Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Most exciting day ever!!!

Rosemary and I have been working hard on our butterfly garden this year. It started about a month ago when I purchased a homely looking milkweed plant at Ace Hardware (which was the only plant nursery opened on a Sunday that carried any milkweed at all- believe me- I made Joe drive all over town looking for one that was opened). They had recently cut it back and it only had a handful of leaves, so they gave me a discount and I figured I'd go ahead and give it a try. Rosemary and I planted it in a pot and placed it outside our screened in porch. To our surprise, a monarch butterfly responded and laid eggs on our sad looking mikweed plant! Once the egg started hatching, I brought the plant, along with the several tiny caterpillars, inside the porch to protect them from the wasps and other pests that like to eat them. After a couple weeks, there were no leaves left but there were a handful of hungry caterpillars that needed more food! I went to a local nursery and found some native milkweed- which looks nothing like what I had been buying and which can grow to be as a big as a tree. The owner of the nursery even took a huge caterpillar off another plant and let me take it home. It was the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen. I knew it wouldn't be long before it would be ready to pupate. The day after we got the new plant, I went to Petsmart and purchased a reptile terrarium to use as a butterfly hatchery. Unfortunately, by the time we got home to set up our little nursery, Mr. Big Caterpillar crawled off the milkweed never to be seen again. We knew it was his time and when the caterpillar senses it's time for him to metamorphose, it will crawl off the host plant and change into a pupa (chrysalis). I told Rosemary to be careful where she stepped and for the past two weeks, she has been warning me to be careful every time we step onto our porch. We searched high and low for the chrysalis, but never did find it. In the meantime, we did successfully nurture two caterpillars in our terrarium who did pupate. Today after I drop Rosemary off at school, I go out to check on the little pupas, and there on the screened-in porch, is who else but Mr. (or Mrs.) Butterfly!!!!! Our escapee was inside the porch the whole time!!!! And one of our pupas inside the terrarium was about to hatch! It was magical today inside our little old screened-in porch! Here are some pictures of our adventures in butterfly gardening:

Milkweed is the host plant for monarch butterflies. They will drink the nectar from the flowers and lay their eggs on the plant. Usually they lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves, but this little guy left his on the actual blossom. That little tiny dot in the middle of the red bud is a butterfly egg. They are very tiny, but once you know how to spot them, you will be amazed at how quickly you will notice them!


 Once the egg hatches, it becomes a teeny tiny little caterpillar. That teeny tiny little caterpillar eats his eggshell and munches through the leaf. You can see the hole bitten through this leaf right above the caterpillar. That's where his egg was. Now our little friend (Rosemary names all our caterpillars Bailey) will start his journey.


Here's a picture of another recently hatched caterpillar from our garden. You can kind of see how tiny they are in this picture by comparing it to my fingers. Trust me, I'm not a giant! They look so big compared to the caterpillar though!


While I was going around taking pictures of the caterpillars, Xander-man decided to play in my reserved soil. Nice, little man.


Here's another caterpillar, not so small. Actually, this picture was taken a couple weeks ago. This is the caterpillar that just hatched into a butterfly today! This was shortly before we put him in the terrarium.


Here he is after we put him in the terrarium. When the caterpillar is ready to pupate, he will either crawl off the host plant, or in this case, crawl to the top of the terrarium, spin a little web, hang from it in a "J" shape, and eventually pupate.

Here's the same caterpillar after metamorphosing into a pupa. He stayed this way for about two weeks.


Here's a second caterpillar in our terrarium in the "J" shape just before pupating (I hate that word. Pupate.) You can see our first pupa sticking out of the front of the top.


Here's the first one again. This was taken this morning. I noticed all the green color was gone, and I could see the color and shape of the wings inside the pupa so I knew it wouldn't be long before he hatched. 


And this picture was taken about an hour later. See the empty chrysalis?! SOOOOO COOL!!!!!


And here's Bailey! But, what's that in the background, attached to the white part of our porch??? Another butterfly! Yes, that would be our escapee!!! Two butterflies in one day!!!!

Here's another closer shot of the escapee (look by the mulch- he's inside the porch.)


And an even closer picture.


I waited for Rosemary to get home from school today before releasing either of them. She was so excited to see the new butterflies!


After our escapees wings dried (you need to wait a while before releasing them or they won't be able to survive), I gently coerced her outside using Xander's toy butterfly net. She hung out on the screen door for a few hours before she eventually flew away. It was an AMAZING journey!!!! I hope she'll come back and lay some eggs in our garden so we can continue her legacy. But I have a feeling she's halfway to Mexico by now!


Our second hatchee of the day was still drying those wings by the time the sun went down so I stuck some food in there for her and we'll check on her in the morning. I'm sure she'll be ready to fly by then! I love how she grabbed onto the stick I put in there!

I like to think I'm teaching Rosemary some valuable life lessons about humans and nature, but really I'm way more into it than she is! She loves it and talks about it and knows all the life stages of the caterpillar (although we keep debating the whole cocoon vs. chrysalis thing. And believe me, that 4 year old can debate!) but I was like a giddy little kid when I saw those butterflies today! I don't think I've been that excited about anything in months!  I can't wait to release the next one. We should have a third in the next couple days because our other pupa in the terrarium was only a day or two behind. And we have one caterpillar that will be ready to pupate soon, and lots of new babies to keep it company! I hope some swallowtails find my parsley so we can see another type of butterfly emerge but so far only the monarch has discovered our little garden.
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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Xander man gets a day at the farm


Is it me or did something change in blogland? Hmmm... Things looks funny. I hope this post goes through!

On Friday while Rosemary was in school I decided to take Xander to Horsepower for Kids. We've been several times with Rosemary, and even Xander, though he was too little to enjoy it much. I was pleasantly surprised at all the changes they've made since last time we were there! Tons of new animals, ponds, etc. There were even baby piglets less than a week old that I was very tempted to stick in my pocket! I didn't get many pictures because my phone camera kind of sucks, but I got this cute one of Xander meeting this horse. He loved this horse! You can't tell in the picture, but it only has one eye. Xander kept coming back to it. Some of the other highlights of the day were Xander getting chased and almost attacked by a turkey (I later realized it was trying to protect it's babies and what mother can't understand that?!), watching a camel get a haircut, taking a train ride around the farm, and feeding a camel! Yes, feeding a camel! That was COOL! Oh, and he petted a snake! It was an AWESOME day for my little man! He was pretty shocked when we got there. We normally take it easy, clean, run errands, or at most go to the playground or an in-home playdate while Rosemary is in school so I think he was surprised that I actually took him somewhere fun all by himself (well, we did meet some friends there but I mean no Rosemary)! I wish I had pictures of all the cool stuff he did, but I think this picture pretty much show how much fun he had. He had no fear of the animals. I had to keep him from crawling into the tortoise enclosure a few times and I almost had a heart attack when he started climbing the bars in front of the stall of a horse marked "HE BITES."  He also walked right up to a peacock in full show-off mode. I HIGHLY recommend a day at Horsepower! When he's a little older I"ll take him back for the pony rides but he had enough fun just playing on the farm!
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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mommy and Rosemary date

This past week has been challenging in many ways. I had minor surgery - a cyst removed from my neck- and had been battling a sinus infection. Xander caught an upper respiratory infection and double ear infection, his second in the past couple months, which brought us to after hours at his pediatrician (my brain can't help but mentally add up all the health care costs associated with this poor little guy so far this year who seems to be battling one cold or ear infection after another.) Unfortunately, because of his illness, he was forced to miss our annual Easter Egg hunt with my first playgroup that I've been with since Rosemary only 2 months old. Fortunately, it ended up giving Rosemary and I a perfect excuse to have a day celebrating just the two of us! Also, since it's really what I consider "her" playgroup (I'm in two) it was nice just having her with me to spend the morning with her little friends. I didn't get any pictures of the actual egg hunt (another technological disaster occured- I dropped my phone and cracked the screen so I am limited in the use of it until it gets repaired) but she loved it. She also experienced her first tummy ache from too much candy! She just couldn't resist tearing into the chocolate candies hidden inside her Easter eggs, and for the first time, I just let her. Every kid deserves to experience a sugar coma once in her life and I'm pretty sure she won't do it again :)

I surprised her after the Easter egg hunt and took her to the zoo! We started on the roller coaster (again, no picture) and then found some lunch. She wanted a corn dog, and all they had were footlongs. Would you believe she ate the WHOLE thing? She did. I'm not kidding. You should see this girl eat. When she likes something, there's no stopping her. I was able to get a few pictures of our day with my pitiful phone and here's one I couldn't resist!

As we were eating lunch, the clouds started moving in and the rain started. We found a little shelter and hid under there for a while, allowing Rosemary to take her time and finish up for footlong corn dog and tear into a bag of chips :) [A note about her shoes: The silver flip flops she wore to the zoo fell apart as we were walking in so the first thing we did was hit up the zoo gift shop looking for a new pair. We ended up finding a pair that fit her. But they weren't her usual size. In fact, they weren't in the usual section. She wears some where between a 10.5 and 12 T. These are a size 1. No "T." It broke my heart a little that I had to buy her shoes from the big kid section.]

I took this time to snap a picture of the two of us, just to document our special day together.

After the rain stopped, we headed over to feed some fish, see the horses, feed some goats, explore the petting zoo, and then headed over to visit the Florida habitat where we saw a panther and the highlight of our day, the manatees! Rosemary loved the manatees and asked me to read the sign to her repeatedly. I noticed a gift shop nearby so we headed in there and I bought her a book about manatees to bring home. I love nourishing these curiosities she has and don't mind spoiling her mind and am thankful it was a book she wanted and not the giant stuffed manatee that we have no room for :) We've been to the zoo many times so we didn't rush around to see all the animals. After visiting the manatees, we slowed down and road the carousel. She found a manatee to ride on :)

Then we headed to the fountains for some splash time before heading home.

Though we hadn't planned this day far in advance, it was so special. The last time we had a special day like this was when I took her to the tea room and that was a long time ago. I noticed this week that she is growing more and more into a little lady and our relationship is changing. She is becoming more independent. I started to miss her. There were a couple days this week when she started feeling a little under the weather, though it didn't progress into anything like what Xander has. She was just run down enough to be extra cuddly. There was one morning this past week where the two of us just cuddled on the couch after breakfast. I played with her hair, kissed her cheeks, and just absorbed her. I miss having those tender moments. While I am sad that Xander is sick, I am thankful that it allowed Rosemary and I to have a day just the two of us. We need to make a conscious effort to do this more often. Both of us benefited from it. She is a delightful little person. She's smart (she asks such good questions and makes connections that are far beyond what I would expect out of a four year old), witty (she definitely has a sarcastic wit about her), funny (she cracks silly jokes about the most random things), caring (she mentioned things Xander would like at the zoo several times), and gorgeous. I wish I had Joe's camera skills so I could have shown off how amazing she is. She's not my baby anymore. She's this perfect little person. I'm beginning to see some positive things coming out of her headstrongness. While still challenging, I am seeing it is her way of learning about and interacting with the world. She takes power when she needs it. I admire her. I can't wait for our next mommy/daughter date.