“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.
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.
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.
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.
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))
(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
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Why yes, she WAS singing “Do you Want to Build a Snowman?”
Caleb got his summer reading assignment done.
Grace and Tessa worked on a puzzle.
Watching a movie with the kids (Lego Batman).
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.
And then, like magic, they turn into something that looks just like a stick.
I recently got this at Goodwill. “Five little maidens out on the green, Happier maidens never were seen.”
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).
Grace and I finally got her college preparations done yesterday. AND manicures and pedicures.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
This one’s small but they start out even smaller…..
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.
“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.
Ah, it feels so good.
“fresh and clean”
An empty chrysalis next to six green ones.
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.
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.
Why just put milkweed in the tank when you can also add flowers?
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.
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!
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.
Milkweed grows outside the kitchen door, mingled in with our lilac bush.
And more milkweed (tall stalks with long oval leaves) is in the side garden.
I had to laugh when I saw a chrysalis outside in the lilac bush, I guess I missed bringing this one inside!!
I can move the chest of drawers around to get a better view, or better lighting for photos.
It stays like this most of the time. Better than any TV show.
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.
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.
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…
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.
“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
“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.”
“Mom, you’re the best mom in the world.” says Caleb
“I would have to agree with you,” I tease with a hug.
“You really are the best Mom,” says Seth.
“If you were the worse Mom ever, I would be crying right now.” he further explains.
Reason number one (why I haven’t been blogging):
Wrestling is coming to a close for the season which means all the meets are even more important than usual. On Friday I drove to the HS meet to watch my husband’s team.
To watch my husband.
The gym was absolutely packed to the gills with people. Seth, Sarah, and Caleb ran off to the cafeteria to play with other random children and to say hi to the goat which one of the coaches brings to the all meets in a carrier. Seth borrowed my phone to take a video of the goat. I sat by Grace and Angelina and chatted with my wrestling mom friends. All our chats have to be done with yelling voices, so we can hear each other over the din.
Cody was wrestling in this photo. We had already been in the gym for several hours. He was the only one on the team to make states, which will be held this weekend. Rich and Jacob are in the far corner, coaching him.
After Cody had wrestled I decided to head out and go home. It was after 8 and the drive was 40 minutes. The kids were getting tired. And I was getting tired.
We walked out the door and behind the school through the snow to get to my car, which I had parked far away because there was no more room in the main lot.
It was magical to be outside at night with only the lights of the school shining for us.
(not sure what seth is doing, eating snow?)
She thought it was super stylish to wear one of her black socks pulled up on the outside of her pants.
REASON NUMBER 2: The Stomach Bug
The strange thing is, by the time we got home she was complaining that she felt sick. I tucked them all into bed and I went promptly to sleep. The next morning Rich told me, “Sarah’s sick. She threw up all over her bed and floor. I gave her a bath last night at 11.”
Grace had helped him clean up the mess and inside I was singing praises that I missed out on the vomit clean up for once in my life.
REASON NUMBER THREE: Trip to Rhode Island
On Sunday we went to watch the last meet of Ethan’s college season. He wrestled twice. The first time was against the number one guy and he was pinned within the first minute of the match. The second time was a loss by only 2 points. 11-8. He has improved amazingly over the last few months. We stayed to watch the whole entire meet so we could bring him home with us afterwards.
REASON number 4: bird watching, house cleaning, cooking, too much distraction all around me, too tired, writers block, not taking pictures as I usually do and a general feeling of “who cares” anyway.
But all good things. How thankful I am to be able to be home with the children. They had Monday and Tuesday off from school for Presidents’ day and they were free and happy. We still have snow on the ground but the air was mild and sweet so they spent lots of time outside.
sweatshirts, boots, hats, and SHORTS = New England in the early spring.
At the end of the day there was an epic sword fight.
And this morning? They are back to school, all but David, who now has the stomach bug.
Ethan is away for a day of skiing with his girlfriend and her family.
Put your hope in the Lord, travel steadily along his path. Psalm 37
Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace. Psalm 37
The winds of grace blow all the time. All we need to do is set our sails. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. CS Lewis
Trust in the Lord and do good. Psalm 37
cleaning and decorating the porch for springtime
visiting with Joanna this weekend
going home to help make maple syrup
orchids about to bloom
a slow cooked chicken for dinner tonight, and mashed potatoes
“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before!”
I’m going to be completely honest with you, by yesterday evening I was filled with glee because I was glad Christmas was over….and by “Christmas” I mean all the buying of gifts, wrapping, baking, cleaning, and so on. I really wish Santa WAS real, it would save me a lot of work. It’s fun and all, but only to a certain extent, and then the stress kicks in and you start to wonder if the gifts are okay and if they will be received with gladness and if the children will be healthy and then it becomes your time of the month on top of it all, which explains why you were grumpy that one night when the kids had friends over and it was all you could do not to go in your room and shut the door because your head felt as if it would explode…….
But then your husband helps you find the presents in all the secret hiding spots and tells you numerous times that you did a great job and gives you little kisses and it’s Christmas Eve and the boys keep trying to get up without ever even going to sleep and you say over and over to yourself in that still small voice, “remember these moments”…….because you know even if you do at this moment wish things were a little quieter– someday you just might wish things were back to chaotic for an hour or two. Maybe.
On Christmas Eve we crave cinnamon rolls and thanks to my friend April we also made orange rolls for the first time and boy were they heavenly.
I totally fell in love with The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I’ve seen the movie through the years and have read the book a few times but this year I became a true and devoted fan of the story. It’s so rich and beautiful. It has everything; loss, darkness, greed, selfishness, ghosts, hauntings, music, bitter cold, snow, old city life, memorable characters, lessons learned, truth, love, nostalgia, joy, smiles, laughter, and a HAPPY ENDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So I read the book again, which of course is the very best way to experience the story, and then watched two of the movies and I watched them with as much full attention as I could (without my phone next to me).
And lest you think my opening confession was rather Scrooge-like, let me clarify that I wholeheartedly love Christmas for what it truly is supposed to be; giving and receiving, yes, but also heart and soul, togetherness, beauty, family and friends. Those are the qualities of Christmas that I love the most, & I know you do, too.
“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
“He was consious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares, long, long, forgotten.”
“I have always thought of Christmastime, when it has come round…as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
(Caleb was feeling under the weather and buried himself in blankets and pillows as he watched TV) soooo cute
Ethan is home from college and my heart is content to have all the children with us again.
waking up the sleepy heads
We unwrapped all the presents and then got ready for Church.
Seth had a candy cane in his mouth and Ethan had crest white strips on his teeth. I didn’t know this until on the way to church when I had time to study the photos and ask questions.
I thought Sarah’s Christmas hair was adorable. I put it in two pigtails, pulled the hair through half way, and then pinned on gold bows. She of course, hated it, but I told her too bad. And with a compromise, she didn’t have to wear a fancy dress.
My camera heart gravitates toward the child who doesn’t get to attend church with us during the school year anymore….it was so nice to see him in the pew as I looked over at my sons in a row.
Rich and Grace both had small parts in the service so they sat in front. To be honest, I made Rich come back to sit with me as his part wasn’t until almost the end of the service and I didn’t want to sit there alone without my husband the whole time.
Caleb got a hug…….
Sarah found a listening ear…………
Grace read from Luke chapter 2……….
Best friends and brothers in Christ.
(Michael took a photo of the family for me but I’m not going to post it until next month (year) because I never sent out Christmas cards, therefore I am sending out New Years cards with a family photo and I don’t want to show anyone the picture yet or it will be boring to send out in the mail).
After church I made a ham dinner and then was filled with the feeling that all was accomplished and I could rest. It was a most blessed evening of being so very relaxed with all the children around us.
I’m in the midst of the the book on top, which is something I bought a few years ago but just got around to reading. It is very very good (high quality writing). Sigrid Undset also wrote Kirsten Lavransdatter which is an amazing book. The rest of the titles are from my husband based on my explicit instructions.
How thankful I am through it all, for the blessings of our life, the warmth, the joy, the endless little surprises from living with children, and for most of all, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the eternal life He has given. God is so good and we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses that prove all of what He truly means to us. I’m so glad He loves us just the way we are.
“I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”
“His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”
PS, Penny, I wrote this post for you. (because you encouraged me). xoxoxo loves.