Friday, September 20, 2019

College Care Package - We Think the World of You

The first care package has been sent to Sophia at college.

She received it earlier this month, and was both surprised and excited about getting a box filled with lots of little presents.

To make the care package, I first took apart the box so it folded out flat. Then I covered the inside of the box with white gift wrap paper.

I used green masking tape to tape the edges to the backside of the box.

The next step was to use clear packing tape to seal the box on all the sides except the top.

Now the box was ready to be filled.

I laid out all the items on the tape and removed the price tags or crossed off the price if it was on the product.

The theme was "We Think the World of You" and had items that were made in different parts of the world. These are the 16 countries and 20 items that were in the care package:

- Dark chocolate with shortbread and sea salt

- Maple candy
- Chamomile lavender herbal tea

- Fan
- Notebook
- Hello Kitty lucky stars candy
- Mini-panda stapler

- Bonne Maman jam

- Milk chocolate cookies

- Worry doll

- Icelandic chocolate

- White soap

- Super lemon candy

- Stroopwafel

- Cactus pear scented soap

- Cassis black currant candies

 - Anna's Swedish thins

- Toblerone candy

- Pocky

United Kingdom
- Posing Pandas game

The next two pictures are sideways, but they show how there were two layers of gifts. First the lower level:

Then the upper level of items.

I finished off the flaps with images of globes (from the Dollar Store) and a printed message. The box had a letter from us on the top.

The postage was a bit expensive (a little over $13), but it was worth it to hear how surprised and happy Sophia was when she received her first care package at college.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

My Favorite Photos - August 2019

Below are some of my favorite photos - or ones that have significance to me - that I took during August. The month started out, on August 6th, with several monarchs that we were raising going into chrysalises.

Little did we know that the few caterpillars that we were starting to raise, would soon turn into over 40 for the season. This is Sophia with about four more caterpillars that we raised after the first batch went into chrysalises.

One of the things that was particularly interesting this year was that the girls found monarch eggs on the bottom of a milkweed leaf. Sophia read that when the egg darkens, that the caterpillar will be born soon. Sure enough, it was. To see how small the caterpillars are when they are born, we put a penny to the left of the caterpillar and its egg.

During August, as we were getting Sophia ready to transition to college, we were doing a lot of driving around and eating meals out-and-about. We tried new restaurants that we hadn't tried which was fun.

On the 9th, we went to a Hawaiian restaurant and had a sushi bowl and bubble tea; and on the 12th we went to Noodles and had different Asian noodle dishes. Both places were very good.


Sophia and I did our final music therapy session at the humane society. After dealing with three wild puppies, we moved to the older dogs. One, Titan, had been there for a long time. In the kennel, he looked scary and barked loudly. However, when she played the harp for him, he sat on my lap - like a puppy - and listened intently. He took treats gently and was such a wonderful dog.

By the middle of the month, Sophia, Olivia, and I were in the full monarch caterpillar-nursery "business." The original screen cage which we've used since the girls were 5 and 7 years old, couldn't hold all the caterpillars we were finding. Pretty, soon the caterpillars were either sharing jars or in their own jars. It was quite the operation for us...and quite different than the 1-2 monarchs we've raised in the past.

Every time I went out to look for milkweed leaves for the caterpillars, I'd discover something new it seemed. I especially liked finding these little spring peepers who would be resting on leaves. They just sat quietly while I looked at them. They didn't move or jump away.

Olivia practiced throughout the month on .22 and trap shooting through the 4-H Shooting Sports program. She chose not to compete at the state level this year because she wants to build her skills a bit more before going.

On the 14th of August, we had chrysalises in some of our jars. We put sticks at the top of the jars and some of the caterpillars chose to go in their "J" formation and then chrysalis using the stick. Apparently, they don't need to do that. The screen mesh at the top of the jar or the side of the jar would have been fine.

That same day, our first monarch was born!

A few days later, a couple more monarchs were born! They were resting on and eating from the butterfly bush in our backyard. The flowers bloomed throughout August - just in time for all the monarchs! We also saw tiger swallowtail butterflies and sphinx moths visit this bush.

A picture that I like of Sophia and Olivia is at a bubble tea, cupcake, and rolled ice cream restaurant. I knew, at this point, that we only had a couple of weeks left to be able to enjoy our time together like this before Sophia would be at college. So, at this point, things started getting to be bittersweet as I took photos and thought about the images more.

By the third week of August, I was taking photos of those "little" moments that I'll miss around the home this year: like the girls watching a movie together at night.

We continued to release butterflies, with these two born on the 22nd.

The dogs loved being outside as the weather now has shifted from hot days and evenings, to cool/cold mornings and evenings and pleasant days.

On the 23rd, we could see a monarch that was almost ready to emerge from its chrysalises.

My sister joined the girls and I to celebrate the re-opening of Crystal Ball Dairy Farm. They had a major fire last year and have spent the past year rebuilding their farm and operation. There were a lot of samples of cheese, meat sticks, milk, cookies, and cake. Our plates were filled with samples...almost like a full meal!

On the 26th, we went to the Minnesota State Fair. Olivia entered her 4-H project in Wildlife Biology about Killer Whales. She did very well and received a blue ribbon.

We went around the fair a bit, dodging the rain throughout the day. We spent some time in the Ag-Hort building while it poured outside; and enjoyed seeing the flower displays.

We made our way over to the coliseum where we watched several competitions of draft horses and wagons. There were 23 teams of six horses - so 138 horses total competing. What we learned later was that the driver has reins for all six horses in his hands - three per hand. Each rein is wrapped around a finger, and the driver can control each horse by moving his finger in a certain direction.

The next day, we came back and enjoyed a cooler and sunnier day. The giant Ferris wheel looked so colorful against the sky.

Olivia got a cup of fresh strawberries and Cool-Whip which she liked. The strawberries were very sweet which she liked.

Sophia's judging of her 4-H project about Sole Hope in the Health division went well; and she earned a Grand Champion on it - the highest level!

When we came home, there were a couple of butterflies to release. As I looked at the chrysalises, I knew this would be the last one that Sophia would be releasing this season since she would be leaving for college the next day.

There was such joy and excitement as she watched it eat from the flowers on the butterfly bush. Despite her smile and joy, it was, again, such a bittersweet time for Paige and me. We both held back tears as we thought about the changes that the 28th would bring for us and Olivia.

On the 27th, there was one last game of Skip-Bo.

Although, these photos below are hard to look at for me without feeling a pang of sadness, I'll post them anyways because they represent the culmination of what our years of homeschooling and Sophia's choice of activities allowed her to do: to get into the college of her choice.

She is excited about this next phase of her educational journey; and we are excited about what her college can offer her in terms of academic, musical, and personal growth.

So, this was the family breakfast before we headed to her college. She wanted to go to Perkins.

The car was packed with her belongings. (We ended up bringing a few more the next day - including her harp which didn't fit.)

The three-day move-in experience/Welcome Week/family time (August 28th-30th) was spent unpacking, setting up her dorm room, attending a picnic for freshmen and their families, and presentations in the auditorium. We had meals in the cafeteria together (there are different "restaurants"/food stations - so that's why we all have different food).

Sophia had her college ID photo taken.

She was excited about some snacks we brought for her.

And she liked showing us how comfortable her bed was with the mattress topper and her new bedding.


The campus created a festive, welcoming environment for the students and their families.

The presentations and music in the auditorium were inspiring, encouraging, times...sad.

The message for this year's class was from Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Right now I'm not feeling joyful, peaceful, or hopeful. Just sad. I'm hoping that will change as the year goes along.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

5x5 List - August 2019

There's a swap on Swap-Bot that is called a "5x5 List." It sounded like a fun and quick swap to do that would capture a moment in my life. It reminds me of the "3 in 30" challenge I did many years ago where I would list 3 goals to do in 30 days. There was a group and we all shared our progress with one another. It was a good way to be held accountable; and a great way to be inspired to do projects that I wanted to do for a long time.

Anyway...back to the 5x5 list:

Last 5 people you spoke to in person or by phone

Cashier at the grocery store (I got some food for a little campfire in the backyard that we'll be having tonight)

Next 5 projects you want to tackle

Looking towards September, I want to take regular time to be creative. As I look at my Pinterest board, there are so many ideas for projects I'd like to do.

- Create an engaging geometry curriculum for Olivia that combines art with geometry. There are a lot of ideas on my homeschooling Pinterest board including this one that looks at parabolic curves. Some interesting art work can be created when combining math and art.

- Make two mug rugs - one for Sophia and one to enter into the county fair next year. There's a cute one with a place for a beverage and a pocket for a cookie and another that has a side pocket and a lid to keep one's beverage warm.

- Make a scarecrow. Each year, the county fair has a category for making a scarecrow. This year, there was only one entry. I thought that this Fall I could make a couple of scarecrows and store them until next year for the fair.

- Start working on memory quilts. I have quite a bit of clothing and fabric from my parents; and quilt squares that my mom cut, but never finished into quilts. I'd like to spend time each week making memory quilts for my sister, brother, and daughters from my parents' clothing. I'd also like to complete the quilts that my mom started and give these to each of her grandchildren (there are nine).

- Take a class about soap making. A long time ago, I had a soapmaker teach a class when I was doing our farm camp program. I've been wanting to re-learn how to do this since Olivia took an interest in soap making last year. There's a class being offered in September at a local folk school that I signed up to do. Once I learn how to make soap, then I can teach Olivia.

Name 5 dream vacations you'd like to take

For me, a "dream vacation" is one that potentially I could take in the future. Of course, there are ones that I would love to take - like a multi-month, world-wide tour visiting all the continents - especially the two I have not been to yet (Africa and Antarctica). However, those will not happen, so I try to think more realistically about vacations that I would enjoy taking that have a chance of happening sometime in my life:

- The Great Northern Route - This would take me to some states I have not visited yet as well as some national parks - including Glacial National Park.

- Platte River Valley in Nebraska - I would want to go in the Spring to see the Sandhill Crane migration.

- Do a Driving Trip to See All the Continental States in the U.S. - I have seen most of the states in the U.S., but there are still some that I haven't seen. I would like to do this as well as re-visit some states and see some landmarks and national parks that I haven't seen yet.

- Antelope Canyon in Arizona - The geological formations and photos that people have taken here are amazing!

- Visit all the State Parks in Minnesota - Along the way, there are camper cabins throughout the state at many of the parks. I would stay at them to save money and also more fully explore the parks.

Name 5 streets/roads/highways near your home 

St. Croix Trail

Highway 97


Highway 8

Highway 61

List 5 things for which you are grateful 

- My family (that I grew up in). This is my dad, brother (infant), sister, and me on one of my early birthdays. My mom is taking the photo.

- My family (now) - including people and pets. The photo below is from a long time ago - probably about 8 or 10 years ago.

- That I have been able to homeschool my daughters and share in their joys as they learn

- That we have been able to find, raise, and release so many monarchs this year

- Being surrounded by nature and peacefulness every day