We’ve Survived the Plague

Well, that was an interesting spring.  We took a family trip to the Mall of America for homeschool days at perhaps the worst possible time, just as Covid-19 was quietly invading the country.  We stayed in a hotel, went to IKEA and Trader Joe’s, took in all the sights at the MOA (Sea Life, mini golf, laser games!)…. and brought home more than the souvenirs we’d planned.

Jack got sick first, with a terrible cough, fever, fatigue, etc.  Coronavirus was barely on our radar at that point even though I had joked about “going to the biggest international tourist destination in the midwest at the start of a plague.”  Yeah, perhaps I shouldn’t have thumbed my nose quite so much at fate?  😉

Corona gives you very rosy cheeks

In any case, Alex got sick for about a minute and was better.  Fiona developed a high fever, stomach ache, sore throat, cough, etc. and was sick for about a week but never dangerously so.  Jack got better but had lingering fatigue and muscle weakness (especially in one leg) for literally months.  Rhia and Daryl didn’t really get sick at all, even though I was very worried about Daryl since he’s older and disabled.

And I… good grief did I get sick.  Wowza.  It pretty much leveled every system in my body.  I had so many weird side effects that it felt like it was gaslighting me, since the news certainly wasn’t reporting things like numb toes, bursting blood vessels in your legs, phantom heart attacks, tingling limbs, hypothermia (my body temp dropped to 93.7 twice) or your body inexplicably forgetting to breathe when you fall asleep, just to name a few of the weirder manifestations.

 

I spent over two months doing breathing exercises (I cannot recommend those enough to protect your lungs, prevent pneumonia, calm anxiety, decrease blood pressure, increase lung capacity and raise your oxygen levels), drinking massive amounts of water (ditto, cannot stress this one enough), taking hot steamy baths and medicating round-the-clock with kitchen/nature remedies that I used to manage and conquer the whack-a-mole of symptoms that is coronavirus.  Daryl foraged me nettles every morning for weeks to make me strong nettle tea and I also relied on fresh garlic (you must finely mince it and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before taking it to activate the alicin, and then remember to take it 2-3 times a day just as you would meds), elderberry, ginger (a very potent antiviral that is also excellent for many of the parts of the body this attacks), apple cider vinegar, fermented foods and drinks like kombucha, etc.

Two months into my illness I finally was able to see my doctor and she told me to keep doing “exactly what you’re doing” because all of my levels were so high for things like iron and white blood cell counts.  Now three months from our initial sickness, Jack and I are still recovering (he is still weak and tires easily, I still have some numb toes and muscle/joint pain) but we’re firmly in the post-viral phase of recovery and long past the terrifying actual illness.

I have found a lot of ways to find the blessings this gave me.  I learned a lot about the honestly impressive power of affirmations, meditation and deep breathing, and the importance of finally prioritizing sleep, stress relief and real self care.  I spent time every day on our roof balcony doing light yoga and stretching and getting sunshine for vitamin D.  I went for walks and bike rides with the kids to make sure I got light exercise every day that I could (there’s about a month that’s pretty much a blur though). I’ve lost weight and toned my body.  I gave up coffee and lost my hot flashes in the process.  I gave up wine for a month or two but Daryl and Tiffany convinced me that it would be okay if I wanted to imbibe again and boy, did I want to after all that.  🙂  I spent my time doing things I enjoyed like reading and reviewing books, working in the garden, watching Netflix and Hulu with the kids, and spending quality time with Daryl.  And we all made it.

It was intense and there were some really terrifying times (I’m intentionally skipping over the scariest stuff).  Don’t underestimate this thing.  But boy do you appreciate the little things (like being alive) when life reminds you how lucky you are.

If you or someone you love is sick with Covid-19 and you want more detailed information on the best resources I’ve found, let me know.  I found that the media and most websites were really worthless for the most part, but there are a few helpful sites out there and I can round them all up if it’s helpful.

Stay well and hang in there.

Rhia and I Have Published a Book!

Rhia and I have published a children’s poetry book together!

It came about because Rhia loves to draw these adorable mushroom doodles (among others) and I told her they were so fun that they ought to be in a children’s book.  She suggested that I could write some poems to accompany them, and we decided to do a joint children’s book together.

It’s filled with poems that are silly, sentimental and occasionally educational, all about mushrooms, nature, fairies and other related topics.

We had so much fun doing it, and I’m so proud of our finished book!

You can check out the book on amazon here: Poems from Under a Toadstool (affiliate link).

 

 

A Week in Nebraska

I’m just going to jump in like I’ve been yapping regularly all this time and not bother to try to catch up at the moment.  🙂

We’re back from a week at Tiffany’s in Nebraska, and it was just what we needed.  I took Alex and Fiona in my new(ish) Nebraska car that I got last summer.  (I jokingly call my cars Nebraska cars since I rarely drive other than going to visit Tiffany, and it’s been a few years now since I had a “Nebraska car” or vehicle of my own.)

We escaped the snow and bitter cold of Minnesota for far less snow and more bearable cold of Nebraska.

Fiona and Millie were inseparable, as always.  When we’re all home in our separate states, the girls spend much of every day video chatting and playing “side by side” that way, so it didn’t seem to them as if they’d been away from each other at all (they are video chatting again right now as I type, as a matter of fact).

We didn’t do a whole lot, which is mostly the point when we go.  We sit around under cozy blankets and read books and do crossword puzzles, drink copious amounts of British tea, help Tiffany walk and play with the numerous dogs she cares for, and play cards and Pictionary into the night.  It’s wonderfully laid back and rejuvenating.

Tiffany’s Jack (now 17!) has been going to the local public school for the past couple of years since they have really fantastic programs for kids with Downs Syndrome, so he was gone during the weekdays.  Once he was home, he and Alex had great times playing Wii and Minecraft,, practicing basketball and hanging out, too.

We did some crafts to use up some of Tiffany’s craft supplies and had fun painting (this was my sign to remind myself to say yes to more, in all kinds of ways).Jessie even did a couple of fantastic tarot readings for me to practice her craft (she’s started a tarot business that is going really well).

Escaping to Nebraska is always just what we need.  I’m now ready to face reality for at least another month.  🙂

Wild Kids Magazine

I’m not sure if everyone who follows this blog knows or not, but I’ve been creating a free online printable nature magazine, Wild Kids Magazine.  The August issue is out now if you want to take a look.

It’s always free and printable (in PDF format), generally around 16 pages.  Every issue has pages for nature logs and also foraging information and specific monthly themes.  It’s ad-free and I pay for it myself.  So many folks visit the site every month that it’s been costing about $25 in fees a month for my web hosting on top of what I pay annually for the Magical Childhood site that I added it to, but I am looking at it as a charitable donation I’m doing to help make the world a little.  🙂

Also, if your kiddos would ever like to submit photos (of themselves or nature finds), artwork or (especially) articles or poems, please send them in!  I’d love to feature most content from other kids.

 

(Almost) 10 Ways We’ve Played and Learned Lately

I haven’t done one of these lists in so long, so I thought I’d try to do a quick one (like I have ever been able to in the past?!).

Here are a few ways we’ve played and learned here lately……

1. We went to Valleyfair, an amusement park in the Twin Cities, for their homeschool days.  I brought Fiona, Alex and their friend Cody.  It was a fantastic day!

2. I’ve been publishing a free printable nature magazine for kids this year, Wild Kids Magazine, and Fiona especially enjoys it.  I’ve had Alex and Jack write articles for it, too.  As soon as I print it, Fiona grabs it and sits to read through it.  It has nature journal pages where she can track the birds and animals she sees that month, color botanical coloring pages, keep track of the weather for each day of the month (coloring in a weather tree) and such.  She also loves that she often spots pictures of herself and her siblings in it.  🙂

3. It’s always been a struggle to get Jack to want to write, so we’ve compromised and I have him lead his younger siblings on D&D campaigns.  He writes out all the information, stats, maps, etc. on a giant whiteboard.  He also reluctantly keeps a private journal, just so he has a little bit of regular time writing and recording his days.

4. Fiona has been working on telling time, along with a.m. and p.m.  She has a little workbook I picked up at the dollar store that has you do things like put times in order from first to last, choose whether to use a.m. or p.m. and write in how many minutes past the hour it is and how many minutes to the next hour.

5. We went hiking with friends at a nearby park with a waterfall.  We try to go there a few times a year and it’s such a magical place.

(almost) 10 ways we learned and played lately6. We’ve spent a lot of days at the lake, especially with Rhia, Fiona and Moose.

7. Jack had a suspicious lump removed from his jaw by his parotid gland.  The doctor thought it was just a cyst but because of Toria’s parotid cancer in the same spot, we wanted to be especially cautious.  He had to be put under for the surgery but came through it well and the tests came back negative.  This wasn’t fun at all, of course, but it was educational and was a pretty big thing for Jack.

….

And as I was blogging this, Fiona came and asked me to go play in the rain with her.  I told everyone else to go play in the rain and Alex finally reluctantly went, and I realized that I never want to be the kind of mom who says I have to finish blogging instead of playing in the rain with my kids.

(No photo because I was playing, not taking pictures!)

So I left the blog and went and ran in puddles and played in the rain, and now we’re wet and I have hosed off a shrieking little girl in the shower and a grumpy 12 year old took his own shower to hose off the mud (meaning 5 minutes longer he had to wait before running outside to play with Cody) and I have to get supper on the table before they all leave for rehearsal, so you don’t get to know what 8, 9 and 10 would be.

Okay, I guess one of them would be that we played in the rain.  🙂

 

 

 

A Happy Little June Update

I’ve decided to go back to blogging here even though I know that nobody really reads blogs (especially this one!) any more.  🙂  I love having the record of all that we did and all my wandering thoughts for all the years I kept it when the older kids were HSing, and I want that for the younger kids’ homeschool lives.

So here’s a quick little June update, and I’ll try to keep things up and just come here to check in regularly again.

Toria (21) and Rhia (19) have graduated but both of them are still happily part of our days.  Toria and Gabe still live in their house (if you remember, I bought it for $4,000 cash a couple of years ago and they have been fixing it up and paying me $200 to pay it off).  It will be paid off in a few months and they will own their own home, debt free.  It’s tiny and a bit of a wreck, but it’s theirs and it’s on four lots.  We had hoped to get their first garden in this year but life got busy.  They have a walnut tree and a pear tree, though, so they will still have some bounties this year from those.

Rhia is still living at home and is working on getting her photography business established.  She has some regular clients who like to book her for fun shoots (she’s very inexpensive so it’s an affordable splurge) and she is working on expanding to new clients.

You can follow her on Instagram or Facebook if you want to show her some support.  She’s been traveling a lot, too, and has gone to Oregon twice in the last six months.

Jack (16), Alex (12) and Fiona (7) are all in the Wilder Pageant again this year, along with Daryl.  This makes something like 15 or 16 years straight that at least some of our family members have acted in the pageant.  It’s always a lot of work but they make great friends and are part of something really special.  Opening night is July 5.

Jack is planning on working on a nearby farm again this summer.  He worked there last fall but was 15 at the time and was not able to work much during school days because of labor laws (homeschool kids aren’t allowed to work during public school hours by law, even if they school at other times of day or on other schedules).  This year he’s 16 so he can have a more flexible schedule.  It’s hard work but good money, and he’s developed a wonderful work ethic that makes me proud.

Alex’s friend Cody is here for the summer again from Indiana (he spends summers with his aunt, our next door neighbor), which is great fun for him and for Fiona too.  We took the three of them to Valleyfair for their homeschool day and had a blast.

We also got a new dog!  We adopted Moose from a shelter in March.  He is a year old and is a black lab – English setter mix.  He’s smart, energetic, playful and never met a dog or person he didn’t love.

There’s so much more going on, but this is already less than quick.  🙂  More next time!

How the 1960’s Imagined “The Future”

This is a sometimes comical, often cringe-worthy look at what “the future” looked like in the 1960’s, via the History Channel. 😆😳🙄😅

Their ideas of what online schooling and computer gaming would look like were especially depressing!  And the depiction of women… That’s an interesting topic for some conversations.

“In 1967, Philco-Ford produced a short film exploring what the “Home of the Future” might look like. We re-examine this film to see what they got right about the future – and what was wrong with the past.”

Who else is glad the “future” didn’t turn out exactly like that?  😉

How to Add All the Numbers 1-100 In Under a Minute

Here’s a fun little math trick with a cool story behind it.  Ask the kids if they can figure out the sum of all the whole numbers between 1 and 100.  Then tell them about a kid who was able to figure it out in just a few seconds.

Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) is sometimes referred to as the “Prince of Mathematicians.”

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ec/Carl_Friedrich_Gauss_1840_by_Jensen.jpg/220px-Carl_Friedrich_Gauss_1840_by_Jensen.jpg

He was also a child prodigy.

When Carl was 9 or 10 years old in Germany, his teacher gave the class the assignment to add all the whole numbers from 1 to 100 (1+2+3+4+5 and so on) in order to keep them busy. Carl did the problem in his head almost immediately.  He wrote the answer on his slate, turned it in and sat down with his hands folded on his lap while (it is said) he teacher looked at him scornfully. When the teacher checked the stack of slates later, Carl was the only one to have the correct answer: 5050.

How did he do it?

Carl realized that he could add the numbers in pairs: 1+100, 2+99, 3+98, etc. and that every one of them added up to 101.

How to add all the numbers 1-100 in less than a minuteHe then simply multiplied 50 (the number of pairs of numbers he was adding) times 101 (the answer to every pair he added) to get 5050.

Here’s how to express this in algebra:

Use the formula Sn=n/2(a+l)

Sn is the sum of the numbers of terms

n is the total number of terms

a is the first term

l is the last term

Try it to figure out the sum of the numbers 1-10:

n= 10, a=1, l=10

So, Sn = 10/2(1+10)

= 5×11=55

Pretty cool, huh?

The Month of Winds and Magic

fiona butterfly

Daryl told me years ago that he read in a novel that September was “the month of winds and magic.”  That has always stuck with me and while I kind of hate September for signalling the end of summer, I kind of love September for a hundred other reasons.

(Of course, this year September has really been the month of winds, with the hurricanes and tornadoes.  Tornadoes even hit our area of Minnesota last night.  My heart goes out to everybody affected by the storms.)

We’ve been super busy with homesteading this month, as always.  September is a month where lots of garden goodies are ready to harvest and when we forage large amounts of some of our favorite wild foods like acorns and elderberries.  It’s also when we forage less than wild foods like apples and pears that are free for the picking, literally.  We have friends and neighbors who let us pick from their trees (we keep the ground underneath clean and often bring them goodies in thanks) and there are a lot of public places where we pick, too.

The nursing home in town has a huge pear tree that bears delicious fruit that they want no business with and also has a row of elderberry shrubs that are only there for a windbreak.  Daryl has permission to go picking there and we get gallons of elderberries and bushels of pears every year.  There’s also a pear tree at a rural park that bears delicious canning pears (too firm for fresh eating but perfect for canning).  You can always tell where homesteads were years ago because even though there is no sign of a house anymore you will find apple trees, pear trees, peonies and other long-lived plants that once blessed the people who lived there.

We’ve also been busy with Daryl’s birthday and our wedding anniversary.  As I’ve talked about before, we get married in a different way every year around our anniversary and this year we had our first back yard wedding.  We made it a zany theme with lots of color and silliness.  It was simple and fun.

And in other news, Jack (15) has his first job!  He was hired by a local farm family to help with the harvest.  He was originally hired to work 4-6 hours a day during the day just until the end of harvest season in October.  Then we found out that homeschoolers under 16 are not allowed to work during public school hours even if they homeschool during other times and they’re not allowed to work more than 3 hours on a public school day, so we’ve  had to change his schedule around.  He now works 3 hours “after school” most weekdays and longer on Saturdays.

It’s hard work but he is doing a great job and he got his first paycheck yesterday.  His boss also told him yesterday that he was his best worker and that he’d decided to give him a raise!  I could not be more proud of my boy.  🙂

The weather is turning cold and I’m doing my best to embrace it and not yearn for lake days and sprinkler weather.  Snow will be coming way too soon here in Minnesota but for the most part we’re too busy to focus on that anyway.

The rest of September and October will be very hectic.  I’m giving an acorn foraging presentation at a library by the Twin Cities in early October, then we have Fiona’s birthday and the week of History Fest, which is a crazy but wonderful time.  And then there’s processing hundreds of more pints and quarts of applesauce, pears, spaghetti sauce, salsa, and so on.

Oh yeah, and this homeschooling business.

 

Crash Course Kids: Month by Month

I’ve been a long-time fan of Crash Courses for older kids, but we hadn’t used the newer version for younger kids yet, Crash Course Kids.  Fiona, Alex and I checked it out last week and we’re going to incorporate it into our video watching.Crash Course Kids Homeschool ScheduleThe series is designed for 5th grade but Fiona (starting 1st grade) easily comprehended everything so far and it still kept Alex’s attention fine (6th grade).

The series consists of 7 main playlists and 2 extras (one compilation and one blooper set).  I’m tentatively planning on using one playlist per month this year (September through May), other than the longest set (earth science) from February into April with the blooper set added in for April (April Fools).  🙂

Here’s our schedule for watching them, as we have spare minutes:

September:  Space and stars

October:  Space and the sun (weather, seasons, etc.)

November:  Engineering and Physics

December:  Physical science (matter, chemistry):

January:  Life science (biology, ecosystems)

February and April:  Earth science (weather, natural resources, climate, etc.)

April:  Outtakes and bloopers

May:  Physical science (gravity)

View full playlist (5 videos)

We’ll supplement with good books, art projects, and hands-on learning.  This won’t be the younger kids’ sole science curriculum, of course, just a fun way to add some extra stuff in.