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.

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.  🙂

Five Things That Are Making Us Happy Right Now

 

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I’m trying once again to get back to regular blogging after so many false starts, so I thought I’d just dive in with a quick post for anybody who’s still out there.

Here are 5 things making us happy right now, thanks to the convenience of Instagram.  🙂

1.  Our rescue kitten, Oscar.  Long time readers know that we’ve found homes for many feral kittens and cats over the years but we decided we were down to a manageable enough number of pets again (3 cats) that we could adopt one ourselves.

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Oscar and Fiona 💕

A post shared by Alicia Bayer (@magicandmayhem) on

2.  Silly car games on car rides.  This one that Rhia made up to occupy Fiona and Alex had us all in stitches.

3.  Easy nature studies projects.  We grew grass in CD cases a couple of weeks ago and have also been doing all kinds of other seasonal nature study activities.  (Obligatory affiliate link to my nature studies book if you want lots of other simple nature study ideas arranged by season.)

4.  Foraging as a family.  As always, we’re gathering loads of wild edible foods so far this season.  It always makes me smile to think that this all started as a fun summer homeschool project and it’s evolved into something that provides hundreds of pounds of free, healthy food for our family (and two books!).  So far this year, we’ve gathered over 60 pounds of wild asparagus and various quantities of morel mushrooms, lambsquarters, pheasant back mushrooms, nettles, ramps, violets, wild onions, and more.

5.  Membership to the science museum.  We’ve been getting lots of use out of our annual membership, even though it’s an hour and a half away in Sioux Falls.  We do much of our shopping in Sioux Falls and Rhia’s boyfriend lives there, so we have lots of excuses to go lately.  I always try to combine educational benefits and fun for the kids in our travels even to nearby cities, so we tend to go as a family and make an adventure of the day.

There is a lot of other stuff going on (mostly good, some less so) and I hope to start catching up on all of it.

What are you and your kiddos up to this month?

A Little Women’s Studies Field Trip

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Victoria and Rhiannon each took a bit of a field trip yesterday.  They participated in the #WomensMarch in St. Paul (Minnesota), along with roughly 100,000 others (and several million around the world).  🙂

Victoria went with a charter bus from New Ulm, a city about an hour from us, and Rhiannon went with a friend and some of her friends and their children in a van that left from Mankato.  Poor Daryl had to leave at 5:30 a.m. with them to get them to their respective drop-off points so they could get up to the march in time.

They both had phenomenal times, to say the least.

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Rhia stayed up late the night before embroidering feminist statements on her jacket.  I’ll have to get a picture of some!

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(I gave Toria that hat for Christmas.  Wasn’t it perfect for the day?)

It was a profoundly empowering experience for both girls, and Toria called it one of the coolest experiences of her life.

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I’m very proud of my girls (and all who marched around the world!).

Feeling the Bern

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We were hosting homeschool days at the Petroglyphs yesterday but Toria and I left Daryl and the staff in charge and went on a different field trip yesterday.

We carpooled with friends (one old, two new) to see Bernie Sanders in Sioux Falls.

He was not planning to stop in South Dakota this week but he announced on Tuesday that he would come.  He was scheduled to speak at 7:30, with doors opening at 5.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was going and looking for company, and Daryl encouraged me to go.  I said yes, woke Toria, and told her the news.  A few hours later we were on the road, by way of Iowa to pick up another Bernie friend, and then stopping in Sioux Falls to pick up another.  By the time we got there via three states, it was around 5:30 and the line went far off into the distance.

One of the members of our party uses a wheelchair and she headed right to the officials in front of the building to ask where we should go.  Our party was ushered right through the doors and through security, where a volunteer pushed Deb’s wheelchair and led us right in and through the crowds.  I must admit that I felt guilty and lucky for their exceptional treatment of handicapped attendees and their parties, because we frankly would not have gotten in otherwise.  I didn’t even realize as it was happening what was going on, our friend was simply efficiently taken care of and they beckoned us to quickly follow.  Even the people waiting in line at the metal detectors just moved over as we came in.  Bernie supporters are a caring bunch.  I guess it sort of goes with the territory.

Thousands of people were unable to get in to see him.  Over 2,000 got in to see Bernie, but over 2,000 had to wait outside (I’m wondering if they were in overflow rooms with monitors, as it seemed afterwards that masses of people were coming from a different area than we were).  I assume that this was because they didn’t have security to control that large of a crowd, because there were additional walls they could have opened up to greatly increase capacity and they did not open them.  There were lots of secret service agents and local police, but since it was a last minute gig then I’m guessing they felt they could only guarantee his safety in that size of a space.

Because of this, it felt almost intimate in spite of being in a crowd of 2,000.  I’ve seen some of the crowds that have come to see Bernie, and we were in a room that could have held a (very) large wedding party to see Bernie Sanders.  It was surreal.

We got there at 5:30 and he wasn’t scheduled to speak until 7:30, so there was a lot of standing and waiting in what felt a lot like a mosh pit.  It was standing room only, other than the section for the disabled (they asked us to stand in a separate area from Deb once they got her in her spot, so wheelchairs and people who needed the ASL interpreter were all in one area to the left of the stage).

They had occasional speakers and entertainment as we waited, including a local band that played some fun songs and a phenomenal, moving performance by Native American dancers and musicians.  Several candidates and local politicians spoke also, with a focus on their collective message that they shared with Bernie.

Bernie was greeted with thunderous applause, of course, but also with a bit of annoyed booing when he accidentally called the town Sioux City (a city in Iowa) instead of Sioux Falls in his opening sentence.  🙂  I cringed and figured the local news would lead with that and not much else.  The crowd quickly forgave him and he proceeded to give an inspirational, thoughtful, passionate, intelligent speech about not only what he wanted to accomplish as president but how important the people were (not him) in effecting change and how important it was to change the current political rules and climate.

Look how close we were!

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Among the issues he discussed were:

  • Injustices against Native Americans (he also met with Native Americans at the impoverished Pine Ridge reservation this week)
  • The importance of acknowledging and heading off climate change
  • Eliminating fracking and the dependency on fossil fuels
  • Creating jobs for all workers displaced by moving to clean energy
  • Taxing wall street speculation to fully fund free college education
  • Enacting legislation to allow all Americans to refinance existing student loans at the lowest available interest rates
  • Creating American jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure (bridges, roads, railway)
  • Creating paths for citizenship for immigrants
  • Taking care of disabled veterans (this was mentioned often)
  • Taking care of our elderly and ensuring that social security and medicare are protected
  • Establishing a $15 minimum wage
  • Ensuring that women finally get equal pay to men
  • Taking political power back from the very rich and putting it back in the hands of the people
  • Getting rid of Citizens United
  • Getting rid of tax loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes
  • Sending the message to American companies that they need to employ workers here in America and not take advantage of slave labor options in other countries or we will not buy their products here
  • Dealing with race inequality and issues for Latino and African American communities
  • Making companies provide a living wage for their employees so the American people no longer have to subsidize the billionaires
  • The importance in taking part in democracy
  • Using our money on building our country, not wars

Bernie talked a lot about the importance of thinking big and thinking outside of the box.  He also pointed out that no significant change has ever come from the top — it has always come from the bottom up.

He talked about the African Americans and their white allies who helped end slavery, often at the expense of their own lives.  He talked about the women and their male allies who helped get women our right to vote (pointing out that only a hundred years ago, women did not have that right).  He talked about women who went on hunger strikes, were jailed and who sometimes lost their lives to bringing about that change.

He said that if someone had told you 20 years ago that we’d have our first African American president in a few years, you would have said it was impossible.  He said if you’d said 10 years ago that we’d see gay marriage legal in every state in America by 2015, you’d say it wasn’t possible.  He said that five years ago, if someone said fast food workers would win the right to a $15 minimum wage in cities and states around the country this year, you’d say that was an impossible number.  He gave many examples like these of things that people thought were dreaming “too big” and we’ve made them happen.

And again and again, he said it was the people who did it.  When the crowd would shout, “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie…” he would smile and shake his finger and tell us, “No… You.”

All in all, it was a long, incredible experience.  I can’t speak to Victoria’s perception of it (though she is certainly a Bernie supporter and seemed to really love it) but she often just had a big smile on her face.  It was quite an experience for a kid who turned 18 just this month and will be voting for her first president this fall.

What a field trip.  🙂

(If anybody wants me to post a video clip or two, or more pictures, I took plenty.  This has taken a long time to write up and I have dinner to start and a dart game to play with my hubby, so I wasn’t going to add more unless anybody was actually interested!  Let me know if you’d like me to post them!)

 

Yesterday and Today, In Pictures

Boy, if these photos don’t show what our homeschool is like, I don’t know what does.

Yesterday, we went hiking at Red Rock Dells, a park about 20 minutes from us.

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It was so much fun.  It was nature study, history, science, PE and more.  And it’s just beautiful and good for the soul.

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Today, Daryl took Toria and Alex and some homeschooling friends two hours away to take part in a movie shoot.

As extras.  In a zombie movie.  🙂

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Isn’t my boy darling?!

This is the movie they’re shooting.

Daryl just called to check in.  They didn’t wrap up shooting until after seven so they’ll be back late.  They’re excited about going back tomorrow and Saturday, even though it involves an awful lot of sitting around (they’re bringing iPod chargers and more books tomorrow!).

They’re learning lots about the movie business and I have no idea what else (can I somehow make this count for social studies?), but what an experience!

And in contrast, this is what Jack and I were doing while they were filming….

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He stayed home and helped me with Fiona (no zombies under five allowed).  He’s not sure if he wants to have anything to do with this zombie business, though he’s signed up so he can take part if he chooses to.

And we had a pretty fun time on our own.

It’s an odd life, but a fun one!  🙂

A Trip to Big Talbot Island

I know I still haven’t written much about our trip to St. Augustine in May, but I had to share some pictures of Big Talbot Island.  Victoria, Jack, Alex and I spent an afternoon there and it was one of our favorite parts of the trip.

Located on one of Northeast Florida’s unique sea islands, Big Talbot Island State Park is primarily a natural preserve providing a premier location for nature study, bird-watching and photography.

Visit The Bluffs and enjoy a picnic at one of the pavilions overlooking the water or take a quick stroll down the trail to Boneyard Beach. The unique beach is famous for the salt-washed skeletons of live oak and cedar trees that once grew near the shore.

The pictures speak for themselves….

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This is where I could list off 50 things we learned and discussed through that little adventure.  More than that, though, it was just a memorable, magical place.

 

Back to Blogging…

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I think I finally have things moved over here from our old site and am even getting some widgets and things added.  I’m going to try to get back into regular blogging now that the dust has settled. Here’s a bit of an update on things here, in as few words as possible….

1.  Rehearsals for the Wilder Pageant are starting soon, and most of our family is once again in it.  Daryl is the mayor and Reverend Alden again, Jack and Alex play boys in the mayor’s family, Victoria is back in it and is Mrs. Hansen (the Ingalls Family buys their sod house from Mr. and Mrs. Hansen) and little Fiona is in it for the first time ever, at age three!  I’m so excited for another family member to be taking part.  My little Annalee (aka Rhiannon Lee, who now goes by Rhia) was four years old when she started, so many years ago.  🙂  Fiona is playing Lucy Bedal.  It should be great fun.

2.  We just got back from another trip to St. Augustine.  This was our second time renting a condo on the beach in the oldest city in America.  We love it there, and we can stay in that beautiful two-bedroom Florida condo for less than we could stay for a week in a motel in Sioux Falls, thanks to visiting off-season (May is when kids are still in school and past winter months when people pay more to visit) and knowing how to get good rates.  I will always happily do without satellite TV and x-boxes, shop at thrift stores, cook from scratch and otherwise pinch pennies to be able to afford for travel to be part of our family life.

A little pirate art fun at a family event in St. Augustine

A little pirate art fun at a family event in St. Augustine

3.  We’re back to foraging now that the weather is nice.  Daryl and the older girls harvested easily 50 pounds of wild asparagus over the past month, along with loads and loads of ramps (a delicacy that bring as much as $15 a pound in some parts of the country) and some stinging nettles (they taste like spinach when cooked and are incredibly high in some nutrients — and no, they don’t sting you once they’re wilted, dried, blended or boiled!).  Asparagus season is winding down but lots of other goodies are coming into their own, including cattails next in our sights (they’re delicious with butter and salt).  Also coming soon or still going strong:  mulberries, raspberries, purslane, lamb’s quarters, dandelions (dandelion honey is a favorite here), milkweed pods (absolutely delicious battered and fried when they are still small) and loads more.  You can check out my Wild Edibles board on Pinterest if you want to start foraging with your kids.  I can’t recommend it enough for everything from nature studies to life skills to just a source of delicious (organic) foods you can’t get anywhere else.  This started out as a homeschool summer project for us three years ago and now wild foods are a substantial part of our “groceries” for half the year. Otherwise, a hundred other things are going on, as always….  I’ll try to start popping in to share more and also go back to sharing lots of fun resources I come across. It’s nice to be back!

Mall of America's Sea Life — Worth the Cost on Homeschool Days

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We finally got a chance to check out Sea Life at the Mall of America (formerly known as Underwater World).

 

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They host Homeschool Days once or twice a year, generally in the fall and spring.  If you visit during those days (generally a week long), the price is drastically reduced.  When we visited, it was $5 a person instead of $17 or $23 each!

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The kids really enjoyed it, and they learned quite a lot.  We made the three hour drive up there mostly for this event, and it was well worth it.

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That said, I would not recommend it at full price, especially for large families or those with limited funds.  While it was a fun visit, it would have cost well over $100 for our family and we were ready to leave in under two hours.

For the price we paid ($30 for all seven of us, since three year-old Fiona was free, I believe), it was a fantastic field trip!

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We made sure to make some stops at places like the LEGO store while we were at the mall, too, of course!

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History Fest 2014

hf18Another History Fest has come and gone, and it was another magical week for our family. hf6 This is something I posted to my homeschool email list about this year’s event and it sums it up well…

I’m home at last from History Fest today.  Most of the family has been going since Wednesday (and helped set up Tuesday) but I stayed home with Fiona until today (her birthday) because it’s such a long day that starts so early.  We have to leave at 6:45 a.m. before the sun is up.

Every time I go I am just dumbfounded at how amazing it is, and the awesomeness of Jack McGowan and the mass of people who help make it happen.  It’s like we have our own personal Walt Disney, except he’s an Irishman and he does it for free, for the love of kids and because  he’s a bit of a big kid himself.  It’s just INCREDIBLE what he’s created there and what he continues to build and dream and make happen just about every week.

Last year, the EPA or some crazy organization suddenly announced that his History Fest buildings (a saloon, chalet, places like that — wooden structures built to be used for special events like History Fest of Boy Scout events, stuff like that) were on the flood plain because his land is between a fork in two rivers, and that the whole county would lose flood insurance by the government if his buildings weren’t moved.  They gave him something like 90 days to move 5 huge buildings and all of the outbuildings to another part of his property.

Keep in mind that History Fest is a nonprofit thing he does on an old sheep farm that the owner has let him use next to his house for years.  It started as a project he did at a local park because he thought the Mankato kids ought to have something like the Renn Fest to learn about history, and it just grew and grew and grew.  He’s a retired guy who owns a water conditioner business (that’s still big in Mankato), so this is not someone with the means to just move 5 buildings in 90 days.  He’s like 70 years old (though he’s tough and sprite!).

And we did it.  We moved all those damn buildings with help from all sorts of people and a construction crew that volunteered a bunch of it and donated money and Sentenced to Serve workers who did their time there and Jack busting his butt every day up on some ladder or using the backhoe or doing what needed to be done.

I was in one of the buildings today and realized I helped smooth that dirt floor and carry the log sections of floor back in.  That’s a pretty neat feeling.

And the owner of that sheep farm finally officially gave the land to Jack for History Fest and the finished buildings are even better now that they’re moved to their own little village area… and somehow Jack has managed to build even more amazing contraptions and improve even more buildings and do even more great stuff, out of the scary situation of thinking it was impossible last summer and the government was going to shut it down…  It’s done, and even better.

To give you an idea of how magical this place is, down by the river there’s a troll tunnel (marked with a painted sign) that goes all the way under the hill and comes up through a brightly painted grate in another part of the land.  He built a concrete troll tunnel for children to climb through!!!!!

And there’s a giant piece of a house with a gas pipeline that goes on fire that the kids get to put out all day with water pumped through a fire hose from the river….. and there’s a trebouchet (sp?) that launches pumpkins into the river…. and he gives pianos to anybody anywhere who wants a piano (we got one last year and I love it)…  and there’s an ENORMOUS sandbox that’s always filled with buried treasures like dragon tears and coins… and so much more.

Daryl plays a gambler in the saloon and teaches kids card tricks and how to play chuck-a-luck (a fun dice game in a spinning cage).  He’s a hoot to watch — he really is great with kids.  But I found out today that Jack built the saloon because this lady Annette came to play the piano for history fest a few years ago and there wasn’t a good building for her to play in.  He asked where he ought to put another piano and she said, “Well, if you had a saloon….” and she said, “So Jack built me a saloon.”  Just like that!  This giant building with a bar and tables and stage and fun props (old time guns, funny signs…).  It’s just so amazing.

And all the people involved are amazing too.  I love being a part of it.  We have sassy trolls who fight children with foam swords and shields (the children always win!), and SCA knights who battle and teach the kids everything authentically, and presidents Lincoln and Jefferson and Roosevelt, and a blacksmith and a 1600’s Scottish camp where they make bread in a real stone oven and wooden stilts and carts everywhere for children to climb on, and horses and goats and sheep, and people teaching you how to spin alpaca and sheep wool and then how to weave it, and gunfights and soldiers and pirates and our fantastic friend Susan Hynes who dresses all in period black with her temperance sign about the evils of alcohol who yells at that awful JD Wyatt (my hubby) and his hooligan children who steal her sign and give her grief.  🙂

hf3 CollageTonight was the pot luck for the volunteers and reenactors and there was a guy doing balloon animals for the kids.  He’s one of the reenactors and he did these massive balloon hats and 8 silver swords for Alex plus giant horns for his head, and just dozens of crazy balloon creations for all of these elated children.  And the trolls were still in character, giving me grief for having “a little fishy” (I was carrying Fiona’s balloon goldfish on a pole) and the pirates and settlers and everybody filled the hall and they’re just all such neat people and it’s such a magical thing to be a part of.

Anna was chatting with a friend tonight and said she had such a great day, and she told me afterwards, “It must have sounded like I was on a drug trip!  I was talking about getting so many pictures of the belly dancers and that the pirate captain told terrible puns and taking Fiona to sit with the buffalo and jousting with my brothers.”  LOL

I am just so happy that my kids have been able to grow up being a part of this.  🙂  And now I’m off to sleep!  Tomorrow morning we’re heading back for the public day (the weekdays are for school kids — SOTH and HS) and it will be another full day! I just had to share it with you all though.  I wish I could bring you all and your kids, and that everybody could come experience it.

hf2 CollageHere’s an article that sums it up http://www.examiner.com/article/it-s-history-fest-time

and here’s a blog entry about it http://magicandmayhem.homeschooljournal.net/2008/10/12/history-fest/ hf1 Collage Jack McGowan gave an interview to the local news about why he does History Fest and it sums up his funny spunky personality so well.  You can also see my hubby playing the spoons in the beginning of it! I am so happy to be a part of this magic, and so glad that this is one way my kids are growing up experiencing history class.  🙂