My brother-in-law, Mike, is really into all things nature. There are random animal cages and tanks scattered about their house, weird things growing in pots on their kitchen windowsill, a chicken coup out back and wild mushrooms growing on logs on the side of the house. He even hosts #ShroomAtNoon and #InsectAtNoon on Instagram- search the hashtags and follow him at @glycine3 to see some really cool pictures!
What makes Mike even cooler is that he exposes my 3 nieces to nature every day. You can often find all 4 of them trekking through the woods, butterfly nets in hand, wading through creeks for tadpoles, turning over leaves for insect eggs. Here they are exploring the root system of an uprooted beech tree...
hunting for wild mushrooms...
and chillin' with some Polyphemus Moths!
One time, I was babysitting my then 4 year old niece, Annabelle, when she gave me a small seed looking thing that she found on the underside of one of the leaves from my herb garden. She told me it was a butterfly egg, and that I had to protect it. I checked with Jen and Mike to verify this, and she was, indeed, correct!
Recently, a hawk broke into their chicken coup and killed one of the chickens. My niece, Gabriella, rationalized the sad situation that might otherwise be earth shattering for a 10 year old by stating "Maybe the hawk needed to feed her own babies". These kids understand the circle of life! It's so cool!
Mike loves butterflies, and each year he collects Monarch butterfly eggs, hatches them, raises the butterflies, and hosts a big Butterfly Release Party in his front yard for all neighbors. He sets up a tent where everyone can view the butterflies and hold them, and then at the end, everyone gets a butterfly to release. It's beautiful!
I wasn't sure what to make for Mike's birthday, but luckily I came across the instructions to for a butterfly feeder on the zoosociety.or website- perfect! You can check out the full instructions in the pdf in that link and make one for yourself! It was super easy. I have a ton of random jars laying around. Everything I read about attracting butterflies says they are drawn to bright colors because they seek nectar from brightly colored flowers. I used colorful washi tape (my new obsession!) to decorate the outside of this jar.
Then I wound gold wire around the jar until I was able to hang it upside down. I just looped and curled the ends of the wire to add a fun decorative touch to the jar.
I didn't add the sugar water before I gave it to Mike, but the directions are to heat a solution of 1 part sugar to 10 parts water, then cool before adding it to your jar and hanging outside. Any more sugar than that ratio could pose a dehydration risk to the butterflies. Also, clean and refill the jar every few days so it doesn't get funky and moldy from the sugar.
Jennifer balances what Mike teaches the girls about science with what she teaches them about all things awesome and pop culture. Jen is the oldest of my 4 sisters, and she always had the best music. She's the reason I appreciate Madonna and Salt 'n Peppa, and why I know all the dance motions Rob Base's "Joy and Pain". She always has good music on in the car when she's driving her girls to soccer, gymnastics, girls scouts and karate. She makes sure they get floors seats to Taylor Swift and even works her swagger to meet Taylor's mom in the crowd! A few weeks ago, I gave a tutorial on how to do a letter painting for my other sister's "Yo, Yo, Yo, Yo Baby Pop" painting, so you can check out the instructions there. I wanted to make something equally fabulous for Jen, so I took another iconic line from Salt 'n Peppa for her painting.
Happy Birthday, Jen & Mike! Keep raising those girls with good science and good music!