DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional or a tick expert, just a southerner who hates ticks.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've no doubt read or heard about how bad the ticks are this year. On Facebook Moms' groups, I'm seeing stories daily of people finding ticks on their little ones and asking for advice on how to remove them or what to do once the tick is removed. My answer: try to prevent the bite in the first place. Of course, no method is foolproof when it comes to trying to outsmart bugs and critters, but you can't just roll over and give up, you gotta give it a fighting chance.
First things first, know your enemy. Ticks come in many colors and sizes, but the most common is small and brown, which makes them terribly hard to see, especially if they get into your hair or on your pet (which can then be brought into your house). If you have pets that play outside, it is imperative that you treat your yard for fleas and ticks. There are several eco-friendly products out there, you just have to look for them. Or you could get a small flock of chickens... or opossum, I'm not judging. Chickens and opossum are both well known for eating their weight in ticks.
Ticks live primarily in the grass, but you don't have to live in a rural area to be potential tick breakfast. Ticks are known for spreading several serious diseases, the most common being Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The well-known bullseye type rash associated with some tick bites might even be the first sign you or your loved one was bitten. This rash can take 3-30 days to develop and always warrants a trip to the doctor for treatment.
According to the CDC... "The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset. About 10% of people with RMSF never develop a rash. Most often, the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. It sometimes involves the palms and soles. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35-60% of patients with the infection."
Now that we know what we're looking for, where do we look? Well, in short, everywhere that is covered in skin. No, seriously, everywhere... yes, even there. I remember as a child, coming in from playing in the backyard my Mom would do a tick check in my hair and behind my ears, as I got ready for my bath. I didn't realize at the time how important that little ritual was, but I am so appreciative my Mom did.
According to this fun infographic from WebMD, ticks like to hide in all the creases and crevices you might forget about, so make sure to check your child (and yourself) thoroughly. And don't forget about Spot and Fluffy. Your pets can definitely be an unknowing participant in the tick's master plan.
As the old saying goes, "sometimes the best defense is a good offense". In this case, the offense is the offensive smell of the tea tree oil in the tick repellent I am about to tell you how to make. It is super easy, kid-safe and all natural. And, if you already have a basic essentials oils collection, you likely already have all the ingredients you will need to make it at home.
You can make this two ways, one recipe is for a rollerball and the other is for use in a spray bottle. I prefer the rollerball because I feel it is thicker and the slightly greasy texture makes your skin a harder target for the tick to cling to. (Or at least I have convinced myself of this, it might just be anecdotal, who knows) It's also super handy to toss it in your purse or backpack.
For the spray bottle version, the recipe is... 2 oz Tea Tree oil (safe to apply neat aka directly to the skin), a 2:1 ratio of a carrier oil (I use almond oil, but fractionated coconut would work too) and water. I also add a splash of 99% isopropyl alcohol (I have used PGA in a pinch) as a preservative. Add a few drops of lavender and some lemongrass for added benefits, but you could totally use just the tea tree if you're sensitive to the other two.
The recipe for the rollerball is the same, minus the water and the alcohol. Mix it in a glass jar or bottle and transfer to a rollerball. Use generously whenever you go outside until after the first or second frost when all threat of ticks is gone. Always remember to mix and store your oils in glass, as some oils will react with plastic.
You could also add some tea tree oil to your favorite pet shampoo, it's safe on their skin too, just make sure they don't lick the shampoo while you're applying it.
It's a very common misconception that homeschoolers don't participate in the obligatory "back to school" shopping shenanigans that their traditional schooling counterparts do. In fact, it's quite the opposite, homeschoolers loooove shopping for pens and pencils and new clothes. Only, instead of buying button down shirts and khakis, we're buying new pajamas and slippers, because that's obviously what all homeschoolers wear, riiight?
Jokes aside, it is almost that time of year again and if you've got the shopping bug like me, may I suggest you check out Groupon Coupons before trudging into the store. Not only can Groupon Coupons save you money, they could quite possibly save your very sanity. *insert dramatic music here*
There are those who like to brave the crowds and enjoy the thrill of the hunt and to those people, I say: (slow clap) ... Way to go, you are the real MVPs, but for those who, like me, abhor the very idea of schlepping through all those people and all the unorganized chaos that once were nicely arranged shelves, say "hello" to free shipping and no lines from *a ton of your favorite stores. *Actual number of stores is closer to >125. "a ton" was just a guesstimation.
You can start your shopping journey at my favorite-place-to-blow-fifty-bucks-in-just-the-Dollar-spot-alone; Target, where you can score $5 off $50 as well as free shipping on all your favorite items for back-to-school. (obligatory Starbucks drink not available for online shopping, plan accordingly)
Does little Sally need a new backpack, maybe a new lunch box for little Johnny? No matter which item is at the top of your stereotypically-1955-era-named-kid's list, you will find it on Amazon.com. I bet they even have pajamas, if you look hard enough. (wink wink) For a limited time, you can save as much as 70% on electronics and more, clipping coupons and codes as you shop.
After Johnny and Sally get new backpacks and lunchboxes, it's off to the eye doctor for a check-up. You have to make sure they can see the board, so they can be at the top of their game academically. 1-800 contacts is offering an amazing deal, just in time for back to school; $40 off plus free shipping. *certain minimum spending requirements apply
Any good, self-respecting homeschooler knows, Barnes & Noble is where it's at, when it comes to books and educational games and resources. They even offer a 20% educator's discount, if you have proof of homeschooling and for a limited time, you can save 25% off Harry Potter paperbacks. Revisit your favorite childhood stories and introduce your kids to these classic tales. The only thing better than a Harry Potter book, is a 25% off Harry Potter book.
Where in the rule book does it say little Johnny and Susie should get all the goodies? Nowhere, that's where! While you're on your online shopping adventure, stop by Shari's Berries and order yourself a dozen gourmet fancy dipped strawberries for 25% off regular price. Shoot, you deserve it for all your hard work.
There's always so much cool stuff we want to do, trips we want to take, friends we want to visit, experiences we want to have, but life always seems to get in the way... but is it really "in the way"? What if, "life" is the big thing we are always looking forward to. What if the seemingly insignificant things we do on a daily basis are the cool things?
The trips to the library to drop off books, the trips to the store to grab bread and milk (and of course, bird seed, can't forget the birds), the endless loads of laundry you do on a daily basis or the countless number of meals you prepare in a week... what if all of those things are the "thing" you keep chasing?
Instead of always chasing down the next big "thing" (while life gets in the way), why not make the little things the big thing? Make the trip to the library an adventure, not just a chore.
On the way to the grocery store, take a second to talk to your kids. Ask them how their day is going. Tell them an embarrassing story about yourself as a child. Kids love to know you were once "human" too. It is possible to be a parent and a friend. Like everything in life, it's all about balance.
Get the kids involved in the mundane crap you have to do every day. Learning how to do a load of laundry or cook a simple grilled cheese sandwich is an invaluable lesson for them to learn. Remember, Dr. Phil says... "You're not raising children, you're raising adults." ... or at least, I think that was Dr. Phil... whatever, I digress.
Stop looking for happiness everywhere else and just make it yourself. Yep, kinda like magic. It is all around you, you just have to look for it. Once your expectations change, your outlook will follow.
Nowadays we are so bombarded by images on social media showing us what all the "cool kids" are doing. What we should be eating or drinking or wearing, that we have really lost sight of what is really important... how we treat each other, how much time we spend with our loved ones, and of course, how much fun we have.
Stop judging yourself against others and just do you! Do what makes your heart happy and give the other crap a huge "one finger salute". Stop chasing that vacation in the mountains (or don't, you still need goals) and enjoy your life in the burbs; set up the pool noodle sprinkler in the back yard and throw on an old Tshirt and just go for it.
Make all the memories, laugh all the laughs, splash all the puddles and just enjoy your life. We can't all be Kardashians, there have to be a few Dan and Roseannes in the group for it to work.
I'd love to tell you there is some important science principal to be gleaned from doing this experiment (and there probably is, somewhere), but this one is mostly just for fun and it looks pretty freaking cool.
Other than the Alka Seltzer or denture tabs you will need, you probably already have all the necessary ingredients on hand to perform this experiment.
You will need: water, vegetable, olive, or some other kind of oil, food coloring and a clear glass. (bonus points if you wear goggles. They're totally not necessary, but very cool nonetheless)
Start by coloring your water any color you want, I used blue. Pour about two inches of oil in the bottom of your container, then add another two or three inches of your colored water. Allow this to settle for just a second, then add an Alka Seltzer or denture tablet and sit back and enjoy the show.
A couple of months ago, before the cold really set in, we decided to strike out on one last (outdoor) adventure for the season; Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. The drive from Nashville took us about two and a half or three hours. It's not really that far, we just got sidetracked and it took a bit longer than expected; adventuring at its finest.
The interstate travel was pretty underwhelming, but once we got off the highway and onto the back(ish) roads that led into the national park, the scenery was really beautiful. Since we went in late November, most of the beautiful red and orange leaves were gone, but you could still see remnants of the passing season all around if you looked hard enough.
As you drive the couple of miles that wind through the park to the visitor's center, there are lots of places you can pull off the road and take in the beautiful surroundings, including several hiking trails.
There is also an overlook with a cool, informational plaque that gives data on air pollution and how it has affected the surrounding landscape. Wait! Did this just turn into an educational homeschool field trip?! You bet your behind it did. Learning happens everywhere, even for grown-ups.
After we meandered through the park for about twenty minutes, we finally arrived at the beautiful visitor's center where you purchase your tickets, overpriced souvenirs and take your final potty break before descending into the depths of the earth.
After reading the descriptions of each tour, we decided to do the domes and dripstones tour. Their website describes it like this ...
Wind down through deep pits and high domes via a 280 step staircase. Vertical cave gives way to large canyons and underground hill climbs. Visit the Frozen Niagara formation, then pass through one of the caves most decorative dripstone areas. A ten-minute bus ride to and from the entrances is included.
Well that doesn't sound so bad, I mean, I've walked down a flight of stairs before, how hard could it be?! Honestly, it was pretty intense. My legs got Jello-y right around the sixty-seven thousandth stair and I'm pretty sure I almost fell to my death at least twice, but the feeling I had while in that cave was something I won't soon forget.
It was something I hadn't felt in a while: brave. As someone who deals with varying levels of anxiety on a daily basis, staying safely in my comfort zone is where I feel best, but this day I was all kindsa out of my element and I was OK with it, excited even.
I usually like to be fully prepared for any and all things that could possibly go wrong, but this day, I was flying by the seat of my pants... and it felt amazing.
As I followed Neil Young down into the bowels of the beautiful blue grass state of Kentucky, I just somehow knew it was all gonna be OK. (disclaimer: this was not the real Neil Young, just some cool hippie imposter, but whatever)
After snaking down the narrow stairway, the cave opens up into a huge area that has been modified with bench seats for cave goers to sit down and listen to a short presentation detailing the history and cool facts about the caves.
Our guides: (I think his name was) Dave and "guy who resembles Dave, but younger" were amazing and super entertaining and even picked Micah to be the official light turner outer for the demonstration on "exactly how dark is it in here with the lights off". This was one of the fun q's from the q&a session with the rangers.
The cave is covered in some really cool drip formations and the rangers give you tons of great information about how they are formed and how long it takes and all that good stuff. They will also remind you "please don't touch the formations, not even just a little bit". You are, however, allowed to take pictures, but you can't use your flash.
The entire trip through the cave took about an hour and a half, maybe a bit longer and due to the small size of our party (25-ish spelunkers), we were able to go see a couple of things that aren't usually on the domes and dripstones tour.
The weather inside the cave was mild, but not nearly as cold as I had anticipated, plus the walk is a bit of a workout, so you will generate more than enough body heat to keep you going. A light windbreaker would suffice.
The caves are very well maintained and the trek was very safe, even though I was sure I was going to die, I never did. (sneakers with good soles are definitely recommended) There were two rangers in our party, one leading and one in the back making sure no stragglers got left behind (we were the stragglers) and he was very kind and understanding when Micah's little feet got tired and almost gave out on the seventy-seventh staircase.
Overall, this was an amazing adventure, one that I would highly recommend if given the chance, but, I think, for me, it would have been more fun if I hadn't been constantly worrying about Micah falling into the pits of the earth never to be seen or heard from again.
He had no trouble navigating the small, cramped spaces, but his little six year old feet wore out way before mine did and he was asking to be piggy backed about half way through the trip. No dice, kid. The tiny stairs and slippery passageways did not lend themselves very well to piggybacking.
There are several other tours that would be perfect for little spelunkers and they offer a handicapped accessible tour as well. The caves are open for tours from 8:30 a.m. till 4:30 p.m. through March 2017 (at which time the Spring / Summer schedule will begin), but you will want to check the website as the times for arrival and departure for each tour is different.
Admission is free to enter the park itself, but the guided tours (over 13 available) cost a fee depending on which one you decide to take and each tour has a different "ability level", so choose carefully when buying your tickets.
After your cave tour, make sure to take a ride through the rest of the park, there are lots of little hidden gems to explore, including an old cemetery right next to an old one room church that is super creepy and just happened to be unlocked.
As soon as I walked in, I felt like I was transported into another time and place. The sound of my feet shuffling across the nearly two-hundred year old hardwoods was haunting. The smell of the dank air. My voice echoing off the pews and walls. The history in that old building was palpable. I'm not sure if ghosts are real or not, but if they are, they are definitely kicking it in that old church.
As the sun began to set on our epic day trip, we had one last stop to make. I had seen a fireworks stand on the way back into the park from our lunch adventure at the Watermill (amazing country style lunch buffet, btw) and I remembered they had a sign advertising rocks and gemstones.
I'm a sucker for sparkly and shiny things, so we made a detour on our way out of town and picked up these little beauties to commemorate "that day we didn't die in a cave in Kentucky".
One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the ability to have fun while learning important concepts. As a child, math was my least favorite subject. To say I hated it would be an understatement, so when I decided to homeschool, I resolved to change my attitude about math and do my best to make it fun for Micah, so hopefully he would not have the same aversion to it as I.
This week we have been working on place value up to hundreds. We are eclectic homeschoolers and are currently using Khan Academy for our math lessons. After watching a very short, succinct video, I wasn't sure exactly how to reinforce this newly learned concept, other than worksheets, which Micah abhors, so I created this fun game to get in some practice while having fun. I call it "sneaky learning". (not the game, the process in which the kids are gaining important knowledge without having to "learn" it)
I made two different game boards, one for tens and ones and one that goes up to the hundred's place. I also made a sheet of numbers to cut out. You could also just make random numbers up off the top of your head, but I find the act of drawing from a bowl is engaging for the kids and makes it more like a game.
Set up requires only to print the game board(s) and the numbers. Cut the numbers apart and fold and place into a bowl for your child to pick. Don't let them see the number, that would kinda defeat the purpose. (alternately, you could just call the numbers from the sheet)
To play the game, you simply call a number and ask the child to write the numbers in their correct place on the game board. Super easy and straight forward. If your child is not a proficient writer yet, you could always use the magnetic numbers as pictured above. I found this particular set in the dollar spot at Target, but you can find them most places.
Follow Me on Pinterest