Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Consider the Monarchs

We are studying monarch butterflies in our nature journaling classes this week. Their incredible life cycle and migration story are captivating and awe-inspiring. These delicate creatures of beauty, seemingly so vulnerable, will soon make a 2,500 mile migration journey to spend the winter in Mexico. It might take them almost 2 months to get to Mexico, traveling 50-100 miles a day and as high up as 11,000 feet. But they will find their way to the very same tree their great-great-grandparents roosted in last year!

Understanding the monarch generations opens up a whole new appreciation for what is happening right now. There are four generations of monarch butterflies that hatch each summer. The first generation, the children of the Mexican migration, hatch in April/May on the first shoots of milkweed that appear in spring. Those butterflies will live only 2-6 weeks and lay their eggs for the second generation. The generations continue over the course of the summer until September and October (right now!!).

The butterflies that are hatching right now won't die after 2-6 weeks. They are going to live 6-8 months! It will be this fourth generation that takes flight sometime soon and heads south for the winter.

I have two chrysalises hanging in my kitchen right now -- I watched their mother lay them, as eggs, on the milkweed out front. She was probably from the third generation and will never see Mexico. Her life may not be as full of adventure but her life is crucial to the unbroken link of generations. Her eggs hatched, the caterpillars grew (2,700 times their original size) and now the fourth generation is preparing to hatch and fulfill its destiny.

 Did you know it's easy to tell a male and female monarch apart? Google a picture -- the male has prominent black spots on it's hind wings. I can't wait to see if we have males or females in our chrysalises.

It's taken four years of waiting to find these first monarch caterpillars on my milkweed plants. Next year I plan to add butterfly weed and swamp milkweed to my garden in hopes of attracting more monarchs. The presence, and proliferation, of monarchs is a good indication of how other pollinators in the area are doing -- low numbers of monarchs doesn't bode well for pollination in general.

The life of the monarch brings the great theological topic of God's providence right down into practical gardening terms -- God's providence is his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions. Think about every variable in the monarch yearly cycle and how vulnerable the butterflies are. Yet God provides for this cycle to continue year after year, putting that instinct into the 4th generation to fly to Mexico. If God cares for the seemingly insignificant butterflies how much more is he caring for you and me?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

“God is not a deceiver, 
that He should offer to support us, 
and then, when we lean upon Him, 
should slip away from us.” 

-- Augustine

Friday, September 8, 2017

August Review

Our school year started the last day of July so August was our month to get back to school. Of course it was still summer! So we had to fit in all the normal summer stuff too like the pool, the State Fair, and visits from friends.

Here we have our 8th, 6th, and 2nd graders:

August is the busiest month for high school golf. This is Rachel's last year to play before she heads off to college. I'm going to miss this sport! I've promised myself that within ten years I'm going to find a way to learn to play. Andrew is playing soccer again for Covenant this year (no picture yet).

I think this might have been our fifth year at the  Zionsville Plein Air Paint Out! YAY!

Grandma was there too and we all had a wonderful day! The boys even won prizes!

The State Fair is something we all look forward to! This year we had friends come visit from out of state so they could join us at the fair. We made sure to go two days.

 Yay for cooler weather at the fair! It makes all the difference!

The kids all tried their hands at fishing at the fair and each caught a fish!

I think they might like to do this more often....

 The Pioneer Village is always a favorite place and my mouth was watering walking by the dining room just as the ladies served up a full farm lunch.

 Our whole visit to the fair is one long string of tradition after tradition. Candy sticks are a must.

I love this quilt pattern. I used to have antique quilts like this when I was a child.

We all loved the cows. America has far fewer cows now than we had 60 years ago, but the cows we have produce FAR greater amounts of milk. It's interesting to hear all the statistics and think how agriculture has changed.

Laura is the only child young enough for "Little Hands on the Farm."

Here are the animals that built the west. Impressive beasts!

Our state fair has a new "ride"! Our friends treated us all to a turn on it and we loved it! The best way to see the fair!

The bunny and chicken barn is so fun.

Especially the amazing-haired chickens. I think I'd like this for a costume party.

 The canned food displays are always fun but this year there was no question which was my favorite!!!

Once we'd exhausted the fair it was time to introduce my friends to Goodwill Outlet! They loved it just as much as we do!

And then we spent a few mornings at Eagle Creek and eventually discovered some monarch caterpillars!

Cousin Olivia is growing all the time! She's so sweet!

James and I had the chance to receive an oil painting lesson from a friend. We both thoroughly enjoyed it!

I spent many hours in August prepping for my art classes which I've started up this fall. Lots and lots of nature journaling kits were made and ideas put down on paper.

And of course we had our Great American Eclipse experience.

And then it was time to settle back into a regular routine of school and get used to the fact that summer is drawing to an end.

Meanwhile, we are enjoying hatching monarch butterflies.

With the first of September the weather has taken a decided turn for fall. And now the weekend is ahead, and we are all waiting news of the hurricane and praying for those in its path.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world 
the master calls a butterfly."

-- Richard Bach

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Asia: Singapore Wedding

It was such a treat to be invited to a wedding while we were in Singapore! I couldn't wait to experience a wedding in Asia and see how it differed from celebrations here, or how it was the same.

The wedding was held in a very large church, similar to what we would have here in America. A photo montage was played which included engagement photos and "wedding" photos taken before the wedding day.

The wedding ceremony was almost identical to the ones we attend here in the States -- music, prayers, "sermonette," Bible readings, etc. Two main differences were the signing of the marriage license as part of the ceremony and the couple's speech of thanksgiving afterward, expressing gratefulness to their parents and other members of the wedding party.

Here's a glimpse of the bridesmaids and their lovely dresses and flowers:

Wedding photos are definitely just as important, if not more so, in Asia as they are here!

 After the wedding there was a lunch reception held outside the church. We were treated to all kinds of delicious foods: sushi, appetizers, soup, entrĂ©es, and desserts.

The most popular dessert was the "burger cream" -- white bread wrapped around a block of vanilla ice-cream. This was a totally new idea for us.

Many of the families who had been at the conference with us all week were also at the wedding -- another chance to interact and deepen relationships.

Here we are with the bride and groom. They've known each other since high school and have waited a long time for this special day! They are both doctors now and looking forward to their life together.

One of the sweet little girls from the church.

The wedding car is even decorated just like we decorate ours:

After lunch it was time for all but the immediate family to say goodbye until the evening. The immediate family went off for a formal tea ceremony while we headed home for a rest and a quick stop at the mall for some groceries. While at the mall I spotted this poster:

 Apparently "burger creams" really are all the rage.

After our rest we headed out again to the evening wedding dinner. It was to be a traditional 9 course Chinese dinner. Yes, this was definitely different than our regular American wedding experiences.

Here is our table all set for the meal -- notice the lazy susan in the middle of the table, making it easy for everyone to share.
Here is the menu letting us know what would be coming our way:

Meanwhile we had a lovely time at our table with the senior pastor (also the bride's uncle), his wife, several other relatives of the bride from church, and a few other international visitors who had been with us at the conference.

The evening was directed by two emcees, just like we would have here in the State. The bride and groom cut cake at one point, and poured champagne into a tower of glasses at another. We were also treated to a dry ice show as the bride and groom made their entrance to the dinner. Best of all, there was a bubble machine that sent bubbles flying all around as the couple poured the champagne.

 And now for the food -- which was delivered to each table on one platter to be shared by all. It was amazing to be able to try all these traditional foods!

1. Sucking Pig and Lobster Cold Dish Combination
This included cuttle fish, pork, fish cakes, lobster salad, jellyfish, and a seafood pasta salad.

2. Shark fin soup -- it tasted a bit like New England Clam Chowder to me.

3. Roasted Crispy Chicken -- head included.

4. Fried scallop with asparagus -- I do love scallops!!!

5. Steamed Red Garoupa -- this fish was delicious! Must have been very fresh.

6. Fried Live Prawn with Cereal

7. Braised Whole Abalone with Spinach -- abalone is a type of snail.

8. Fried Rice in Lotus Leaf.

9. Mango with Pomelo -- oh this was so delicious! A chilled mango soup with little balls of tapioca-like substance and threads of pomelo (citrus).

The bride and groom visited each table and had a photo taken. As you may notice, half way through the evening the bride changed into a different fancy gown -- midnight blue with silver. 

The evening ended with a receiving line as we all exited the ballroom.

By that time we were all ready for bed! What a beautiful and wonderful experience it was and such a lovely bride and groom. We felt very honored to be included in their special day. May God bless their marriage!