When my daughters and I released three monarch butterflies into the wild last year, we experienced an unexpected amount of pride and joy.

After watching the three caterpillars transform into the pupa stage, then go into chrysalis and emerge as butterflies, we were hooked.

We were proud.

We were sad to see them go.

Rena is 10 years old, and Ruby is 5, so we turned the experience into a fun learning project. The girls and I have researched the life cycle of a monarch butterfly and have kept a journal about the changes happening daily.

We could hardly wait for the experience again this year.

Feeling a little more like monarch pros, we felt a little more attached to the 2020 batch since we found them ourselves.

Last year, a friend who has milkweed on her property, delivered the caterpillars to us, but this year, we took on the challenge of finding them. Since milkweed is what monarch caterpillars eat, we spent a warm evening hunting for the black, yellow and white creatures.

We kept them in a container specifically designed for raising monarchs and were able to watch them eat their way to pupa stage and eventually chrysalis. Ruby and I were lucky enough to catch one shed its skin and go into chrysalis.

In the nearly two weeks we waited for the caterpillars to emerge from the chrysalis, I found myself in a time of reflection.

This year has been challenging for our family and the rest of the world. We did not expect to endure a worldwide pandemic, and like everyone else, we often find ourselves in a whirlwind of emotions that change daily.

These caterpillars were a constant for us. They gave my daughters daily joy and impending excitement of the final release.

As they hung in their green chrysalis, I compared their life cycle to ours. Sometimes, it may seem like time is standing still, like the pause button has been hit, which is how I have felt since March.

The chrysalis stage, which lasted about 13 days, was the pause button. They didn’t change much during that stage, other than becoming more transparent toward the end.

Last week, the healthy butterflies finally emerged from their chrysalis and flew off onto the rest of their lives. We named them, took photos and proudly watched them go.

Life didn’t just begin for these creatures, but transformed into something different and new – much like our new normal going forward.

There are a lot of unknowns in our world and this experience has reminded me to take each day, each step of life, one day at a time.

Life is short and always changing; we need to embrace it all.

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