As I look back at the photos I took during April, there are many that are my favorites - not because they are exemplary examples of photography. Rather, they reflect unusual weather we experienced, volunteering we do as a family, people I love, and new chapters in our lives.
April started with a snowstorm that left many migrating birds and waterfowl wondering why they left a warmer climate.
The pond pictured below is on our way to the clinic/hospital where Sophia gets allergy shots every 2-4 weeks. The pond was filled with a variety of ducks, geese, and swans.
The next day, when we passed by the pond, it was empty - all the waterfowl had moved on to another location. I was happy to have the photo as a reminder of how much wildlife we saw in a relatively tiny spot.
On April 13th, Sophia and I volunteered at Northwoods Humane Society where Sophia plays the harp for animals waiting to be adopted. We took many dogs out so they could be pet and receive one-on-one attention while Sophia played the harp.
There was one dog, though, who was so scared and reactive that he had to stay in his kennel. Sophia played the harp right in front of his kennel, and the more she played, the more his tail wagged. He looked much happier and content after listening to harp music.
Also on the 13th, the girls did a display and baked cookies that represented Malawi at the Festival of Cultures. They are collecting 1,000 books and raising $500 to help create a library in Malawi. It's the first-ever library at a school that serves 465 orphans and vulnerable children.
Starting on the late-evening of April 13th and continuing throughout the weekend, 18 inches of snow fell - about six inches per day. Combined with strong, blowing winds that created drifts that were knee to hip-level high, it made for a memorable experience.
Below is the snow that fell on the evening of the 15th and early morning of the 16th.
The birds - which had already begun migrating back to their summer homes - were left scrambling for food. With the ground still frozen and insects not flying, they relied on birdseed and suet at feeders. Below is a flock of 25 red-winged blackbirds.
Normally, red-winged blackbirds are down at the pond living amongst the cattails. Never have we seen so many at our feeders. It showed us how dependent they were on us to provide food for them.
On Thursday, April 19th, we attended an event for blood drive coordinators. The American Red Cross had many educational sessions in the morning followed by a taco bar lunch and desserts. We learned a lot and had a nice lunch together.
April was the time for three college visits. Sophia and I visited St. Catherine University and Northwestern University; and Olivia, Sophia, and I visited Bethel University - all on Fridays (the 6th, 20th, and 27th respectively).
The girls were able to go to college classes, meet with department heads, talk with professors, hear from students in different majors, and go to sessions about topics of interest.
Below, Sophia is at Northwestern in their auditorium.
On April 21st, Sophia and some of the Leo Club went to a mobile packing event for Feed My Starving Children. In about two hours, the teens and adults ended up packing 20 boxes filled with 36 packets each of food (720 total). This represented over 4,000 meals!
Also on the 21st, we attended an appreciation lunch for volunteers at the nursing home where we volunteer. We had a nice lunch and enjoyed talking with some of the other volunteers. We had to leave before the event was done because Sophia had a jewelry-making class at the art center in the afternoon.
By the third week of April, the snow was beginning to melt and we were seeing geese and ducks landing and swimming in the pond. The frogs emerged from hibernation and began singing. One of the sure signs that Spring has come!
On Sunday, April 22nd, we went as a family to the Mall of America. It was one of Sophia's birthday's gifts - going to the Mall and having lunch there as well as getting one item (she chose a new pair of tennis shoes).
There are 12 different things we are doing as a family between her 17th and 18th birthdays...the last year she is a "child." We plan to do the same thing for Olivia between her 17th and 18th birthdays.
The girls wanted to go to the American Girl store - a place where they enjoyed visiting when they were younger. They read the entire American Girl series - about each of the historical characters - during elementary school. Kaya, who is standing by her tipi, was the first character that the girls read about and did activities relating to the Nez Perce.
We stopped by a store after lunch that had a lot of items from Japan and Korea. There were animal-head backpacks that were huge. Olivia is holding the lion backpack below.
The month ended quite differently than it began in terms of weather. We were able to be outdoors without jackets; the lakes, ponds, and rivers are all ice-free now; and there's warm sunshine each day.
On the 27th, we were able to go on a golf-cart tour of Bethel University. It was a great way to see the 250+ acre campus.
At our first visit back in January, we only saw a small fraction of the campus (the academic buildings and a freshman dorm). There was so much more housing, a seminary/art studio space, beehives, gardens, and sports facilities that we saw on the golf-cart tour.
It was a bit windy on the 27th, and it brought back memories of a trolley ride we took when we visited Boston in September 2011. After going on a tour of Boston, there were roads blocked off for an event. The trolley driver asked if everyone would be okay with going on the freeway to get back to our starting point. Everyone said, "Yes."
So, the open-air trolley went on the freeway - the wind whipping through the trolley. Everyone with long hair had their hair going all over the place. It was a wild...and quite memorable...ride.
Anyway...April was a full month with lots of good memories.