Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sun Day

February 12: heard mourning doves while waking up
February 16: a bee!
February 17: redwing blackbird calling during our hike

Oh yes, the signs are all there. To cap it all off, the sun was out in full force today.
Something's coming up in the garden!
 We had to get out for a picnic hike...
Hiking to the beech tree
puddles and mud and wet wet grasses
playing in the creek
 I mean, come on now, what season would you think it was, if you didn't know it was still winter?
leftover sushi makes for a good picnic
 After scrambling and climbing and exploring, there was story-telling. They like me to narrate as they act out, in a symbiotic telling of a story where I take from their actions, and they get cues from me...It goes on and on and on...
Add in some chalk drawing, sewing, yoga and poetry with tea for me, and it was a nearly perfect day.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wooden scrolls

We have been having a look at things Chinese this past month, in a casual parallel study with our friends. Our month was a bit out of wack, as you might have noticed, so we didn't get into as much as I'd thought we might, but we read some good books, watched a documentary called Wild China, ate some amazing Chinese food that we all made, and talked a lot about the things we use (paper, compasses, wheelbarrows, kites, tanagrams!) that originated in China.  While fishing around on the web, I came across some great lists of resources that included a very industrious lapbook that one homeschooling family made, which included an activity that I thought might interest our kids: making scrolls.  The girls often make scrolls with long lists or stories on them, but those are made of paper, and tied with ribbon.  These scrolls would mimic pre-paper scrolls, which were made out of bamboo.  We had a look at our Chinese scroll calendar from China Panda, which we figure is probably made out of plastic these days - Eliza loves this calendar and it hangs in her room.  Our scrolls were made out of popsicle sticks.
Very clear instructions are laid out here, but in a nutshell, I prepped the sticks by laying out what looked like a good amount - 9 sticks - then lay a ruler across them, and lightly marked where they would be attached.  I then notched them along that line with my pocket knife, leaving a little space where a knot of twine could be tied in-between each stick, along both sides.
I did all the tying for the two younger kids, but the older two wanted a go at it themselves. They needed help holding the sticks in place while they secured the knots.
We looked in some of our books on China and again, on the web, for some Chinese characters.  The kids chose words like earth, fire, water, air, peace, mountain, star, moon, sunrise.  They practiced them awhile on paper, and then wrote them on their scrolls.
It took Ani a while to warm up to the project - she preferred sitting near the woodstove, looking through First Thousand Words in Chinese. 
When she joined us she really got into it - she and her buddy A decided that they'd create their own words made up of pictures - made me think of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Our friend O. was so careful and precise with his work - he chose the elements to copy onto his scroll and seemed really happy with how it turned out. 
O's scroll
With a little more time, it would be fun to work on making characters with a brush and ink, and then do that on a scroll. 
Ani's scroll.  Let's see...there is a castle, and a horse, and a princess, and a train and some eyeballs and a flower and some underpants and one large crocodile-looking creature at the bottom.   This project was verrrrry freeform!

If we did this again I would have them turn their scrolls so that their words or images ran down each stick, emphasizing the direction the writing is read in. We talked about how it is not read left to right but up and down, but that would have made it clearer, I think.
E's scroll - moon, mountain, the elements, and numbers 1 through 10
We don't do many projects with other families right now, outside of farm school, and it was nice to have that extra energy going into this little activity.  I was reminded of how Ani was when we belonged to the coop here, not wanting to participate just because everyone else was, but wanting to join when she was ready and interested.  It was nice to have everyone working at their own pace, but having fun sharing ideas and accomplishments. 

This post is a part of Saturday's Artist over at Ordinary Life Magic. Have a look for some grand inspiration!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Last Word on Lice

I know I might be testing the Fates, but really, there has to be an end declared, doesn't there? A friend of mine thanked me the other day for talking about lice on the blog. It honestly hadn't occurred to me not to, though of course I have enough social sense to understand it really disturbs  lot of people. (We were turned away from our dentist appointment the other day, and the receptionist told me that while she was grateful that I'd been honest and left her a message giving them a heads-up that  we had lice and a covering on the chair would be advisable, since we'd told her that we had lice,  she was going to have to ask us to leave. She acknowledged that they've probably seen many people who just didn't tell them, but in these circumstances we were out of luck. I felt like a pariah and it took two cheerful children, four madlibs and a walk around the block to calm me down.) Writing about it, especially while dealing with it alone while Dan was gone, was what made it bearable.  I thought that - heaven forbid you should get lice in your lifetime - I would share some things I learned along this little journey.

Lice don't jump. Or fly. We cannot be standing together in conversation and have them move from me to you. You don't have to take a step or two backwards. Just don't snuggle me or take my hat.

Lice like clean hair! Who knew. Of course we now have the cleanest hair we have ever ever had, which makes me a tad bit nervous, but we'll keep it doused with tea tree oil for a while to come.  Dandruff, oil, debris all make for a lousy louse habitat. We are not exceptionally dirty people.

The chemicals do not work. Lice have grown resistant to the most commonly used products, like Nix and Rid, at least in our part of the world. It was incredibly disheartening to have made the decision to put poison on my childrens' heads (and my own), which was not a decision I took lightly, but definitely made under duress, only to watch the living adults still moving around. Fortunately, none of us suffered any noticeable side effects to the chemicals, but this left us pretty much where we started.

You could absolutely shave your head and your troubles would be over. Lice attach the nits to the hair shaft an impressively uniform distance from the scalp, about 1/2 inch. (Isn't that remarkable?) If I were to deal with this again, I would consider this. It is exhausting dealing with lice! My sister and her daughter have beautifully shaved heads.

We did find a treatment that works!! My friend E has been dealing with this with her family, thanks to a recent sleepover, and in addition to still being my wonderful friend she combined a number of recipes she found online, using oils and essential oils, and came up with something we both used. Her recipe differs a bit from mine, because we both largely used what we already had, with a few additions.  Here is what we used:

Natural Lice Treatment
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup alcohol
1 tsp rosemary oil
1 tsp lavender oil
2 tsp tea tree oil
1 tsp neem oil
10 drops peppermint oil
1/2 tsp lemon oil

note: E used anise oil instead of the neem, and she also added 10 drops of ylang ylang essential oil.
The ingredients that seem to be the most important are the coconut oil, which helps to dissolve the exoskeletons, suffocates the lice, and penetrates the nit casings, and tea tree oil, which they don't like.   I also have a friend who rid herself of an infestation while backpacking in India using only neem oil. Please research all essential oils for yourself, especially if using on a young child. Some EO's, like peppermint, can affect breathing for very young children.

Mix the two carrier oils together over low heat, to melt the coconut oil.
Add the essential oils and alcohol.
Put in a spray bottle and saturate dry head.
Cover with a plastic bag and let sit for 1-3 hours (we watched a movie).

Wash out with 1/2 cup Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap combined with 10-20 drops of tea tree oil.  I have also read that you can use a vinegar rinse to get the oils out of your hair. We washed once with the Bronners and then did our combing; the nits slid right off the hair follicles, which was so nice after cutting them out or trying to scrape them off with a fingernail.  The hair is still oily, so we slept on towels that night and then washed again the following day. I have been using the Bronner's combination for the past week; we also have added tea tree oil to our normal shampoo and conditioner.

We did all of this a week ago, and initially combed out some dead lice, and since that first combing have only found nits, which should be dead.  The day we did all of this we also did another washing of our bedclothes and items of clothing we'd been wearing the days before, and vacuumed mattresses,  couch, rugs, everything. Everything I've read suggests following up a week later with another treatment of whatever you are using, in case there were nits so young and undeveloped that they were not yet needing air and couldn't be suffocated.  As I write this, the girls and I have bags on our heads, and we'll do another big combing when two hours are up! We'll still check for a few days (my sister says I'll never stop checking!), but I'm already starting to think of it as Over!

The most important thing to do is COMB. Every day, with a good lice comb (which looks a lot like a flea comb), until you aren't finding anything.  I used a head lamp when I combed the girls - doing it outside in natural light would be the best, and not so hard on your eyes.

I do hope this particular plague skips over your family, but should you find yourself with lice, just know that while it will take a huge amount of your time for a few days, it is absolutely something you can handle, it is possible to get rid of them, it just takes diligence and time! 

One of the most frustrating parts of this experience has been that there is SO MUCH INFORMATION on the internet about lice treatments, and so much of it is conflicting, or alarming, and not that helpful. A website I did find to be useful and direct is from the University of Nebraska.
:: :: :: ::

So, on to our I said, we are doing a lot of sitting around with bags on our heads this afternoon, so this morning we made sure we got Out. Great discussions, about weather, about oxygen, about prayer. Don't you think these all could be related? The river was flooded from the last two days of hard rain, and the amount of garbage was amazing.
 Our destination was the farm, to see the new little bull. He's grown so much these two weeks! It seemed fitting to visit him today - we saw him the day we found out we had lice.  He is no longer in with his Mama (oh sad. with a sigh I acknowledge that his Mama and Auntie are the ones who provide us with our milk.), but has a new pen up near the farm school fire circle.  He has a bunk mate - the renegade escape artist sheep who Eliza calls Gloria. 
 The bull was so cute - he would stand really still, his huge eyes growing even huger, and then he would leap and skip, and bound over Gloria.
 Soft nose, warm tongue...
 It started to snow as we visited, so homeward we went.
Lunch, hair, movie, the rare baking of cookies (chocolate chip, apricots, pecans!) to celebrate being done...a very good day.

Monday, February 21, 2011


All of our plush stuffed toys are still in bags in the basement, waiting out the suggested time period (two weeks or four weeks depending on what you read...I haven't decided which guidelines we are following for that yet...).  This hasn't been too awful for the girls, though Ani did have one freak-out the other day about her baby doll. I offered to get her out and stick her in the freezer between last summer's blueberries and some lamb from a friend - you can freeze lice -  but she for some reason declined. I think she just needed to let off some of the stress of the last week in her own way.   The harder plaything to do without is the bin of dress-up clothes. But I digress...

Having all of those toys in bags means fewer ready-made toys to play with, and that means more creativity around here!  This is what we got up to this morning.
Caterpillar stalks the unaware Chihuahua
Caterpillar runs into Earthworm, who couldn't see where he was going
 Ani and I made many of these last February, but they were discovered again this morning poking out of a jar, and then ensued some more making...

Chopsticks, tape, some cardboard from the recycling bin, brads, markers, scissors, imagination...voila. Puppets!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Not in a hole

It has been a long week. I would be lying to say that I'm not in a little bit of a funk, after a week of lice follow-up - cleaning, washing, combing, and lots and lots of movies. Movies tend to put us collectively into a funk - together, but apart, not really connecting, and there's me, crawling all over the couch with my headlamp to get a better look at their heads. It was not great bonding time. So...this post is just to show myself that there were some very sweet moments embedded in the past few days...

We have friends who aren't afraid to hike with us. Thank goodness. It was the first of several quite warmish days.
Ah! Even more friends emerged as the week went on...these are our partners in lice crime. What a glorious afternoon to spend together...bare feet, warm sun...
Ani took a turn with my camera
We were even invited over for potluck - with a Chinese theme - the food was AMAZING but even better was gathering around a fire under a full moon with people who were not even thinking about whether or not the lice was gone (are you tired of me talking about this yet? Just so you know, I'm not done). 
There have been audio books and lots of music, and even some creating while listening.
More needle-felting...
Eliza's decoration for a bag
Ani's flowers
My first attempt at little gnomies. With ghoulish eyes.
And there was the sun. The sun! It does so much to lift my spirits.
And today...well, there is the funk. And there is the sleetish rain.  And I have yet to complete my day's combing (being extra careful, as tomorrow is choir - you know, with other people). But so far...there's been Wildcraft...
and Amazing Mammoth Hunt and Harry Potter and The Penderwicks and some reading together and some help with the dishes and a new chapter book to begin tonight (Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones) and we are creeping ever closer to not even thinking about lice. A little closer. We're not so far down in the hole...