There are three hobbies that Sophia and Olivia have explored that begin with the letter "V": video production, violet growing, and volunteering.
In April 2017, Olivia took a video production online course through Minnesota 4-H. It was an excellent class and she learned a lot about how to create videos.
After a self-introduction video, the course focused on learning some different camera shots. The next assignment was to create a short 30-second video using several types of shots. Olivia's video was "Cooper and the Peanut Butter Ball." We took Cooper into the backyard and hid a ball filled with peanut butter. She took video of him searching around the backyard and then finding the ball.
The next part of the course focused on creating a longer, five-minute video for the final project.
On April 23, 2017, Olivia began brainstorming different ideas she could do for a longer video.
She had to come up with a few different ideas and think about what the video would entail.
Once she figured out what she wanted to focus on, she thought about each scene and what would be included.
By April 30, 2017, she was planning her video project in much greater detail.
She noted each scene, the type of shot, who was in it, and what lighting was needed.
The planning process was far more complex and time-consuming than Olivia anticipated. Yet, it gave her great appreciation for what is involved with longer videos and films.
If all this work goes into creating a five-minute video, imagine what a two-hour move must be like!
The focus of her movie was imagining a world in which all animals were adopted and lived in loving homes. So, Olivia went to Northwoods Humane Society (where we have adopted four of our dogs). She took photos and videos of different parts of the shelter.
She spent time with some of the animals.
Olivia shared how some of the animals arrive at Northwoods including the ones who are rescued from high-kill shelters in Texas and brought to Minnesota to find loving families who will adopt them.
Below is a photo of two dogs who we were able to spend time with. The white dog (who is hugging the black dog) were a bonded pair and, thankfully, adopted together from Northwoods.
Olivia took video of staff doing their jobs as well as conducted interviews with them.
We "borrowed" some of the animals for shooting scenes.
It was a way to showcase all the animals who were there who were waiting to be adopted.
At the end of the video, Olivia showed photos of some of the animals who had been adopted from Northwoods Humane Society - including our pets. Below, Olivia is holding Cooper when he was a puppy.
She entered her video as a 4-H project in the county fair and won a grand champion ribbon for it.
July 19, 2017
She was very happy to receive the top award in the Video category.
July 20, 2017
She took it to the Minnesota State Fair where she did very well.
It was her first time competing in the Video project category, so earning a blue ribbon was a great accomplishment!
The video played throughout the fair in the 4-H building so people could watch it and see her work.
In January 2013, I purchased some African Violet plants in memory of my dad who died on January 5, 2012. He loved African Violets and had a talent in keeping them beautiful and in bloom.
January 12, 2013
On March 21, 2016, Sophia, Olivia, and I went to an African Violet show that was about 45 minutes from us. There were so many beautiful colors and type of violets.
Then, the girls sprayed some water onto the soil and inserted the leaves into it.
They kept each type of African Violet separated so they knew what type it was when they began to grow.
They closed the lid on their greenhouses and labeled the container with the type of plant each was so that they would remember the type.
The violets did well and we had quite a few growing at one time. Some bloomed and others didn't. It was an interesting experience in propagating and growing African Violets.
This is a major component of our homeschooling and lives. Although we did volunteering and donating items to non-profits prior to 2011, in January 2011, we did a special project that we called "52 Weeks of Giving."
Each week, we did a different volunteer activity or donated items to a non-profit. It was a great way to learn about a variety of organizations locally and globally. One of the projects the girls enjoyed was cutting newspaper to line cages of wild animals who were being treated for injuries at a wildlife rehabilitation center.
January 12, 2011
We also responded to national disasters by creating care kits with basic hygiene items. These were sent to people who went through a tsunami.
February 27, 2011
One of our family friends is married to a man who grew up in Africa. He since immigrated to the U.S. and became an American citizen. However, they were going to go back to his village for a visit and bring items the community could use. One of the items was clothing. So, the girls went through their clothes and chose items to give to the children in Africa.
June 18, 2011
Later in 2011, my dad went to a nursing home because his medical needs exceeded what we could provide at home for him. He loved seeing our cats whenever he came to visit us at the farm. So, we brought Eenie to visit him one day. My dad enjoyed petting Eenie.
November 12, 2011
Afterwards, as my dad rested, the girls brought Eenie to visit other seniors in another area of the nursing home.
November 12, 2011
Each year, Christ Lutheran Church does a Service Sunday. In 2012, we made sandwiches for an organization that distributed them to people who were homeless.
September 23, 2012
Several times a year, the Sharing Shop in Lindstrom does a clothing giveaway. All the clothes donated to the church/Sharing Shop are displayed in a big gathering room. The clothes are divided by gender and size. In addition, there are household items.
We go the night before the clothing giveaway to help set up the event. It's something we have enjoyed doing throughout the years.
October 18, 2012
In December 2012, Sophia played the harp for the first time at Christian Community Home. The seniors and their families were so appreciative of her playing the harp. She's been there each December since then.
December 17, 2012
In 2013, we talked as a family about how we wanted to spend our time volunteering. During 2012, we did a "12 in 12" project that we thought of that was a lot of fun and very meaningful. Each month, we did 12 service projects or donated items to 12 non-profits.
The catch with doing something of this nature is that we were able to impact quite a few people and organizations. However, there wasn't consistent and long periods of time we were at any one organization.
So, we decided to focus our efforts on two organizations: Northwoods Humane Society and Christian Community Home.
Our first official volunteer session at the nursing home was in February 2013 when we helped the residents make pies.
February 9, 2013
The following month, we began what would become a yearly tradition: making Shamrock Shakes.
March 15, 2013
We helped with events - like Farm Day - which is pictured below.
July 23, 2013
Sometimes we created our own programs and offered them. For example, the girls and I did a presentation about China. They created display boards with items of theirs from China. Olivia could still fit into one of her Chinese dresses, so she wore that.
August 20, 2013
Something else that we did annually for a while was that Olivia dressed up as Santa Lucia and passed out Swedish heart-shaped baskets that we made that were filled with Swedish fish.
December 13, 2013
Sophia would play the harp for the residents in the assisted living facility while Olivia, John, and I would pass out gifts and cards to the residents.
December 13, 2013
Tia would sing along to some of the songs and get the residents singing.
December 13, 2013
As close to Christmas as we can, the girls do a concert for the residents and their families. Sophia plays the harp and piano; and Olivia plays the piano. Tia sings some of the songs and the residents (who are able) join her in song.
December 23, 2013
For about 1 1/2 months in early 2014, we created and led an intergenerational project in which we interviewed many seniors and did hands-on creative projects.
January 30, 2014
The seniors were asked questions by youth and then they were able to share memories. I typed their answers and added photos. We added their artwork, and then created a book for each of the residents who participated in the program.
February 6, 2014
On Valentine's Day 2014, we presented the books. The seniors didn't know they were going to get a book, so it was a special surprise and gift for them. The books ended up being legacy gifts to their families after the residents passed away. They had interviews that were done with their loved ones as well as artwork that was created by them.
During the warmer months, we sometimes took the seniors out on the exercise trail so they could enjoy the nice weather. Afterwards, we would drink some juice together and talk.
June 27, 2014
In June 2015, after two months of work on creating, painting, and installing barn quilts in Scandia and Marine on St. Croix, we led a tour of the barn quilts. We stopped in Marine on St. Croix and had lunch and listened to the story The Quiltmaker's Gift which the Washington County Barn Quilt Trail is based on.
June 25, 2015
Sophia gave a presentation one year about beekeeping. It was interesting to hear the stories from some of the seniors who had been beekeepers in their younger years.
June 26, 2015
The girls led a multi-session program about quilts in November and December 2015. They led different creative activities which was fun and challenging for the seniors.
December 29, 2015
Another type of volunteering the girls did was with children. In April 2016, the girls did a Healthy Living/Tooth Care program at Scandia Elementary School. Olivia did a presentation about the amount of sugar in different beverages. It was an eye-opener not only for her to see how much sugar is in different beverages, but all of the students.
April 11, 2016
During the same program, Sophia taught the Kindergartners how to prepare healthy snacks that supported healthy teeth.
April 11, 2016
In May 2016, we began volunteering at Feed My Starving Children. Sophia had packed food through a summer 4-H program in June 2015. However, this was the first time that both the girls had packed food together.
May 26, 2016
An ambitious project that Olivia did took two years to complete. The first year, she designed, created, and installed seven barn quilts. She oversaw 100+ volunteers who helped with building, painting, and installing the barn quilts.
In 2016, she did the second phase of the project which included making 11 more barn quilts.
June 15, 2016
The girls also were involved with a major environmental project: creating a 1.7 acre pollinator park in Scandia. They had worked on the project from August 2015 when they made a video presentation to the Parks and Recreation Committee, attended City Council meetings, and helped plan a community event.
At the event, Sophia did four presentations for groups of youth about bees and beekeeping.
June 17, 2016
Olivia help plant over 400 wildflower and native grass plants for a demonstration garden.
June 17, 2016
A project that we started at the nursing home was creating welcome baskets for those who are staying temporarily and/or living permanently at Christian Community Home. We shop for items for the baskets and combine them with things that the nursing home provides. The incoming residents receive a basket and welcome card on their first day at the nursing home.
The hope is that it lessens the stress of moving to a new place, provides a variety of items they may have forgotten, and gives them a sense of friendship as the other residents welcome them to CCHO.
July 6, 2016
In October 2016, the girls received several flats of additional wildflowers from Prairie Restorations. Rather than have the plants go to waste, Prairie Restorations donated them to the park, and the girls planted them.
October 12, 2016
In November 2016, we coordinated a One Stop Donation Drop that involved two 4-H clubs and the community. The event benefited over 20 non-profits locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. There was a lot of sorting and packaging of items to make sure that items were going to the right organization.
November 19, 2016
In 2017, Sophia led for the third year in a row, a Wildlife Project Bowl team through our 4-H club. She prepared 4th-8th grade youth for a regional and state competition by holding weekly practice sessions. The team also did fun hands-on activities to help them learn about wildlife.
January 26, 2017
In February 2017, we went back to Feed My Starving Children in Coon Rapids to pack more food for children experiencing severe hunger.
February 16, 2017
Sophia and I began volunteering in a different way at Northwoods Humane Society by becoming cat socializers. Spending time with the cats helped them get comfortable with people and prepare them to be adopted.
March 27, 2017
Sophia's Wildlife Project Bowl teams always did very well and earned trips to compete at the state level. She quizzed them on questions they may have during the competition in between each of the meets.
April 8, 2017
The welcome baskets were so popular and well-received that the girls helped the seniors created some more for incoming residents.
April 17, 2017
It was a good way for the seniors to do service work and help others.
April 17, 2017
One of the residents enjoys listening to Sophia play the piano after some of the events. She will stay and Sophia will play several songs...a kind of personal concert for her.
May 10, 2017
The girls continue to enjoy spending time with the dogs each month at Northwoods. The dogs seem to respond very well to listening to harp music.
June 9, 2017
During the summer, we volunteer in the malt wagon at the county fair. In exchange for two hours of volunteering, the girls receive half of their State Fair trip paid for which is a nice incentive.
July 21, 2017
They like that the malt wagon is nice and cool compared to the outdoors. They have fun making malts for customers.
July 21, 2017
From September-December 2017, Sophia took a Social Entrepreneurship PSEO course through Crown College. She created an organization and event in which she hosted a blood drive and created 30 bags for children with cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy.
December 3, 2017
We spent more time at Northwoods Humane Society in December.
December 8, 2017
In January 2018, Sophia helped the Scandia-Marine Lions with a service project at a membership event they held. She showed them how to tie fleece blankets that were donated to the Fire Station for people who experienced a house fire.
January 9, 2018
Later in the month, they volunteered to wash dishes at the Lions pancake breakfast.
January 27, 2018
In March 2018, Sophia held another One Stop Donation Drop + Blood Drive. Over 26 non-profit organizations were represented at the event - either by having people there and/or collections done for them.
Olivia taught people how to knit hats for newborns using circular looms. These will be donated to a local hospital.
March 3, 2018
Sophia donated blood at the event. She has done this as often as is possible (about every 60 days) since she turned 16 years old.
March 3, 2018
The girls also collected books at the event to create the first-ever library for 465 orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi, Africa.
March 3, 2018
They helped the seniors at the nursing home make more baskets for incoming residents. This time they did 20 baskets!
March 15, 2018
They are still making Shamrock Shakes at the nursing home.
March 16, 2018
It's become a tradition that we look forward to doing each year.
March 16, 2018
The girls packed food with Feed My Starving Children through the Lions District 5M-6 Day of Service.
March 27, 2018
Sophia donated platelets for the first time April 2018. We have to drive about 40 miles one way to go to the Red Cross where platelets can be collected and processed.
April 9, 2018
The girls participated in the Festival of Cultures at Forest Lake High School. They hosted a table about Malawi and shared information about the book drive they are doing to create a library in Malawi.
April 13, 2018
Sophia participated in another packing event for Feed My Starving Children.
April 21, 2018
The team packed over 20 boxes which represents over 4,300 meals!