Not the Cake Boss

Back in May, the Cub Scouts had their Blue and Gold Banquet.  This is the only pack to which we’ve belonged that did it so late, but whatever.  It worked.

There was a cake auction.  I have never seen that done before either, but whatever.  I am not talented in the cake decorating department.  Not at all.  I keep trying, and my creations taste yummy…and my family appreciates my efforts…but, I will not be winning prizes any time soon.

So, what to do about a cake for the auction?  I finally came up with a camping scene, and 6 cake ball Cub Scouts sitting around a cake ball campfire roasting marshmallows.

And I took pictures, because I have to remember this.  It will definitely make me laugh in years to come.  And perhaps someone, like me, is googling “Cub Scout cake decorating ideas” and they will see this and be inspired to make something slightly more sophisticated.  If you do, please send me pics.  I’m not the envious type.

My kids called this the Chinese albino Scout.

My girls took toothpicks and real marshmallows and made the roasting sticks.  It would have been better with mini marshmallows, but I had reached the stage in a project where going to the store for one.more.thing. just was not an option, so they broke a big marshmallow into small pieces.

These are all Wolf Scouts, obviously, since that yellow frosting is supposed to be their neckerchief.

Room for improvement, but the kids liked it.

Butterfly Photos and Update

Unsurprisingly, not a single butterfly emerged from those knocked down chrysalises.  And the big caterpillar on the milkweed plant stopped eating, formed a J-shape and started to make his chrysalis, but stopped halfway.  It was so weird.  As if he could not continue surrounded by so much death.

This photo shows three stages of life all at once.  On the far right is a chrysalis.  On the far left is a newly emerged butterfly with still-wet wings.  In between is a caterpillar in a J-shape getting ready to form its chrysalis.  Also in between is one of those mud dauber homes.

If you look closely at the underside of the leaf in the center, you will see two eggs.  The butterfly lays them one at a time, usually on the underside of a leaf, but also on any part of the plant that is exposed.

This is the side of my house where our plants, caterpillars, and chrysalises were minding their own business on that fateful day.

This photo shows a milkweed plant which has been completely defoliated by caterpillars.  God knew what he was doing, because even from these nubs, more leaves have sprouted, just in time for the next generation.

A monarch caterpillar.  The leaf with the two eggs is right above it.

A few days ago I saw more eggs on the milkweed, and I spotted another butterfly as well.  Somehow, one more caterpillar appeared on the milkweed I brought into the lanai, and he’s eating away.  I need to remove the dead bodies from the area just in case that contributed to the other’s demise.  Growing up around dead bodies would depress me.

Hopefully I’ll get some shots of butterflies laying eggs.

Life and Death

There were two men at my front door.  One was my usual exterminator; the other introduced himself as being “in training.”  And off they went to discourage outside life from coming inside.

Some of the kids were in the back waiting for the swimming teacher.  Not too long after the men started working, Peter came flying into the house to report that they had knocked down the monarch butterfly chrysalides (or chrysalises – both plural forms are acceptable).  He, and all my children, were in shock, traumatized.  You may as well have shot the dog.  One child called them “evil.”  Another asked why they would do such a thing.

The men caught on quickly that the children were upset and apologized, saying they had no idea.  It was the “in training” guy who was the primary culprit, and there were mud dauber homes between the butterflies, which I had known about but had decided would just have to stay until the butterflies were done.  I knew their actions were ignorance, not malice.  The children were less understanding.

The children found 3 chrysalides.  I moved one milkweed plant with a big fat caterpillar on it to the inside of our lanai (fancy term for a screened porch), and we placed the chrysalides there as well.  The exterminator men were very hopeful that all would be fine…but since they couldn’t even identify a chrysalis to begin with, I have my doubts that their reassurances are anything more than hot air.

But it’s really ok.  These are the third set of butterflies we’ve raised.  A kind friend gave us about 6 caterpillars back in February, I believe.  We have witnessed the metamorphosis from larva to pupa to adult.  We set those butterfly free, and several weeks later, we found our milkweed plants crawling with caterpillars.  We have watched a butterfly lay her eggs, and we have looked closely and found teeny, freshly-hatched caterpillars.  We have watched caterpillars get bigger and bigger, seemingly before our eyes.  We have seen just how much poop a hoard of caterpillars can generate.  We have watched them leave the milkweed plant, crawl away, and bend their body into a J-shape after they found a suitable place to nap.  We have watched them squirm into a chrysalis and then get very still.  We have watched the chrysalis change color and suddenly, the moment we turn our back, we have seen a brand-new butterfly, drying its wings, and we have watched that butterfly take its first flight.  We have seen dead butterflies, one missing its thorax.

I have taught about the life cycle of butterflies over and over, but those lessons can not remotely compare to how much my children have learned in the last few months.  Mary knows the vocabulary – from chrysalis to thorax.  It’s amazing what even a dead, maimed butterfly can teach.  We can identify caterpillar eggs on a plant.  We know when it’s just about time for the next stage, and we know how incredibly quickly the insect transforms.  We know if you have the only milkweed plants in the neighborhood, you will have more caterpillars than a half dozen plants can support.

Perhaps if these butterflies don’t make it, it is for the best anyway.  I don’t know that the milkweed will bounce back.  Even though the plants are not expensive, there is still a limit.

I have pictures, but I can’t get them off my camera right now.  I hope to update this post once I find the missing cord!

Summer Schedule

The local public and most private schools ended last Friday.  Reitemeyer school?  We still have some lingering assignments.  I found that the Steak n Shake offers half priced milkshakes weekdays from 2-4 pm.  I’ve promised a treat to everybody once EVERYBODY has finished all assignments.  SOMEBODY doesn’t want to write a history paper.  He just may get lynched.

So we’re in a transitional week.  Fritz just has to read.  I let him off a few writing assignments, but not the reading.  I’m learning all sorts of things about WWII, things I already know, but he has to teach me about them anyway.  We watched Twelve O’Clock High about WWII bombers (great movie) starring Gregory Peck.  Next, we’re going to watch The Scarlet and the Black, also starring Gregory Peck. I watched this a few years ago and loved it.

I have a stack of grading to do.  And end-of-year report cards.  We already did our CAT tests and got the results back.  Improvements over last year, and nobody bombed anything except spelling.  I have completely failed to teach my children how to spell.  Any suggestions?

Billy has one math test, one history paper, and some other reading to do.  Boy Scout camp is in ten days, and it would be an awful shame if he couldn’t go (see angry lynch mob comment above).

Everybody else is in summer school mode: math facts, phonics and/or dreaded spelling and/or reading.  Typing.  I need to set that up.  Just enough work to make them not ever say, “I’m bored,” because my response will be to do math drills.

New this summer is trying to establish a regular routine for life.  Looking ahead to next school year, I have realized that cleaning the house on Fridays (this year’s routine) won’t be possible.  I have caught myself running errands every single day and/or relying heavily on my husband to stop by the store on his way home from work.  We rarely go to the library, and we never ever ever go anywhere fun.  Ever.

So, despite children who are doing light schoolwork, I’ve tried this week to begin a new routine.

Mondays, I determined, are to be library and errand day.  How did that go this week?  Well, we actually went to the library on Saturday for the first time in a long time, so I felt we could skip this one.  Fine.  Then, I headed out in the morning to my favorite produce stand.  Open every day…except Mondays.  Ugh.  It’s tough to face failure before lunchtime on Day One of My New Life.

Tuesdays are to be cooking/baking day.  First project: boxed brownies.  Simple enough, right?  Except my not yet 10 yo, whose praises I was singing on FB recently for making pancakes all by herself, decided to tackle brownies without supervision (and without permission.  “Get out the ingredients,” I said).  Instead of 1/3 cup of water, she added 1 and 1/3 cups of water.  What are you supposed to do with that?  I finally decided to put the chocolatey goop in a zip lock bag in the freezer until next errand day, when I will buy three boxes of the exact same brownie mix (probably not BOGO like this one surely was) and then we will make a huge batch of brownies.

We did successfully make 2 types of cookies and one loaf of bread in the bread maker.  But then Katie put everything in the bread maker for a second loaf, and out came a not-well-mixed brick.  Perhaps the paddles were not properly seated.  So, no brownies and we’re down a loaf of bread.

Today is Clean the House Day.  And since we skipped last Friday’s clean the house day in anticipation of its new time slot, the house really needs to be cleaned; so we really can’t fail this one.  Not optional.

Thursdays will eventually be Field Trip Day.  I just read an article on how kids would much rather just play than go on day trips.  Lovely article.  All about how parents feel guilty about making their children entertain themselves or who can’t abide listening to their children whine about being bored, so they plan all these trips when kids really just want to drink from the garden hose and build forts in the living room.  Absolutely does not apply to homeschoolers who never ever ever go anywhere fun.  Ever.  Besides, if Clean the House Day is successful, I do not want to see yet another fort in my living room for 24 hours, and the only way to avoid this is to simply not be at home.

This week, field trip day will be Help Set up for VBS Day, and next week, it will be VBS.  The following week, it will just be Peter, Mary and George, and I have no idea what one does for fun with only little children.  It’s been a long time.  Besides, who will take them to the bathroom (besides me)?  Who will chase the baby (besides me)?  Who will fetch diapers left in the car (besides me)?  Who will entertain the fussy baby while driving (besides me)?

For that matter, who is going to participate in that week’s Clean the House Day (besides me)?

Maybe that week, we will just drink from the garden hose and build forts in the living room.  After that, though, I do intend to go somewhere fun on Thursdays, just so I can remind my kids that we do too sometimes do fun things.  Perhaps I should also do some blog posts, particularly ones about our recent day at Busch Gardens, and our day in February to Legoland.  But then again, who wants to dispel myth with fact?

The kids asked me what Fridays were going to be.  Personally, I vote for Sit by the Pool and Drink Margaritas Day.  Local friends who care to partake can feel free to stop by.