one and two & everything in between

ONE:

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Good morning, friends!

“There is Sunshine in my Soul today, most glorious and bright!”

It’s also gloriously pouring through the windows when yesterday it was pouring rain~

The sunshine seems that much more wonderful after a few rainy gloomy days.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in that.

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The haircuts!

Sarah got in the photo although she didn’t get a haircut.  After the barber we went straight to the bookstore and another store, just for fun, and then we went home again.  All through the rain, on election day.

Are you thinking about Christmas yet?  For your information, these kids (13, 9, and 8) seem extra interested in slime/putty type of things, and squishy/stress reliever types of toys.  Maybe yours will be, too.  Quick and easy stocking stuffers.

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These boots have a satisfying “stomp” to them.  Sometimes I keep them on when I get home and feel much more productive on our hardwood floors….until David says something sarcastically funny about all the noise I’m making.  Drama!  (both of us)

What else did we do yesterday?

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Sarah and I took Sammy to the vet.  She had a sore on her back shaved, and one on her paw which was shaved, too.  She had two shots (rabies booster and a convenient antibiotic) and was given pain medicine.  Hopefully after a few days she’ll start using her front left paw again and her infections will go away.  Other than that, she checked out fine and healthy. Sarah was a bit disturbed by it all.  She told me, “I know I couldn’t be a vet because I would feel too sad.”  What’s she going to be like when (if) she is a mother, I’ll be curious to see.  Now THAT’s heart-wrenching.

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Caleb said, “I’m going to read all the posts about Christmas Day on your blog, I do it every year.”  He wholeheartedly approved of the one that I included Christmas music to listen to at the same time, and requested that I do it again this year.  My heart smiled and smiled to see the children’s appreciation for the last 10 years of Christmases photo-documented faithfully on my part each year.  I see that in writing it for myself, my blog became theirs…….

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We found Walter in his very own cat bed on the porch.  Every time I see this cat in a strange place I take a photo and send it to the college kids.  It would make a good blog post one of these days.

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Me and Seth at music lessons, waiting for Caleb and Sarah.

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After music lessons Sarah had cheerleading practice indoors and the boys’ football practice was cancelled so we waited for her (after dinner at Subway) at the library.  And I found this book!  How could I have not known about this new book?  It won the Pulitzer Prize!!!  I leafed through it at the library and it looks soooooo interesting.  Should I put it on my Christmas list?  Or just click over to Amazon for instant gratification?  I would have checked it out from the library, but it’s about Laura, I must have my own copy!

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I FIRST made Seth let me read him a few picture books (The Tiger Who Came to Tea always brings a tear to my eye, and Steven Kellogg books are a favorite, too) and THEN allowed him some computer games.

Other random photos:

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I stood on the porch and took a photo of the sunrise.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

We’ve also been drawing a lot lately.  sketchbooks might be on the Christmas lists, too.

Monday Night Football Snuggles during the game:

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Sarah was right next to me, Seth was on my legs, Walter on my lap, and Caleb right there, too.  What is it about family pile-ups that soothe the soul?

‘Touch deprivation is a reality in American culture as a whole. …
It’s not just babies needing to be touched in caring ways or the sick.
It’s not just doctors and nurses needing to extend it.
It’s all of us, needing connection,
needing to receive it, needing to give it,
with genuine happiness at stake.”
— Rev Anthony David in “The Power of Touch” by Nora Brunner

“A pat on the back, a caress of the arm — these everyday, incidental gestures that we usually take for granted, thanks to our amazingly dexterous hands. But after years spent immersed in the science of touch, I can tell you that they are far more profound than we usually realize: They are our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion.”
— Dacher Keltner in “Hands on Research: The Science of Touch”

AND During the Commercials:

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TWO:

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Bringing the outdoors in.

He is not rich, that enjoyeth not his own goods. ~Pythagoras

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bird notebook

Good morning Monday, my friends, do you feed the birds?

A thoughtful collection of bird feeders will bring an interesting variety of feathered visitors.  Sometimes I even say, “Thank you for coming!”

From where I am sitting on the couch I can look right through the living room window and easily see my feeders on the porch.  I have one hanging and three make-shift feeders (which are really copper sifters) sitting in different places; on the porch railing, a plant stand, and a little white table.  Because their bottoms are screens I don’t have to worry about the seed staying wet after it rains.  There is black sunflower seed in three of them, and dry mealworms in the fourth (wishing, hoping, dreaming…….of bluebird visitors).

I have a camera nearby with my zoomiest zoom lens attached.

And in this simple way, our days are peppered with bird behavior.  Sometimes the feeders are empty.  But sometimes chicadees fly in, take a seed, and immediately fly out to eat it in the bushes by our driveway.  They don’t stay long.  As soon as one leaves, another one takes its place, it is well-choreographed and there are never any collisions.  Sometimes a pair of cardinals come to visit.  Or a beautiful house sparrow and nuthatches, and a titmouse or two.  I remember that we need more suet to cater to the local woodpeckers.  I haven’t seen any bluejays lately but I saw some at a neighbor’s feeder yesterday.  My parents get a whole flock of mourning doves on their front porch!

Sometimes one of the children will notice a bird and tell me to “come look, Mom!”  I love that.  I tiptoe over as quietly as I can.  Sometimes I’m too late and “oops, it flew away.”

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“Think of all the animals you know and you will see that there is not another one that is clothed with feathers.”  Fields and Fencerows, by Porter and Hansen

“He will cover you with His feathers.  He will shelter you with his wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”  Psalm 91:4

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“A wave of song moves across the continent each morning, east to west, with sunrise.  Light–a certain intensity of light–starts birds singing.”  Backyard and Beyond, Edward Duensing and AB Millmoss

“He redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.”  Job 33:24

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.  Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.”  Psalm 96:1-2

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The more things should learnest to know and enjoy, the more complete and full will be for thee the delight of living.”  Phalen

“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all……”  Ecclesiastes 11:8

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“Use at least one full page in your notebook for each bird sighting.  First, record the day and time.  Next, record the place you saw the bird.  Was it in a field or near the water?  Was it on a grassy lawn or in a woodlot?  You might want to add a brief sentence describing the feature by which you identified the bird–it’s color, shape, or field mark.  Do a small sketch of the bird and make notes about the bird’s behavior.  You can squeeze a lot of information on one page.”   Field Trips, by Jim Arnosky

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“These birds were probably not drawn, even thus loosely, together by any social instincts, but by a common want; all were hungry, and the activity of one species attracted and drew after it another and another.  ‘I will look that way, too,’ the kinglet and creeper probably said, when they saw the other birds busy, and heard their merry voices.”   Signs and Seasons by John Burroughs

******

 

deep down joy

fullsizeoutput_4e37A sibling may be the keeper of one’s identity, the only person with the keys to one’s unfettered, more fundamental self. ~Marian Sandmaier

Brother Dave came the day after Christmas and stayed until Friday morning.

He’s a brother in every sense of the word.

I noticed that Sarah in particular had to be close to him as much as she possibly could.

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He hardly had room for his arms at times.

It was like she could sense that deep down inside, Uncle Dave could use another human Right There.  Us Grown ups all seem to have a little bit of sad vulnerability within us that is healed by the love and simple phrases of a child.  “Sit by me!  Can I come, too?  Will you read me a story?  Let’s snuggle.  Can I have a taste of your smoothie?  Will you play a game with me?  I don’t want you to go!”  Healed.

If a child is not available, any ol’ human will do.  “It is not good for man to be alone.”

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Right away we had Christmas again.  Dave had already sent cards with money to the children but he brought the gifts from our parents that we all enjoyed opening up.

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Sarah received the most adorable green umbrella with piggies on it.

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The men received new shirts.

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Rich tied the ribbon around his head.

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Grace received beauty products.

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By the time we opened our gifts Rich was ready for a nap.  He had already been awake for hours and had worked out with his wrestling team.  He likes to trap Seth in his arm on the couch when he goes to sleep.  Seth either falls asleep too, or waits quietly until he can sneak away.

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Big family dinner all around the table.  I used the crock pot.  Flank Steak, sliced onion and green pepper, sliced fresh mushrooms, minced garlic, and a pat of butter slow cooked all day and then served over your choice of rice or mashed potatoes.

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After dinner we sat at the table and visited and I ended up french braiding Dave’s hair like a Viking.

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We went downtown for breakfast at the diner.

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“When your breakfast is brought last.”

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After eating we were filled with happy energy so we gave Dave a little driving tour of our town.

Meanwhile, it was so cold, in the single digits.

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We made a stop at the thrift store.

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I took this photo of Hess trucks to show Rich later to see if he had any of them as a boy.

And to show Seth what they used to look like.

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And this one for my son David who likes knives, especially sharpening them.

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Sarah found some boots for one dollar and a couple of books.  David found and purchased a big print of ships on the ocean.  Grace shivered.

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Then we stopped at the coffee shop.  (This photo was taken across the street from it).

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When I think back on our visit with Dave, the coffee shop stands out as a very pleasant memory.  It was warm and busy, art work on the walls and fairy lights around the windows was beautiful.  We had a corner table by the window, it was light and bright inside.  We played cards and talked and waited for our warm drinks.  Oh it was just so good for the soul.  Completely comfortable and relaxing…..so needed after a busy week/month of Christmasing.

Quick photos with five of his nephews and our dog Parker who also loved Uncle Dave.

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Another very special memory was the walk we went on, just the two of us.

It was, I say again, icy cold outside.  But we bundled up and walked briskly in the freshest of winter air.

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It was a delight to see tracks everywhere in the forest.

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Shards of snow

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Visiting the stream deep in woods is always a winter wonder.

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sister and brother

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We ended up at the chicken coop and I walked back to the stream to get a bucket of water.

DSC_1025Our brothers and sisters are there with us
from the dawn of our personal stories
to the inevitable dusk. ~Susan Scarf Merrell

 

..we should not call anything trouble which brings to pass good..

DSC_0325“I am anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here. It is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” —Mina Murray in her journal

Sunday morning.  I had considered going to my parent’s house for the day as it was only an hour and a half drive from where we were in Pennsylvania.  But I was suffering with a cold and we decided to stay where we were.  Grace showed us a nice coffee shop and the three of us had breakfast together there.

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We spent the rest of the morning at a bookstore and Grace bought a journalling Bible with a beautiful cover and nice wide margins for her thoughts.

She was craving macaroni and cheese for lunch and we went to Ruby Tuesdays.

By this time, Joanna’s family was back from church and she was able to meet us with her daughter.

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I love her.

Joanna took Sarah along home with her.  Grace and I went to the hotel to get her things so she could do homework at Aunt Joanna’s house.  And then we spent the rest of the afternoon until bedtime with them.  It was as cozy as could be with all the family and me and my two girls all together in the cozy kitchen, dining room, and living room.  We had delicious Dominoes pizza for dinner.

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We love to exchange our big journals and look through them as we visit.  Joanna’s journal is big and heavy and full of quotes, pictures, found papers, and art.  Coco stayed by us and was inspired enough to get up and find things to glue into her first journal.

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((red shoe))

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Inspiration, Idea, Execution (the top corner of her journal shows a picture of how she came up with the art on the wall—her own photography))

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(green page)

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(brown)

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(old recipe)

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(photo by Jo)

“Some may say [journal keeping] is a great deal of trouble. But we should not call anything trouble which brings to pass good. I consider that portion of my life which has been spent in keeping journals and writing history to have been very profitably spent. If there was no other motive in view [except] to have the privilege of reading over our journals and for our children to read, it would pay for the time spent in writing it.” —Wilford Woodruff

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“Never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things — childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves — that go on slipping, like sand, through our fingers.” —Salman Rushdie

adventure

We are leaving to take Grace to college on Friday morning.  Jacob will be coming home this weekend while we are gone, to pick up Ethan and take him back to college with him. So we are savoring the last week at home before a very busy weekend.

I’m sitting cross legged on the couch, still in my pajamas.  The kids are playing a game and Parker the dog is stretched out next to me, snoring.  Gentleman Gray is grooming himself on the end table.

We had rain in the night.  The outdoors is fresh and clean and the sun is shining bright.  I ate a piece of pie out on the porch and watched the morning birds fly about.  I saw a hummingbird chase around a titmouse and a bee sipping nectar from a flower in my garden.

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I recently made a pound cake and it turned out so good I thought I would share the recipe.  Click HERE for a yummy Vanilla Bean-Brownie Ripple Pound Cake from Southern Living.  And it used up five eggs so it was a winner in every way.  (I’m always looking for recipes that use up the eggs from our flock of 14 hens).

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I quartered some baby potatoes and fried them with an onion and some peppers.  When they were done, I made a spot for four eggs and cooked them with the lid on until they were just soft in the middle but not gooey in any way (I hate runny eggs).  It was a delicious breakfast and so easy.

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I was gazing at the monarch caterpillars when I saw Gentleman Gray trot by the window with a frog in his mouth, legs every which way.

Cats are funny.

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Ethan spent over an hour yesterday morning learning a new song on the guitar.

It was like he couldn’t stop, he was so focused.

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Why yes, she WAS singing “Do you Want to Build a Snowman?”

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Caleb got his summer reading assignment done.

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Grace and Tessa worked on a puzzle.

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Watching a movie with the kids (Lego Batman).

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The two swallowtail caterpillars finally stopped eating and began the chrysalis stage.  Instead of dangling like the monarchs do, they hang themselves under a stick using a loop of silk.

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And then, like magic, they turn into something that looks just like a stick.

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I recently got this at Goodwill.  “Five little maidens out on the green, Happier maidens never were seen.”

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legs

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I have about 10,000 peaches to take care of thanks to our one and only tree being LOADED this year!  (I made a pie yesterday).

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Grace and I finally got her college preparations done yesterday.  AND manicures and pedicures.

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*****

“The less we are attached to life, the more alive we can become.  The less we have preferences about life, the more deeply we can experience and participate in life.  This is not to say that I don’t prefer raisin toast to blueberry muffins.  It is to say that I don’t prefer raisin toast so much that I am unwilling to get out of bed unless I can have raisin toast, or that the absence of raisin toast ruins the whole day.  Embracing life may be more about tasting than it is about either raisin toast or blueberry muffins.  More about trusting one’s ability to take joy in the newness of the day and what it may bring.  More about adventure than having your own way.”

~Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. in Kitchen Table Wisdom

 

raising monarch butterflies

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I invite you to gaze upon my caterpillar nursery!  I put it together for myself and the family and anyone who comes over to visit. . . . . . .

Year after year, indeed for the last 11 years we have lived on this property (four acres boarding state land), I have kept watch in the later summer days for monarch caterpillars.  (They are only ever on milkweed).  If I see a caterpillar, I collect it and bring it home to raise on the counter in a big jar or a fish tank.  (We used to have a different fish tank but it broke when someone tried putting rocks in it).

We were fortunate to find perhaps 4 caterpillars, and sometimes none at all.  This year, however, this epic summer of 2017, we have found over 20 of them.  If I were more scientific, I would do a precise count, but it is rather difficult and confusing to try to count caterpillars when they are all over the place and in various sizes.

I am a busy mom and wife, it’s a wonder that I have time to sit and watch a caterpillar nursery at all….or write a blog!  But these things give me much needed rest and enjoyment, they are interests that I have……and no matter what your interest and passion is….big or small….it should be pursued and nourished.

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I picked these five off their milkweed (which was almost gone) and put them on the floor of the tank so I could give them fresh food.  They looked so cute all in a row that I had to take a photo of them.

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Every couple of days I replace the leaves from the three small bud vases I have in the tank with fresh milkweed from the garden, which is conveniently right outside the kitchen door.  Caterpillars are naturally very hungry and grow quickly.  It’s fun to watch their little heads go up and down the edges of the milkweed like tiny machines.  I bet if it were quieter in my house I might even hear them chewing.

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Can you see the difference in this caterpillar?   Grace and I found two of them on Queen Anne’s lace down by the pond.  We are almost positive that they are the caterpillars of Black Swallowtail Butterflies.

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An urge that I have so far neglected this summer is to get out colored pencils and draw these beautiful patterns that I see. . . .(maybe today?)

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I clipped some cut-to-size screen (from an old window) to the top edge of the tank with clothespins.  When the they have eaten their full and are “ready”, the caterpillars go to the screen to “dangle” for a day or two, before bursting their caterpillar skin to reveal a most beautiful green and gold chrysalis beneath.

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This one’s small but they start out even smaller…..

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I have to laugh when I go out to collect fresh food for them because I inevitably end up bringing inside even MORE caterpillar babies.  David says, “Mom, how many do you NEED?”  He is probably the child who is most interested in them and I love to see his face peering into the tank.

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“Oh no this one looks different, what’s wrong with it?”  I watched it closely and realized it was molting.  It was gripped to the leaf with it’s “end” and wriggling the skin down, rather like when you or I take off stockings with our hands, and “stepping out” fresh and clean.

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Almost done!

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Ah, it feels so good.

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“fresh and clean”

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An empty chrysalis next to six green ones.

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This caterpillar is getting ready to “dangle” by finding the perfect spot on the screen and attaching itself to it with its homemade silk.  The children get nervous if I move the screen, they are afraid the chrysalises might fall off, but they are firmly attached and “just think, outside they would be safe even in the winds and rain”.  So I move the screen in confidence.

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This one had attached itself to a milkweed leaf, which wasn’t a good choice, because eventually the other caterpillars ate the leaf causing the chrysalis to drop down to the bottom of the cage.  I picked it up and dangled it over the edge of the tank.  When I hear the children say, “Mom, one of them is black!” I know that we will soon see a butterfly.

In fact, as I am writing this, a butterfly has newly hatched right in front of our eyes, and three more black ones are ready to come out any minute.

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Why just put milkweed in the tank when you can also add flowers?

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They make lovely strands of silk.  I took a picture right after this caterpillar molted.  You can see its bunched up rag of old skin up at the top of the photo.

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They eat so much I wondered what I would do if we ran out of leaves (it won’t happen this year) and then I noticed that where I picked the leaves off, new ones are growing!

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new leaves!!!

I know, this is a simple gardening concept, but I never thought to apply it to my milkweed!  The resilience of growing things is amazing.

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Milkweed grows outside the kitchen door, mingled in with our lilac bush.

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And more milkweed (tall stalks with long oval leaves) is in the side garden.

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I had to laugh when I saw a chrysalis outside in the lilac bush, I guess I missed bringing this one inside!!

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I can move the chest of drawers around to get a better view, or better lighting for photos.

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It stays like this most of the time.  Better than any TV show.

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It’s fascinating to watch them split, revealing a bright green underneath.

These changes are done so silently and quickly that we miss it most of the time.

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It wriggles in such a strange fashion and the bunch of skin drops to the bottom of the tank.

I did a short video while I was blogging this post.

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They first come out with their body much bigger than their wings.  I always think of origami when I see them emerge……it’s sort of like reverse origami.  Only God could package something up like this and have it come out as beautiful as a butterfly…

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The butterfly hangs and dries, once in a while a drip of fluid will fall.  Once I see them opening their wings for the first time I will take them carefully outside on a stick and put them up on the lilac bush.

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“I look upon a year lived as a year earned; and each year earned means a greater treasury of experience and power laid up against time of need.”  Anna Botsford Comstock

“God created the heavens and the earth to be experienced, not just read about or lectured upon.”  Bob Schultz

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1, 2, 3

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And the third?  Coming soon.  😉

*****

I liked this quote:

“I never saw my mother sleep.  In fact, she only sat down during dinner and later for about three minutes in the tub of our one bathroom.  Although Mom was perennially pregnant, she was always on the move–a blurry blue Sears housedress topped by a wavy blond perm and supported by two sturdy speed-walking legs.  She had bulging varicose veins that grew with each child, and I was always worried they were going to pop, but they didn’t.
“On any given day, Mom could be found in one of two places:  the outside landing, where she hung the laundry, or the kitchen, where she jogged between the ironing board and the oven.  It seemed my mother could do a hundred things at once, all the while keeping at least one of her blue eyes on her ten children.
“‘Watch yourself, Eddie!’ she’d shout down from the landing to my oldest brother in the side yard.  ‘Remember, you’re a born leader and all the boys are watching you!’  Then she’d vroom down the fourteen wooden steps, hip the laundry basket through the banging screen door into the kitchen, and dump it onto the table.
“‘You’re the absolute best helper, Ellen,’ she’d say as my eager sister did the folding, ‘You’re going to make a wonderful mother!’
“Shortly after noon, Mom would begin preparations for dinner, served nightly at six o’clock sharp, ‘Barbara Ann!’ she’d yell down the basement stairs as she peeled potatoes.  ‘Come on up here and take Florence, Tommy, and Mary Jean.  They need some entertainment and if you’re going to be a star, you’ll need to practice.’
“And that was my mother’s genius.  She kept her house going by putting her finger on the special gift she saw in each of her children, and making each and every one of us believe that that gift was uniquely ours.  Whether it was true or not, we all believed it.”

~Barbara Corcoran, in her book Use What You’ve Got