Reflecting on Parade Day: Is There Something Wrong With Us?

Reflecting on Parade Day: Is There Something Wrong With Us?

This weekend is the summer festival weekend, A.K.A. Kornfest, for our town! There are carnival rides, a car show, bands in the beer tent, fireworks, funnel cakes, a fun run, a lengthy parade, and now a craft show.  Over the eighteen years we have lived here, the festivities have grown. It is a large, anticipated, end of summer event that draws members from other communities to ours.

The parade is a popular event, and seems to be growing in its attendance. This was evidenced last night by the number of people who “reserved” their “spot” on the curb, hours (a day actually for some) before the parade commenced today at 11 a.m..

For years, many years, we had family members in either the middle school or high school marching bands. This meant navigating the streets before they were closed to reach the band/parade entry line up spot in a residential area of our town. After several years, I learned the trick of navigation, knowing which streets to go down and which to avoid. It became a usual course of action on Kornfest parade morning that always bore frustration but was soon forgotten as we watched our students perform their newly learned music for the marching season.

We do not have any students in the bands any longer. While they were part of band in middle school, I could not convince my youngest two boys to try high school band. It disappointed me at the time, but I am okay with it now. Afterall, they are the student, not me. While I still know many band students/families, it makes it more difficult to focus on the musicians during the parade when none of them belong to me.  Basically,  I realized that the meaning of attending the parade had changed for our family.  I noted this last year, when we attended the parade  for the first time without a student obligated to march with their school group.


Last year, parade morning fell on a day off for my husband. My college senior, our avid musician, was home and we all attended. It felt weird. Maybe it was a sense of longing for something we do not have any longer, a band student. Still, I am not sure that is it. We no longer have small children, those that revel in the candy being thrown and the fire engine’s horn being blown. In general, we do not like crowds or misbehavior,  both of which can be seen during any parade, not just our’s.  In any case, time moves forward, children grow, change and develop their own affinity for school related activities.  We have transitioned from a “band/theater family” to a “soccer/tennis/track family.” Responsibilities for parents, and even students, remain much the same whether you are involved in music or sports.  Both are obligations. Both groups have demands and benefits. Both need community support.  Both have their frustrations and their joys.

This past week my youngest had soccer tryouts. He made the varsity team for the second year in a row! He works hard at this sport.  It constituted arriving on the pitch every morning  (Monday – Saturday) this past week by 6:45 a.m. for training camp, and being picked up between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m.. Two nights, he had to return for more drills from from 6:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. and last night he was gone from 4:30 p.m. to after 8 p.m. to play against high school alumni. Minimum there was 25.5 hours of practice if you stick to the times on the practice schedule and did not count the days that ran slightly over. It’s a lot of time. Truly, I did not really realize the amount of time atheletes spend perfecting their skills and team-work, until I had one. It is akin to a musician practicing their instrument and playing with the band. Hours upon hours of hard work – for both groups!

We did not go to the parade today. Does that mean something is wrong with us? I say no. For those of you saying, “but you did not support the community.” I say, you are wrong. We support our local community in so many other ways – ways that also count.

But, today my husband had to work. My oldest is back at college as school starts on Monday. My 17-year-old also had to work. And, my soccer player is tired.  I still had to navigate the soon to be closed roads, but not to get a student to the band line up spot, now it was to get a student to the soccer field.  He mentioned the parade, I said I would go. After all, we have gone to it for over ten years, faithfully.  That was yesterday. Neither one of us brought it up today. It is okay. Times change. We change. The parade goes on. It will continue to go on whether we are there or not.

Entitled: Not Just the Young

Entitled: Not Just the Young

It is the end of summer. This means running around for school clothes and classroom supplies. Over the years, I have found it easier to just take my boys on separate days. So, yesterday I finished up by taking my 17-year-old out for his turn.

We spent a couple of hours in places like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Kohl’s Department Store. Following innumerable sessions of trying on shirts and shorts at Dick’s and then, pants at Kohl’s, we were ready for lunch. It was late – about one o’clock in the afternoon. The parking lot of our local, preferred burger joint, Culver’s, was not too crowded, so we headed inside for some sustenance.

Upon entering, an elderly couple had just moved up to the register to order, and another more-middle aged couple were already ordering at the second register. There are two more registers but they were currently unattended by employees, signifying that they were not “open”.

Another family had entered the restaurant behind us. They consisted of two children under age five and the parents. The parents were probably in their early 30’s. Without trying to listen, we heard the little girl tell her mom that they should go to the register to the left because the line was shorter. Her mom responded, after several ignored attempts by the girl to move her family, that they were in “the line” and they had to wait their turn. Nice! I liked what we heard.  The girl tried one more time after the mother’s initial response because the lines were just not moving. I believe there were some issues with the customers being able to hear the employee and the employee needing to excuse herself to make an ice cream cone – as this happens at Culver’s.  Not a problem.

More and more people came in and the line extended to close to the doors. Still, just two registers were open for ordering. Asking to move again, the girl got the same response from her mom as she did the first time, so she became compliant and quiet.

That is when it happened! Two elderly women, probably in their mid 70’s came in and clearly saw there were about ten people, or four “families” including us, next in line. One loudly stated, “well this line is short” while briskly heading past all of us who had been patiently waiting for our turn, to the far left register!

The mom behind us muttered, “Oh, dear!”

I turned to her and said, “Yeah, that is just great, isn’t it? And here you are trying to teach your children to be patient and wait in line for their turn.”

Then, the third register opened with the employee calling, “I can help the next person.”  The two elderly women who had just walked in the restaurant, past all ten of us waiting, moved from behind the couple at the second register, to the newly opened third register and placed their order! This happened before any of us waiting in line had moved!

Wow! You know, there is a lot said these days about young people being entitled. Today, we observed that this is a problem not reserved only for the younger generation. These two elderly ladies totally disregarded proper social etiquette about lines in a public place. There was no way they could have misunderstood that all of us were waiting our turn!

The little girl was shown what not to do. Her mom was disappointed at this show of disrespect and entitlement, as we all probably were.  Over lunch, my son and I had a conversation about the behavior. He told me that he fights the perception daily, that it is the young who are entitled. He is conscious of not acting in such a way – conscious at work, at school, and even at the leadership camp he attended this summer,  You do not get to disregard others.

Yes, the “me first” attitude belongs to more than just the young in our American society today.  I have seen it recently when traveling, when shopping, and now when trying to order a simple lunch at a popular restaurant.  It needs to stop. You need to wait your turn. It doesn’t matter whether you are four or seventy-four, just wait in line with the rest of us.

Monarch Count

Monarch Count

During the last week, I have resumed care of my monarchs in very stages of their life cycle. Right now, I have the following:

  • 8 Chyrsalises
  • 4 Larvae in J hooks
  • 4 Larvae in the earliest instar stages
  • 2 eggs
© Carol Labuzzetta, Can you see them? Two Eggs (upper right corner & right mid-page)                and two tiny larvae, Summer 2017.
two very early larva 2017
© Carol Labuzzetta, Two tiny larva, up close, 2017.

What is unusual about this year, besides getting a very late start to finding monarch caterpillars on my milkweed is that all but three of those that are being raised have been done so from finding eggs! I have never had so much success with finding and raising monarch butterflies from the egg stage. Usually, I find fairly large caterpillars (instars 2-4) on my milkweed.  All of the eggs have been found on my common milkweed plants and all but two have been on the underside of the leaves. Two eggs were laid right on the top of the leaves.

I do not know if, after many years of raising monarchs, I am just better at recognizing the eggs, or it has just been luck. I do think I have been more patient this year when I have looked in my garden patch for caterpillars.  Since I was not finding any, until about a month ago, I really started inspecting the leaves throughly just hoping to find a sign monarchs had visited the habitat we have made for them in our yard.

Apprehensive would be the best way to describe finding all these eggs! You might recall from an earlier blog post that I left on vacation just days after finding ten monarch eggs. The caterpillars started to emerge when I was gone and I came home to ten, fast growing, healthy larvae.

Since I want to tag the monarchs I raised, I ordered tracking tags from Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. This will be the third year that I have tagged the butterflies before their migration.  You can purchase 25 tags for $15.00 plus shipping/handling, right off their website.  The tags are on their way, having been shipped a couple of days ago.

tiny larva2017
© Carol Labuzzetta, Darkening Stripes, Monarch Caterpillar, 2017. 

From experience, I know that it takes 10-14 days for the butterflies to emerge from their chrysali. Hopefully, the tags will be here by then. I have continued to observe and collect more monarch eggs and caterpillars. With the exception of the three larger caterpillars I found on my swamp milkweed, I am finding only eggs or very tiny, just emerged, caterpillars.  Daily, fresh milkweed has been provided, a count has been made, and the containers (3) cleaned.

two chrysali and two larvae
© Carol Labuzzetta – Two  Monarch Caterpillars, Two Monarch Chrysalises, Summer 2017.

Always a satisfying experience, I often think about my garden club students when I am tending the monarchs during the summer. The Monarch Life Cycle was a student favorite, being requested year after year as one of our unit topics. At the beginning of each school year,  I had the luxury of surveying students about what they wanted to study during our meetings. The three topics with the most votes were added to my theme/unit plans for the year. I strongly feel, when possible,  we need to give students a voice. I can attest that this increases student engagement and depth of learning. Situations that are ideal for this are project based learning, such as National History Day selections, Science Fair projects, or Place Based Learning on local culture, customs, flora, and fauna. Talented and gifted (TAG)  students also greatly benefit from being asked what they want to learn more about. Forcing subject matter down the throat of any student, but especially the gifted, can have immediate and lasting negative effects.


No, studying the monarch life cycle, their current habitat plight, and miraculous metamorphosis was not everyone’s preference. However, since the students could select more than one topic of study, hopefully most students eventually got to learn about something that mattered to them, be it earthworms, cacti, succulents, corn, carnivorous plants, pumpkins, or something else. We explored many different topics over 13 years, but none were as requested, enriching, or satisfying as our experience with monarchs, the butterfly garden, and citizen science projects having to do with this incredible creature.


Winding Down: The End of Summer is Here

Winding Down: The End of Summer is Here

Some areas across the nation have already started back to school! I know this from listening to the news, reading social media, belonging to a teacher blog-writing community, and talking with friends.  Here, in the upper mid-west, our summer is not quite over, but it is close.  Most districts have two to three more weeks until students arrive back at their desks, ready to learn.

As the years go by, summer seems to go faster and faster! This summer was no exception. Although probably busier than most summers we have had, I feel a sense of accomplishment as this one comes to a close. My husband and I took our very first, week-long trip alone, since our honeymoon – thirty years ago!  Our sons have kept busy – the youngest finishing up an online course, which he has diligently spent 2-3 hours on a day since the Monday after school got out – even he said he feels tuned up for his first AP class experience that will start in September!  The traveling soccer league he belonged to is over and done with for the season and perhaps for good for us. It was exhausting  and not truly necessary to be driving two and a half hours to a large city to compete against teams than might not be more skilled but were definitely more cohesive than ours.  But, just as that ended, the high school team started having captain’s practices and contact days with the coaches. We are in the middle of “training camp” which has constituted 9 hours already just between Monday and Tuesday this week. By the end of today, another 5 and a half hours on the pitch will be completed. Between the mental demands from the online class and the physical demands of the soccer, our fifteen year old needed a three-hour nap yesterday for the first time in years!  It almost felt as if he were two again, with all of us checking on him periodically!

College visits have been underway. It just makes sense to use the time over the summer to get to some of the prospective campuses rather than take a day from school once it starts.  Our middle son will be a senior this year! He has been employed for over 12 months, kept up good grades, learned to enjoy working out at the YMCA, helped to win a tennis team conference championship – which continued into the summer, and fine tuned his 3D printing – software – coding skills over the last year. Currently, he is printing a pin-hole viewer for us to use during the solar eclipse next week. I even got a hug before bed from him last night, and a chance to tell him how proud he makes me!  However, he is a worrier – like me, and the state of the world weighs on his mind.  His final year of high school will go fast (we have been through a senior year once before), with memories being made on a daily basis that he can hopefully look back on happily when the future arrives and he is a college student.

Our oldest was just home for a visit. He graduated from college this past May, Summa Cum Laude, no less!  He blossomed during his university time and has elected to pursue a PhD in Statistics. His program starts on Monday.  I am excited for him!  Employment during the summer was split between two research labs, checking on goats, being with friends,  and developing his own areas of interest to pursue in the coming months.  A couple of week-long visits home were squeezed in along with a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, with his Aunt to celebrate his successes – which have been many.  The trip was well deserved!

Early summer and mid-summer brought the death of both of our beloved cats.  They were fourteen and blood brother, barn cats.  We are pet-less now and I can tell you it is still an adjustment, especially for me. I miss them. I miss caring for them, loving them, and receiving their love in return. Yet, I know we are not ready for new pets. Not yet.

Our house siding project is coming along. Hopefully, it will be finished by the time the weather turns cold. Our fruit has been coming in all season – first cherries, then blueberries, now plums, and pears. The harvests have been plentiful and they keep us busy processing the fruit. We have learned that ripeness turns to rot if you wait too long!

I have had a tiny amount of time to work on jewelry making – a hobby of mine. But, I also took a summer graduate course that was grueling and did not end until early July.  So, my time has been somewhat limited. I am itching to get back to more creating.  For the first time ever, I am really not sure I am ready for my fall semester of classes to begin!

Yes, our summer has been busy and fulfilling. I think we all have a sense of accomplishment. I know, in many ways, we have been enriched by all of the activities and challenges. But, summer is winding down. Our town’s local festival – Kornfest – is this weekend. To us, it signals the end of summer is near and the school year is about to begin. I think we are ready!



The Gift of a Book

The Gift of a Book

Books have played a major part in my life. I cannot remember a time I was not a reader. A particular book about a Runaway Pancake was my favorite as a small child. Then, came Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All the stories and characters captivated my mind and imagination. All the books were read, re-read, and loved, well before the movies were even thought of,  let alone actually being produced.  I still own my original copies of Wrinkle in Time and The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Poe was a favorite, especially The Telltale Heart. The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy Mystery books occupied a large chunk of my reading time as a pre-teen that preceded the T.V. show in the late 1970’s. When my I was old enough to start a collection with my own money, I began gathering many copies of these two book series that I loved and still cherish.  They still sit on the bookshelf in our family room today.


Different books mean different things to me. I have professional nursing books and textbooks, left over from my nursing education that even includes a Neonatal Drug Book that I helped co-author during my first job as a NICU nurse.  I have books on education and educational reform – some deemed necessary by self-imposement when I was substitute teaching or advocating for TAG students.  I have many books on writing due to leading a writer’s club  for elementary students and a love words and the craft of putting them together.  Children’s poetry books are among my favorites – Jack Prelutsky, Jeff Moss, Shel Silverstein, and others I have collected over the years or inherited from my mom who taught third grade for an entire generation of students. Last, but most recently used, are my books on the environment, learning styles, habitat, and conservation.

When there is a significant event, I often turn to books as a gift. There is something permanent and meaningful to both giving and receiving a book.  I have both given books as gifts and received books as gifts. When I choose to give a book as a gift, I put thought into it. I consider if it is something the person would enjoy or need.  Therefore, I assume that when I receive a book the person giving it to me has also thought about the reason they want me to have it.  The books I have received have a special place in my heart, as well as on my shelf.

This past June, I ended the garden club I had founded in 2004 at one of our local elementary schools (the school my boys attended as students). I have not had a student of my own in the building for four years, yet I continued to hold the garden club for other students I had grown to care about and want to nurture or enrich.  Most, probably over 98%, of our meetings were held in the Library Media Center (LMC) of this elementary school. I appreciated being able to use the space (after reserving it according to district policy) and occasionally some of the technology that was available in the LMC. Having books for reference among our midst during the lessons was a definite bonus! Even if we were going to be outside and working in the garden, our group first met in the LMC at dismissal.  I wanted to do something for the library at the end of garden club this June. Something permanent. Something I could leave behind.  A book.

I searched.  I knew it had to be a newer book that would capture the essence of garden club, environmental awareness, and the imagination of the students.  A book that most likely, the library did not yet have. I settled upon Creekfinding by Jaqueline Briggs Martin.  Published this past March (2017), it was brand new.  It told the story of the purposeful uncovering and rediscovery of an old creek bed in the Driftless region of  Northeast Iowa.  We live in the Driftless area of Wisconsin. Like the story setting, there are fields of corn around us. Like garden club, the focus was finding nature that may have been buried or forgotten. The illustrations by Claudia McGeHee were vivid. I could see this book appealing to the student body – some of my former garden club students – at Evergreen.

I inscribed the book, thanking the school for “housing” our garden club for so many years, allowing children to uncover the nature that surrounds them. I left it in the library (LMC) on the last day of school.  I have not heard anything about the book since I left it on the librarian’s chair with the note of thanks.

Now, almost three months later, I hope.  I hope the book I left gets read to the students, either by the librarian or some of the classroom teachers. I hope it serves as a reminder of the club that beautified the school grounds and planted the seed of environmental stewardship in the student body.  I hope a curious student finds it on the shelves and checks it out because they already like nature, fish, rivers, or big dirt moving machines.  I hope the book makes them like nature even more. This year I can only hope.


Do You Know Any Left Handers?

Do You Know Any Left Handers?

Yesterday was Left Handers Day – one of those fun holidays that help us to celebrate our differences as humans.  I am not left-handed, however I was raised in a family with two left handed parents and a sister (younger) that also turned out to be left handed! When I was young and being taught to tie my shoes, my mother thought something was wrong with me because I just did not understand out to tie.  She was lamenting her concerns to my grandmother, her mother, and my grandmother realized that I was being shown how to tie backwards – a left handed adult, showing a right-handed child how to tie shoes.   This does not work any better than a right handed person showing a left handed child how to perform the simple tasks of daily life.  Once my grandmother showed me, I was able to tie without much more difficulty! My grandmother, an accomplished seamstress, was right-handed. Ahhhh!  Although I do not remember (I was not damaged for life), I am sure it felt good to be shown the way I could be successful at performing this necessary pre-kindergarten task.

Today, although very dominantly right-handed, I have some very definite traits associated with lefties! I am creative. Although it took me more than three-quarters of my life to realize this, it is a fact that I now recognize and can be recognized by others.  Left-handers have a right brain dominance and this makes them more creative, visual thinkers with a broad capacity for imagination, emotional expression, and spatial awareness.  Left handers make great artists, musicians, and leaders due to the ability to tap into the right side of the brain.  See this page at for more.


I seem to be surrounded by many left-handed people. It makes me wonder why that is. Am I drawn to this particular type of person through their personality or abilities? Does being associated with many left handers bring out my own creative capacities? My husband is left handed but like many lefties, is ambidextrous for many life tasks or hobbies.  He writes and draws with his left hand, plays tennis with his left hand, but throws, bowls, and plays ping-pong using his right hand dominantly.  He was raised by two right-handed parents. Our boys are all right handed. All three are very creative, as is my husband.


All I know is that it is definitely a right-handed world and in it I have many left-handed friends and family members. Maybe I was meant to be left handed. I really do not think so, but given that I was the oddity in my family of lefties, it is surprising that I am so dominantly right handed.

Are there not just as many, or more, famous and accomplished people who are right-handed? Probably so. But, since there are fewer lefties in the populace – only about 13%,  it makes their accomplishments stand out even more! Some famous left handers include:

  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • MC Escher
  • Michelangelo
  • Leonardo de Vinci
  • Cole Porter
  • Paul McCartney
  • Sting
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Steve Forbes
  • Bill Gates
  • Steve Jobs
  • Mark Zuckerburg
  • Barack Obama
  • Gerald Ford
  • Bill Clinton
  • George H.W. Bush
  • Ronald Reagan


Who do you know that is left-handed? Do they have any stories having to do with their handedness while growing up?  Are they exceptionally creative? You will not know unless you ask! All I know is that all of the lefties I know have something special about them.  I am glad I am part of their world – even if it is only by association and my ability to create!

Graphics provided by the website

Silent Sunday: Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Bermuda, One of the Oldest Cast Iron Lighthouses in the World (Circa, 1846).

Silent Sunday: Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Bermuda, One of the Oldest Cast Iron Lighthouses in the World (Circa, 1846).