Our Butterfly Project – (A Brief )Update #6

It’s been a sort of slow week for us with the butterflies. We have caterpillars eating and growing, and a few in chrysalis going through their metamorphosis. I did have one male Black Swallowtail eclose last night, in the evening as the sun was setting so he had to spend the night. I released him first thing this morning and he was ready to go. I named him Kerouac.

It’s also been a sad week. I read some people keep their cats in enclosures outside, so I had some monarch caterpillars outside on the porch, not too hot or too cold, not too sunny or too shady. And something happened to them. I am not sure what although I suspect that someone in the neighborhood sprayed pesticides and it drifted over to our yard. Which is upsetting for many reasons, but it also shows just what these species have to survive through. I moved the survivors into a clean enclosure with all new food and keep checking on them, hoping they pull through. I will bleach and rinse the mesh enclosures today and get them all clean and sanitized for the next group. Update: All but one caterpillar survived!

I haven’t been bringing in any new eggs or caterpillars in the past week or so. We are going on vacation next week and I have to pass on the ones that I have to my friends to take care of for me while I am gone and they have their own as well, so I didn’t want to overwhelm them. When I get back however, I will pick up where I left off, in time for the big migration and super monarchs. The monarchs that eclose in late August and early September will be the monarchs that make the flight south, to Texas and Mexico. I am bummed that I did not get tags this year but I will for sure next year. So Texan friends, keep an eye out next year for my butterflies!

So right now we are in a holding pattern over here. Leslie from Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After suggested little video updates on this project, maybe permanently embedded in the sidebar, and I am considering that, especially with the big migration and big monarchs coming soon.

And this is where we are this week! Slow going right now with some weeks of growth and a week off next week, then big things coming soon!

See my previous updates here!

Update #1

Update #2

Update #3

Update #4

Update #5

Our Butterfly Project – Update #5

Good morning butterflies! Good morning caterpillars! This is a pretty common thing in our house these days, greeting all of our little friends that share our space, however temporarily. Wyatt still remains more in love with the caterpillars than the butterflies, but the magic of a watching a butterfly emerge from the chrysalis then fly away into the wind never gets old to me.

Last week all of our butterflies emerged from their chrysalis! At the time of my last posting, we had 14 monarchs in chrysalis, and 1 black swallowtail. As of today, that group, which I am calling The Toad Hole group after my friend Kelly’s house’s “name”, are all living their lives, free and wild and gathering nectar and hopefully creating more butterflies.

One morning I woke up to 6 butterflies! I actually had to work that morning, but I work for my cousin, and he is working from home these days, so I took them with me to release there. You have to give them some time to allow their wings to dry, and they would be ready while I was working. So, the butterflies went with me. And as a bonus, his daughters were there too, and got to watch and help out.

Although I had to laugh at myself, driving with a car of butterflies. I wonder what they thought, if anything?

So last week was all about these beautiful creatures – releasing them and collecting eggs for the most part.

I am planning on keeping a running tally though for those who are interested of the number of butterflies released, either in the sidebar or somewhere else. Maybe a whole dedicated page? I’ll have to see what works best. I am also hoping to start tagging monarchs, but I need to order the tags today or it won’t happen. If I do, it would be really cool to see if my blog friends down in Texas find any of the monarchs that I release! Tagging happens in the fall, we will see if I can order the tags today, since I think today is the last day to order!

So, the breakdown of butterflies last week:

14 released monarchs : 5 female (Janet, Scarlet, Wendy, Penny, and Freya) 9 male Larry, George, Peter, Frank, Captain, Loki, Odin, Thor, Fenrir.

1 released Black Swallowtail – male, Cavendish

If you are wondering why I am doing this, here is a great article. I can’t imagine a world without butterflies, can you? I remember going to Jack Miner in Canada as a child, and seeing trees just covered in monarchs and thinking it was the most amazing, wonderful, enchanted thing I had seen. I want to take Wyatt one day so he can feel that too.

The Haps’

It’s been quite a week! We set a lot of different things in motion to make some changes this week, shifting stuff around, making different financial changes. We also had to deal with the insurance company over a small dent in Billy’s car that happened when he was hit while parked, and make some decisions on our barely functioning ancient A/C unit. Overall, it was a busy busy week and things have been pretty good for the most part.

I am going to probably skip around a bit, timeline wise. Wyatt had his EEG on Thursday, and he did so good. He is such a trooper all the time. It was supposed to be a 48 hour EEG, where we took him in, had him hooked up, then brought him home. However, on Wednesday the hospital called and I found out that a mistake was made in scheduling and this was a 30 minute EEG in office instead. So I imagine another EEG is in our future. I’m glad we at least got something done though.

He looks a little upset in that last photo. And he was. At me. Lol. I had to take my phone back for a minute and he was not happy with me. I don’t usually ever let him play with it (last time he did he called emergency so.. never again) but for the EEG I let him watch his YouTube favorites and Sesame Street. We got the results but I can’t interpret them so I am waiting on the doctor to call. But Wyatt did such a great job. He loved showing everyone his moon shirt, and it seems a lot of people really like the moon too. Or so they told him. The tech was also wonderful, she made the whole experience so much easier for all of us.

Wednesday I went back to work! For a short time but it was still something. I work part-time for my cousin at his law practice, and it is just the two of us. During the past 18 months though, he has been working from home and I haven’t been working at all. I just couldn’t juggle all of Wyatt’s needs and extra work, especially with never knowing quite when Billy is getting home from work. But now we are slowing adding in normalcy, like work. Brian is shifting his business away from the office entirely, and we are creating an office space in his home. I am looking forward to it, I can actually take Wyatt over there with me if need be and let him play or whatever while I work. But first, we need to get it organized. And since I had to pass by a Starbucks on my way over, I of course had to stop and pick up a new favorite, the Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte. So good!

And looking at this, I really need to do something about my nails today!

Last night Billy and I went out together, without Wyatt, for the first time since COVID. Our city has a Street Art Fair every year (except last year) and Billy and I have gone almost every year without fail. It’s been a while since I have gone on a Friday night though! I didn’t really look at the art too much, I was just too busy enjoying being out again. Looking around, people watching. We got tacos and split a beer, finished walking around, and that was about it. It was a beautiful night though, and with the music and the people and sights, it felt so alive. And so did I.

It should be a pretty slow Saturday around here, Billy has to wrap up some of our business today and then tonight we are going swimming at my in-laws with my brother and the fam.

I can’t wait to share some of the things we have been doing for Italy month! Hopefully next week I get a chance to round those up.

How was your week? What has been happening?

Chit Chat Coffee Time

My week this week was just…blah. Not good, not bad, I can’t quite say what I even did this week. It was just sort of like a week on autopilot. This upcoming week we are taking a break from school, maybe I just need a refresh.

This morning we left bright and early to go to a different garden center. I was joking with Billy that this particular garden center is the one ALL the butterfly people talk about, so we had to be cool too and check it out. I am hoping to help raise monarchs this year so I needed to go to the cool garden center too. And honestly, it was really cool.

My friend who has done the whole monarch thing for years gave me a list of milkweed I needed, particularly common and swamp. I found those and grabbed them, and added some prairie milkweed and also a kind with a very interesting name. They had tables set up with types of butterflies and their host plants which made it really easy to shop. I also picked up a butterfly bush and a few forget-me-nots. They have a butterfly house but it is not open yet, so we will have to go back to check it out.

We went first thing in the morning and no one was there. I love having places practically to myself. We had just planned on Billy and Wyatt hanging out in the car but when I saw it was so empty and open, I called Billy and told him to join me inside, and I am so glad we did, we had a great time. I feel like they just needed to serve coffee and it would have been perfect. (Hint hint Barsons if you read here – set up a little coffee area for people to buy coffee, I am sure it would do well.)

However, now it is so humid and hot outside that we have unloaded it all and are waiting until it cools off a bit. I found a few butterfly eggs on my rue this afternoon and gathered it up. I am actually getting my mom in on this too, and I am taking her these first eggs from a black swallowtail. I think she will enjoy it!

I have spent the past few weeks working on our final month of lessons for kindergarten! I can’t believe this year is almost over! We are going to spend a month finishing up our regular curriculum and we will also be spending some time learning about the ocean and ocean animals. And mermaids, per the request of my niece. Then I get to start planning for next year, and I have to be honest I am really excited about that. We will also be continuing school throughout the summer but more informally. We are spending July immersed in learning about Italy, as part of our family ancestry studies combined with geography. It should be a lot of fun. And delicious as I am going to use it as an excuse to eat all the pasta and tiramisu that I want.

I hope you are all having a good day so far! Enjoy the weekend!

The Weekend Vibe

This weekend was all about time outside and with people we love. It was a very full, very fun weekend. I feel like, finally, spring is here and we are free to roam.

We started off with a hike at our favorite metropark, Oakwoods. We were in search of tadpoles and vernal pools, but no dice. I mentioned this in my Sunday post and I was slightly alarmed to hear that other people have been looking and haven’t spotted any either! What is up with that? Is it too soon? Too dry? I would love to hear from someone who has spotted tadpoles this year. We were rewarded though however, with a spotting of the Pileated Woodpeckers that live there, and also these Jack-in-the-Pulpits! And some moss, because I love moss.

We also tried a new taco takeout place that is nearby, that we had been wanting to stop at – Atwater Street Tacos. We ate them in the car, which is a feat, I think, but holy moly they were amazing!! They are my new favorite. Billy and I split the tacos and an order of tostadas, and they were fantastic. Wyatt also enjoyed the chips and the cheese quesadilla that he had too.

After our hike and car picnic, we headed home to be lazy until it was time to go to my brother’s for a bonfire. Everyone had a blast, but the kids most of all. They played ALL NIGHT outside, and were laughing and dirty and just having so much fun. I had gotten a rope ladder free from Designed2Climb, so we hung that up and let the kids play on it. My niece got brave and climbed up to the top, and it was a great motivator for Wyatt to work on reaching and going on tall knees and pulling himself up and standing. The adults all sort of took turns playing with and watching the kids, and chatted by the fire, enjoying our adult beverages. It was time to head home all too soon. I think next time we may take our tent and let the kids crash out inside when they get tired instead.

We went home and crashed out (after I washed the smoke scent from my hair), that kind of sleep you have when you have had a fun day outside. Heavenly. Which was good, because I had a date early Sunday morning!

On Sunday bright and early in the morning, I met my friend Kelly at the garden center, our first visit of the year! Doesn’t she look so pretty? I call us the odd couple, we are so different yet so similar too – we have been friends for 20 years, were in each other’s weddings, and have been through many ups and downs of life together. We are totally going to be Grace and Frankie when we are older. Guess which character I am?

I wasn’t quite ready to go bonkers yet, this is Michigan and we may still have a freeze, but I did get some snapdragons and this totally adorable snail begonia, due to my love of all things snail. It’s on my desk as I sit here and I love it. We had so much fun shopping for plants together and making our lists for our gardens.

This weekend just left my soul feeling so full and happy, and refreshed for our week of homeschooling and all the little odd myriad everyday things that need to get done.

Winter Hikes

We are winter hikers; we wait all year to get back out there in the cold and snow. There is just something so invigorating about being in a winter wood, the chill temps, the quiet. On New Years Day, I walked the woods alone; Wyatt had fallen asleep in the car on the way to the trail, and Billy offered to stay back so that I could wander. The only sounds I heard were those of the birds, tweeting and chirping, birds of all kinds. Robins and cardinals and blue jays, various woodpeckers – a chipmunk ran in front of me, scampering into the undergrowth. I had my eyes scanning the trees, looking for the long – eared owl that has been spotted there, but didn’t see it unfortunately. When I headed back to the car, Billy told me that he had been watching all the birds as well, from his warm cozy seat. They were simply everywhere.

We took two more hikes that week, one at our favorite trail system, just to get outside and stretch our legs, get some fresh air. The woods were quiet that day, we didn’t see a single soul, nor see any signs of life at all. The birds and the animals must have been huddled up against the cold, wondering just what we were thinking, hiking around out there.

We also trekked out to Belle Isle one morning, and took a walk around the half frozen pond. It was like being in the Arctic, but not as cold and minus the polar bears. Although I did spy some tracks in the snow on the ice; can anyone identify them? I am thinking maybe fox, but identifying tracks is something I haven’t mastered.

It was a beautiful walk, almost magical near the marshy spots and the cattails.

And what better way to end a cold walk in the snow and ice than with hot chocolate and car snacks?

A Misty Morning at the Orchard

Wyatt and I met my SIL Chrissy and my niece L. at the orchard yesterday, and I am so glad that we went. I was very nervous, it was 8 days post surgery and it would be our first outing too. I am glad I felt brave enough to say yes, because we had fun, despite the slightly damp day.

Chrissy and L. met us at the orchard at 11:30, and Chrissy masked up and headed into the store to grab out bags for picking while I stood between the cars and watched both kids. Then we headed back to the orchard, where they had row after row of apple varieties to choose from. Our little caravan of two headed all the way to the end before turning around and deciding we wanted to head for the honey crisp first. We parked and we put a blanket down as our base and went up and down the rows plucking the apples from the branches. The kids thought it was super fun! When we finished that area, we wandered over to the golden delicious and braeburn section, and added more apples to our bag.

Our bags were filling up and getting heavy, but we were not ready to call it quits yet. We had one more small section we wanted to check out, the winesap apples. I have to be honest, I am not certain what these apples are like but we liked the name. Wyatt was super tired by this point so I stuck him in the back of the Subaru to hang out with while Chrissy and L. explored the field across the way, looking at the pumpkins, looking so autumnal sprawled out in the dew among their vines. L. came bouncing back, filled with excitement and wanting to show me the baby pumpkin that she saw so Chrissy stayed with Wyatt while I followed L. across the little bridge to the pumpkins. And we saw some enormous pumpkins as well as some teeny baby pumpkins. I guess fall has arrived, at least to our part of Michigan! I joked with Chrissy too, that she looked like a character from a Jane Austen novel walking through the fields..

By this point all of our feet were soaking wet and squishy, so it was time to call it a day. I would have loved to have had a picnic among the trees for Chrissy’s birthday (did I mention it was her birthday?) but it was too gross. We loaded the kids up and headed back to the front, making a little stop at the pick your own flowers field, where we realized we had no way to cut a bouquet. I never realized that one day I would be standing in a damp field lamenting that I didn’t have a pocket knife, but there I was. (and I came home and added a pink Opinel to my Christmas list..I will never go without flowers again! Lol)

All in all, we had a great time. I am so glad that we went, despite my anxiety, because I really think being with family, a change of scenery, and the fresh air did Wyatt and I both a world of good. I am so happy that we were able to share in Chrissy’s day! And look at this happy face!

A Family Mini-Trip

Way back in December, I spur of the moment booked a mini-trip to celebrate Wyatt’s fifth birthday. We always go hiking for his birthday and visit a new nature center, it is a tradition – so for number 5 we decided to take the tradition out on the road. We head out west, to the west side of the state, at least once a year and so that is where we chose to roam this time.

We left early Sunday morning, and pulled into Saugatuck Brewery right around lunchtime, which was perfect timing. We had planned to eat lunch then hit the antique store that was right there as well, before heading to our airbnb. My brother has been telling me to eat at the Saugatuck Brewery for years and I finally made it, and now all I can think about is the macaroni and cheese I had! It was so good, rich and creamy and cheesy! I will dream about that macaroni until I get there again. Mr. Big Shot also loved his lunch, and ate like a machine! Billy and I also enjoyed two of their brews while we were at it; I had the Kolsch, he had the IPA, and we both thought they were pretty darn good!

After eating we explored the antique store, where I found a bunch of things I wanted but that would not fit into our car this time around – a vintage oak filing cabinet, a drafting table from 1953… but I had to leave them behind for someone else. I also found a great copy of Little House in the Big Woods but didn’t pick it up. By the time we were done prowling the store, it was time to check in to our house!

I had booked the most charming house in Holland, and I was so excited to get there and see it in person! We stayed at Cobblestone Cottage and it was a great experience! So clean, my number one requirement for staying anywhere! It was adorable and the kitchen was a dream. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking about staying in the area. We bummed around a little, letting Wyatt get some energy out, including playing the piano which he loved, then just did a little exploring the neighborhood.

The next morning was Wyatt’s birthday and we were really looking forward to getting outside together. The day was so perfect, sunny and warm, but first – presents! He loved all of his new things, but really loved the board game we gave to him, and wanted to play it immediately – Hoot Owl Hoot! It is so cute and teaches cooperation as there are no winners or losers, you play as a team. I thought it was a great game for a first board game!

After a quick round we headed off to find doughnuts and then to hit the trails at the Outdoor Discovery Center. Which was amazing!! They had so many different trails to wander along, and really great learning experiences and stops along the way – a Birds of Prey Center, a replication of an Anishinaabe Summer Camp, two great play areas, and the Nature Center itself. You could easily spend hours there with your child. And we did spend quite a bit of time there!

By the time we left Wyatt was exhausted so we headed back to our house for a bit. We lunched on pepperoni rolls that we picked up from the best bakery ever and watched a little tv, relaxing while Wyatt napped. When he got up, we shopped around downtown and had ice cream for dinner. Because I am that kind of mom.

We were leaving pretty early Tuesday morning, planning on getting in another hike closer to home, but still hit the bakery, drove to the beach and looked at Lake Michigan, and then did some additional shopping before leaving. And I even bought myself a few things! A boy scout mug and an old field guide for trees, that had a beautiful inscription in it.

It was the perfect low-key kind of trip we all needed. One to reconnect, disconnect, and just relax and be together. We loved the area, and even half-joked about moving out that way – I mean, we already have a punch card for the bakery, so we might as well! I am so glad that we went on this trip – the only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been to stay longer!

A Day at the Detroit Parade Company

On Saturday one of my childhood dreams came true! I have always loved the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade and have all these memories of watching it with my brother, and now my own family. So when we got the opportunity to tour the Detroit Parade Company as part of a group that Wyatt belongs to, I quickly RSVPd. At the start it was more exciting for me, but I knew once we got there that Wyatt would love it too! Billy who is not a parade lover, even enjoyed himself!

We were greeted by larger than life Sesame Street characters – including two of Wyatt’s favorites, Cookie Monster and Elmo!

We learned that the Parade has been running continuously from the 1920s, except for the two years we were in WWII, when there was a shortage of materials. The warehouse itself was used to make Howitzers, which was weird to think about as we walked around! There is a permanent staff of 14 people, and then 2000 volunteers!

We walked through the construction areas first, that were reserved for sculpture and carpentry, before we got to the giant floats. And they were huge! Seriously so big. I think we were all a little in awe of the craftsmanship and size and scale of the floats that we saw.

Two of our favorites – The “Up North” float, and the Detroit Zoo! We also saw the brand new Ford Motor Company float which is amazing, but we are not allowed to talk about it or post photos. They want a big reveal at the parade! That one was Billy’s favorite of the day too. It was pretty cool!!

The big heads are always so fun during the parade! There is a Bob Seger one, which makes sense! But then someone had a sense of humor because the Henry Ford head was next to Walter Reuther. LOL. Our tour guide and full time staff member told us that the laundry for the parade takes until April to get finished!! Yikes!!!

We also really loved this dinosaur float!! It is retired unfortunately, so we won’t see it again, but I loved being able to see all the details up close! So fun. Also pictured is part of the Wayne State University float. And then of course my boy who was getting a little sleepy!

We finished up at Santa’s sleigh, which really put me in the Christmas spirit! I guess Santa no longer gets out of the sleigh as he gets mobbed, but gets out onto a platform and the mayor climbs up to him.

This was definitely something that we probably will never have the chance to do again, and it was such a good time. I learned a lot, and saw a lot, including the smile on my kiddo’s face during this whole event. I can’t wait for the parade now to see these things in action!

Do you like a parade?

Hello July!

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July, you are not my favorite month. I am not a fan of being hot and sticky and sweaty and Michigan summers are hot and sweaty and humid. Our family tends to shy away from the sunlight like vampires, hiding out in the air conditioning during the day, and then emerging in the evening as it cools off. None of us are summer lovers, in this house. But July, you have your own beauty and charm, and this year, I will embrace you more. You are a month of sunshine, and bright colors and flowers. Insects and birds are cheerily going about their business, flowers riot through gardens. There is a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables at the farm markets, bursting with flavor, and more bright colors. That is probably my favorite thing about you July, your vibrancy.

This month is a busy one too. We have so many fun things planned, in our own ways, of course. The fourth of July and family picnics. The lavender festival, the Detroit Kite Festival on Belle Isle. Bastille Day, watching the Tour de France together. Music concerts at the zoo. And three whole date nights for Billy and I, three weeks in a row! A dinner and tiki bar with new friends, a party with old coworkers, and then finally a date night at the zoo actually. I also see many more family dinners – my brother and I are trying to make them as weekly as possible. Iced tea parties with my boy once a week as well. Fresh salads, fresh fruits, simple easy meals. Trips to the library always feel so summery to me too.

As for me, I am going to a mom’s retreat in Texas at the end of the month, just my stepsister and I. I have to admit, I am super nervous. Beyond nervous and anxious. I have never been away from Wyatt more than 8 hours and now I will be gone for three nights. But I am doing it. I am teaching Wyatt to not let fear rule his life, and that begins with me. I have to do things that maybe I am scared to do, to show him that it is ok. I am also excited to go as well. I have always wanted to go to Texas, my whole life, and now I am. There is a chance to see some of my old college friends who moved to Austin as well, which would be a great big bonus. And this is a retreat for moms of kids with special needs like my kiddo, and the event coordinators have so many activities planned if we want to do them – or we can do whatever we want. Two and half days where I can do whatever I choose. So, this is going to be fun. I will get to hang out with my stepsister too, and really get to know her better, as we met when we were older. I am looking forward to that. It is a chance for me to grow, and it is good to push ourselves to that growth. Or that is what I keep telling myself!

I think this month too, I will revisit old children’s classic books, and just books that I loved as a child. I am also doing the Paris in July challenge, so that is on my mind too, all the fun reads and things I can for that. It has also been one year since I decided to start phasing out plastic, with Plastic Free July, and I signed up for a challenge for that as well, to keep me motivated and give me some new ideas. I need a push to get on that again, and the challenge will do well for that!

How about you all? Any big plans for July?