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.


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.