and pay for the gender ultrasound, which is REALLY REALLY weird for me.  Every time before this one, I have thought doing something like that would be a total waste of money and it didn't make sense to me why people don't just wait.   At this point, we are not planning to find out right away in the ultrasound room-- we are wanting to do some sort of reveal as a family.  Of course all of that is pending my emotions don't take over and boil into an ugly cry like last time we thought we would wait to find out. Haha!

The reality is that I don't really care what baby's gender is.  (Although I do want to know either way!) I know the common assumption that I hear anytime someone hears that I'm pregnant is that I want a girl, or that they are praying we have a girl, or that we must have been "trying for" a girl.... but it really doesn't matter to me.  Sure, a girl would be a first for us and that would bring about some new excitement, but the reality is that I LOVE being a boy Mom too!  They are so sweet and so fun.  This pregnancy being different, along with some chronic health issues has brought about some anxiety about the little one that I have the privilege to carry, and I just pray that no matter the gender, our precious little one is healthy and I'm thankful for the honor and excitement to bring another baby into our family!  Join me in praying for a healthy baby.

...But of course in the spirit of excitement, what's your guess?  Were the wives tales accurate for you?  Anymore tests or tales that I should look in to?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hayden is FIVE!

Over the weekend our very own Hayden turned FIVE.  It's hard to believe that he entered our lives in a whirlwind five years ago.

He opted to celebrate Star Wars style-- he actually wanted to copy everything from Leeland's birthday last year.  He named out the exact cupcakes we made and the food served and the people who were present.  Copy it all to the "t."  Funny how they compare to each other that way.  I talked him into something a little bit different and we celebrated his birthday with family at the pool.

His invite purchased here on Etsy was a hoot!  (Address blurred out for obvious reasons.)

Also, in party tradition we ordered him a new birthday shirt.  But alas, I have no photo of it before he decided to use it as a napkin for his honey mustard hands at Bojangles.  So you'll just have to head over here to Etsy to see what his BB8 shirt looks like.  It also says around the edge of BB8 in black letters "That's how I roll."

Cupcakes made by yours truly.  And what kiddo doesn't love BB8?  Especially in sugar cookie form. 

And as always, treats for our guests.  Usually the treats made are sugar cookies, but since those were cupcake toppers this time, we made a muddy buddy mix with colored Sixlets and M&Ms for a BB8 effect. 

The party was at our local aquatic center.  Not all of the adults swam, but the kiddos seemed to have a blast!  And at least the adults who opted out of the pool had some yummy eats and decent company.    It was quite possibly one of the easiest parties I've ever thrown!  

We've had some unique warm weather recently which is odd for February, so I think it just got my boys excited for Summer.  Finding fun places for a February birthday is hard.  It was only just a couple years ago that we feared we would have to cancel one of his parties because of snow.  You just never know what the weather might do!  

Our Hayden is funny, full of energy, smart, generous and loving. He and Leeland are practically inseparable, and he entertains, loves and makes Joel laugh all the time.  We are so thankful for each day we get to spend with him and honored that God chose us to be his parents.  I look forward to watching him grow and seeing what the future holds for him.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Crawlspace

In our few short years of home ownership, if there's one thing that I have learned, it's that there is always a project to be done.  It just never fails that as the house is lived in, things fall apart, get worn out, or need repainting.  Such is life, and when you consider your home is most likely the biggest asset a person owns, you want to take care of it.  It just never occurred to me over the years how much these projects would teach me, stretch me, and grow me.

In an effort to keep the details short and get the post to the point, we've had some issues with our crawlspace over the years.  In fact, the home inspection probably should have rang a bell or thrown a red flag, but alas this is our first home and we're more than naive so we just had no idea.  The biggest issue-- moisture!

When we first discovered the problems a couple years after we bought the house, I was actually embarrassed about it.  I somehow felt like there was something we had done wrong or didn't do, or maybe we just bought a "bad apple."  Little did I know, after conversations with others, that moisture under the house is  something that many deal with.  And other than catching it and handling it a lot sooner than we have, there's really not much we could have done to avoid it.

Anyway, I guess it was about 2 years into home ownership that it was originally brought to our attention as an actual problem by our pest control company.  At the time, we had some DIY theories we thought we might try, we were short on funds, and if we're really honest, I don't think we had any comprehension of how big of an issue it actually was.  Not sure if that was just us being naive, OR if it was us sticking our heads in the dirt and just choosing to ignore it purposefully because we didn't need "one more thing" at the time.   Probably a combination of both!

Fast forward a couple years further, and our denial, and choosing to "deal with it later" got us nowhere and in fact made the problem worse.  What could have been just installing a pump and laying a barrier had now become a burden and a worrisome problem for the structural integrity of our house and had also brought about the dreaded four letter curse word.... MOLD.  Which brings me to my first lesson learned-- ignoring that a problem exists doesn't make it better.

A few days after our initial assessment with the company doing our repairs, our pastor said at church "We never end up at Jesus' feet by accident.  We must be intentional."  I can deny that I have a problem in my walk, in my heart or with my faith.  OR I could choose the "I'll deal with it later" path and claim that missing a week or a month of church is no big deal, and I can read my Bible tonight or read my Bible tomorrow.  But none of these address my issues.  And in fact, if I'm not filling my heart with good.... I'm still filling it with something whether that be something bad or just plain complacency.  (Which one could argue is just as bad, if not worse.)  Not addressing a problem, never fixes a problem and it almost always makes the problem worse.

"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." -Jeremiah 33:3

Fast forward a few weeks and work begins on the house.  I'm reluctant, stressed about the money, and anxious about the inconvenience of people invading my space for upwards of a week.  But, it has to be done.  And God has decided that he's not done teaching me lessons through this project. 

So at this point, I'll just mention that it's super awkward having folks working on your crawlspace.  For one, there's the vulnerability of how terrible it looks under there and wondering in the back of my mind if they're judging us for not addressing issues sooner or letting it get so bad.  But beyond that, there are people literally under your feet all day long!  You can hear them through the vents and the floorboards.  Every conversation they have and every groan as they squeeze through the narrow space attempting to do work.  AND of course they can hear you!  It's weird.  Plain and simple.  And whereas most people have work and school and whatever else during the day, we're mostly just home.  (Me and the boys.)  

So the first day of work was when I realized how much I literally nag the kiddos.  Granted I will say that sometimes nagging is justified!  But in the day to day trying to get through our schoolwork, and get through our chores and whatever else I have planned for the day-- I'm talking attitude and nagging, and dragging them through my schedule as opposed to giving them respect for theirs.  I first realized it as we sat down to do our school work that first day that folks were working on our crawlspace.  It was a constant, "chop, chop, snap snap.... we have to get this done and this done and this... and we need to do it right now and right away."  I will confess that math is our biggest struggle and that a certain child doesn't always want to do his math work and often needs a push.  But he doesn't need an attitude, or the nagging, or a push off of a cliff.  

Anyway, it was a couple hours into our work that I realized my tone and how much I had bulldozed our school time with my demands.  While one of the perks of homeschooling is that the kids get more freedom and play time because we can efficiently get through our subjects.... the point of us homeschooling is not for me to rule the day with an iron fist and neglect their hearts and the blessing that is our time together.  

I sat there and wondered what the men under the house thought about all of my nagging.  Surely I wasn't being a great example of a homeschooling mother.  And definitely not an example of nurturing and fun, and thankfulness for this calling on my life.  

And again it points back to my heart.  Motherhood is no easy task-- whether you are a working mom, homebound mom, work at home mom, homeschooling mom, the mom of 1, or the mom of 10.... we all have our seasons.  And again the issue comes back to my heart and what I'm filling it with.  I might believe that my issues are my own.  But the reality is that my issues effect everyone around me.  I'm pregnant, I'm tired, the toddler continues to throw things in the toilet and run from me in public places, but none of those things give me an excuse!  Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

"The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart."  
-Luke 6:45

Alas, this post has gotten far more lengthy than I ever intended, but who would imagine that expensive home repairs could show me the problems of my heart and point me back to my need for God.  I'm a mess and a constant work in progress, but I'm SO incredibly thankful for his abundant love and grace upon grace!  And thankful that He continues to stretch me, speak to me, and correct me when I'm in the wrong. 

"For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace." -John 1:16

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The 1st Tri

On the 3rd of January-- our 8 year wedding anniversary we announced to "the world" that we are expecting baby number 4.

The caption says.... 

"Today marks 8 years of marriage! I ran across the gem of the top photo from our wedding reception last night and couldn't help but wonder what we were thinking when it was snapped. And then it's even funnier to pair that photo with this outtake from our pregnancy announcements we gave our families at Christmas! Haha!! I have no doubt those 2 kids never imagined 8 years ago that they would have 4 children in 8 years. They were probably on some sort of 5 year plan or something..... But God's plans are greater than ours and, in our case, have certainly been way more fun!!  Here's to 8 wonderful years, 3 awesome boys, and 1 kiddo on the way.... And here's to many more years of love, laughter, and wondering what we were thinking.

And now here we are wrapping up our first trimester and praising God for hearing the sweet sound of a precious little heartbeat Monday, and getting to see some images of our little one via ultra sound this past Tuesday.

So far, this pregnancy has been a little different from the last three!  With each of my last pregnancies, sickness and symptoms have gotten worse and worse AND WORSE.  Meaning the 3rd pregnancy was the hardest of all as far as symptoms go.  Of course when I mean sickness, I'm mostly referring to the dreaded "all day" sickness that I experience.  With each pregnancy, it has been so bad that I have had to head to the hospital for fluids and also have had to take prescription medication.  

This go round, as soon as I saw the positive test, I dreaded and feared what might be "worse" this time.   And to my surprise, it hasn't been that bad this time!  Don't get it twisted, sickness  and nausea have still been a struggle, but I'm actually gaining weight and I have yet to go for fluids so that's definitely a good sign!  (In full disclosure, I did break down and ask for meds at the end of last week, but this is still the longest I've ever made it in pregnancy without them and I'm still not even taking a full dose like I normally would.  Mostly I just felt the need because while I am having good days amongst the bad, we were still missing a lot of school work at home and I was having a really hard time "keeping up" on the bad days. Hopefully it will only be a few weeks that I have to take them.)  This pregnancy being very different also brings about a lot of anxiety and worrying that something might be wrong.  Prayers are greatly appreciated in that aspect!

Naturally, the first response when I say that this pregnancy has been different is, "OH! Maybe it's a girl this time!" ..... Maybe it is.  But I'm not totally sold, I'm not buying anything pink, and we're still coming up with a boy name idea too.  I mean, let's get real-- we've had 3 boys, and I'm fully expecting a 4th boy!

We'll definitely be finding out the gender though!  I tried SOO hard to not find out last time, and it just wasn't worth the stress for me, nor the ugly crying.  HAHA! (We should know the end of March and have some fun plans for the reveal!)

With all of that said, our little peanut is the size of a peach this week, our due date is August 7th and all is looking good.  Praise be to God!  I would love your continued prayers that sickness may ease soon, at least enough so that I can resume cooking for my family, that baby continues to grow healthy and strong, anxiety subsides and that my thyroid levels (a chronic problem) don't get too out of control.   

Love from our growing family, until next time!