Thursday, May 20, 2010

Call it Courage ~ Garden ~ Noeo Chemistry ~ More Sunscreen

Call it Courage by A. Sperry

Today was our official last day of school but I can't wait to start doing more lessons with the dc! I just finished putting together an independent study for Call it Courage. I'll upload it to googledocs but first let me give credit where credit is due. Below are my sources. The maps that I printed aren't in my doc but I mention how we used them. It won't be 100% independent, because they'll need help researching, but they did so well with the slavery independent study that I thought I would try to do that more often.

scroll waaay down for the plates - I used this to make a magnetic puzzle

Here is the paper that I'm giving to the olders. I may do this book as a read-aloud, but having it written out for independent work makes that option ready to go. The pictures of the book covers at the end are for them to glue in their Literature Logs. Our youngest will do the maps and geography as she's interested but I don't think I'll read the book to her. It's a little intense for her age. This also begins their formal Geography course for high school, which includes cultural studies.

What's Cookin'?

Chili. Purists may cringe but I made it with beans. I sure wouldn't win at a chili cook-off but it was okay. Basically I put cooked pinto beans, cooked ground beef, tomato sauce, and onion in the crockpot with some seasonings. I didn't have bell pepper or celery and dh doesn't like cooked tomatoes in recipes so I left those items out. One recipe I found online said garlic salt, pepper, and chili powder. Garlic, salt, and pepper are IN chili powder so I just used some chili powder (homemade so no msg) and just added that for seasoning. We ate it with tortilla chips instead of cornbread.

For Memorial Day we had BBQ (a pre-cooked roast cut up and put in the crock pot with homemade msg-free BBQ sauce), mashed potatoes (I mash 'em good with lots of butter and milk), fresh boiled corn on the cob, and rolls. We're finishing up our last bit of Amish butter and it was heavenly on the corn. Then we went out to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor for our traditional end-of-school outing.

What's Gardenin'?

The lettuce has bolted except for some tiny ones that I planted from seed. The peas are starting to flower. The cukes are starting to flower but they are still really, really short so it may be too early. The strawberries are bearing fruit but I have to beat the roly-polies to them. I thought the slugs were getting them but I find lot of rolies in the stawberry bed. A week ago I put a bunch of DE all in the bed and it helped a LOT. I've gotten a few tomatoes but I think it's still a bit early for those. The fire ants are busy harvesting aphids in the peach tree. Very interesting to watch, actually! The potatoes look like they probably have blight, what a plight - I'm very dissappointed about that. I haven't been able to spend much time outside but hopefully will next week [update: I cut off the infected leaves, sprayed with neem oil, and piled the dirt/mulch higher around them. They are doing much better].

I got a nice surprise this week - the peas are out! I had seen a few flowers here and there and didn't realize how well they were doing. We can start picking now. There's a fungus on the bottom part. That happened last year also, but in a totally different bed (this is a new raised bed). I didn't spray neem oil ahead of time like I planned - waited until it was too yucky. The top part of the plants look good though and are busy with the pea pods.

Another surprise: There was a dead potato plant in the planter so I pulled it out. Then I thought, "I wonder..." and dug around in the dirt without disturbing the other plants. I pulled out a perfect little new potato. Then I found another in the raised bed. So I have 2 pretty red potatoes.

I think I have chiggers (ewww). When we got home from watering the Children's Community Garden I had the dc take off their socks and shoes immediately and take a 'toe bath' while rubbing their legs roughly with their hands to swipe any off. What did I do? Walked in and got lunch ready and piddled around for about an hour until I finally got around to doing that myself. Result: bites around my sock line that itch like crazy. I put a baking soda paste on it yesterday to help relieve the itching.

What's Schoolin'?

Chemistry, again. This curriculum looks fantastic and uses trade books for its core intruction. I haven't seen the teacher guide in person and the sample pages don't take you through a full lesson cycle (tsk, tsk) but the bit it shows seems good. My heart is set on Real Science 4 Kids and I've already spent a lot of time on it (I'll upload the file when I'm done). Otherwise this would be in the running. I'm considering it for biology and physics though.

We're in the middle of writing up our Record Books for 4-H. That'll be the gist of school (or at least writing class time) for this week [another update: now that the school year is "officially" over we'll just be doing it in our spare time, lol. Either way they are due in 2 weeks!]. Youngest dd is doing the Memory Book. It's fun looking back through the academic year at all that they did and accomplished. I got several new gray hairs last year during record book time and probably will again this year but they're worth it!

Sunscreen Update:

I found ewg's recommended list here:

Some I like so far:

California Baby: Titatinium Dioxide is the active ingredient but it says "non-nanoparticles" and that ingredient gets a rating of 1 (okay). Other ingredients have no identified concerns. Overall score was 0 (recommended). Downside: really expensive :(

Badger: Zinc Oxide is active ingredient at 22%. That ingredient got a 3; still got an overall 1 (recommended). Upside: More affordable [I ran across their Anti-Bug pushup in Amazon - looks good]. $9 or $13 for 3.5 oz.

Loving Naturals Organic: Non-nano particle zinc oxide. $10/1 oz.

Thinkbaby: non-nano particles, zinc oxide, no titanium dioxide. Downside: argine for fragrance and I can't find a good ingredient list from the company to see if it has another product without it. They say what it doesn't have but not what it has. $17/3 oz.

This was not on their list but the ingredients look good: Elemental Herbs sunscreen. Non-nanoparticle zinc oxide. Other ingredients look fine. $9 for 1 oz.

From their site regarding zinc oxide:

"About ZINC OXIDE (sunscreen grade > 100nm): Sunscreens with micronized zinc oxide may contain nanoparticles. Micronized zinc offers improved sun protection compared to larger particles. Micronized zinc particles do not penetrate healthy skin to a large degree, but may be more toxic to living cells and the environment. Inhalation of powders and sprays is a concern."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Addition and Subtraction Booklets ~ Sunscreen

What's Cookin'?

Not much, lately! Right now, as I type, I'm browning 2 pounds of grass-fed ground beef and have a meatloaf and meat balls in the oven. From the ground beef I hope to get 4 meals: spaghetti, tacos, chili, and, uh, something else.

Otherwise it's just been the bare basics: yogurt, almond milk, bread (barely!), pancake crackers, and bone broth.

What's Schoolin'?

The olders are giving reports at a nature camp on ponds this week and leading a small group of youngsters in a lesson on wildlife next week.

They had a wonderful language and culture immersion experience when family came up to visit from Central America a few weekends ago. Not to mention the wonderful culture of food! :)

We've been getting a lot more out of the binomial cube now that I've presented it properly after watching the video I posted. Just for fun we did (a+b)squared (I don't know how to do the 2 superscript on the blog!) with bead bars and mathematically and it was cool how they matched and it worked!

Addition and Subtraction Booklets for the Montessori Strip Board:

I am so excited to have found a used Nienhuis addition/subtraction strip board. I was postponing presenting it to dd because, frankly, I didn't like my homemade one and it didn't appeal to me (so I didn't think it would appeal to her either). Now we're both ready and rearing to go but life has been busy every day since we got it. The good thing is that it gave me more time to get the booklets ready. I uploaded the addition and subtraction booklets to google docs. I redid the ones I had gotten online because I wanted the constant number first in the addition booklet and (it may be weird or not authentically Montessori) in the subtraction booklets as well. I also wanted to include all of them in the subtraction booklet.

Here is the addition booklet:

Here is the subtraction booklet:

The olders will be taking the SAT this week. We try to downplay it as much as possible. Apparently I didn't talk about it enough because one dd had some wrong ideas about it (that it meant passing or failing the grade, for example - I NEVER told them that!).


I am currently in a quandary about sunscreen. If titanium dioxide is bad, then why is it so prominent in natural sunscreens as well as conventional sunscreens? I've snatched a few moments here and there to search online for sunscreens with just the zinc oxide (but they may need to block both types of rays to be beneficially balanced - I would need to know which zinc oxide blocks if I get one with only that). On the other hand, the titanium dioxide is really bad when it is in nanoparticle form. I found one that actually says "non-nanoparticles." The search continues. Let me know of any favorite sunscreens. By the way, we use it sparingly but soccer is 2 hours and horse camp is 5 hours, so there are times that the dc need it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Montessori Videos ~ Adding Angles ~ Lit Extension

Montessori Videos:

This site was posted in one of the groups and has wonderful videos. As of the starting of this post I've only watched the binomial cube but it was so awesome that I wanted to go ahead and share the link. Don't expect anything snazzy - it is Margaret Homfray talking and demonstrating during training presentations. On the other hand, if you are a montessori enthusiast, it doesn't get much snazzier than this!

Geometry - Adding Angles:

I blatantly took this idea from Sarah Sellers. Below is her blog link.

I put some colored paper squares, a protractor, and a whole fraction circle in a little tray. They trace the circle, cut randomly out from the center (I would probably recommend no more than 3 cuts and to use a ruler to draw the lines before cutting). Then they measure the angles using the protractor and add them together. Thus they discover that it's always 360. Cool, eh? As I find my whole circle protractor and compass I'll put those in there also. (look for Angles and Addition)

Literature Extension:

We just finished reading Joseph: 1861 - A Rumble of War (by B. Pryor) for our Civil War unit. This is just a little extension I made to relate it to what we've been reading about character in our writing workshop mini-lessons using Live Writing that I've posted about earlier. The second page is for them to use independently for Shades of Gray (another CW historical fiction book). I'm currently previewing Across Five Aprils for them. It seems like it will be more intense, but I'm only on the first chapter.

When I handed them the paper middle dd said with an I-know-the-answer gleam in her eye, "Hey, didn't you ask us about this last night?" She's right. I casually discussed his changes regarding slavery with them after we finished reading to help get their brain warmed up for this activity.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lyme Awareness ~ Raised Beds ~ Triclosan ~ Listeria

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month:
Here are some good websites. Lyme is the "Great Imitator" and shouldn't be treated lightly. If you don't know whether or not you have Lyme in your area don't ask a doctor, ask a vet. Our local drs are taught that there is no Lyme here and yet the vets test for it and treat it all of the time (especially ranch dogs but also city dogs that pick it up at the park or whatever).

This document is so excellent that it's beyond words. It's helpful to both the patient and the doctor. You can take it to your doctor and it gives the treatment guidelines. For the patient it's helpful for the symptoms and the guidelines as well.

(you would need the western blot test for Lyme: IgG and IgM)(This lab does it manually and is thus more sensitive than others)

Please know that Lyme is a clinically diagnosed disease; the best test can only test the antigens, not the bacteria itself, so if your body is not making those you will test negative even if you are positive. That's why the symptoms checklists are so important. Things that you would never guess are related, like urinary tract issues and heart palpitations, can each be separate symptoms of the same bug. Please also know that the CDC standards are for *reporting* purposes, NOT for diagnostic purposes.

Raised Garden Beds:

Here are some more recent photos of the raised beds . You can see that the potatoes are actually growing, yeah! My favorite parts are the trellises and worm tower. The trellises are side rails to a baby crib. They were sitting on a curb (just the rails - weird, eh?). I thought that if they were baby-safe then they would be fine for an organic garden. Saved from the landfill and put to good use :). We "feed the worms" with kitchen scraps even though I haven't gotten the worms yet. These pictures are several weeks old so the beds have filled out more now, the peas are headed up the trellis, and more things are planted.

I REALLY need to spend some time caring for the garden or I'm going to start losing things. I need to: sprinkle DE (diatamaceous earth) around the strawberries; spray neem oil on the sweet peas, tomatoes, and basically everything; remulch in a few places; thin out carrots, etc; take out the bolted lettuce that tastes bitter now; and *finally* plant the cantaloupe that have somehow survived in their little plastic container from the feed store for weeks and weeks.

Did You Know?

Triclosan and Triclocarban are key ingredients in antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, cutting boards, etc. They disrupt hormones. Triclosan has been found in animal studies to disrupt the thyroid hormones and sex hormones (namely testosterone) with identifiable changes in behavior, learning ability, and reproduction. Wow. Triclocarban has been found in animal studies to actually boost sex hormones which is bad news for people with certain cancers. Wow. What's really creepy and frustrating to me is that there are no human studies and yet it is ubiquitous (I learned that word from dh!) in our children's environments. Here is a short video from CNN - it's less than 5 minutes long. Take a look:

Here is a short article about a study at UC Davis regarding triclocarban (if you are interested in more info click on the related stories. Wow):

That said, I do have antibacterial wipes in the car and in my purse (and alcohol-based gel). I need to go see the ingredients...

Too Weird:

Listeria is a problem in lunch meat. I remember the OB/GYN telling me to either not eat lunch meat or to heat it to steaming during one of my pregnancies (and to not eat unwashed lettuce). I'm not quite at the point of not buying lunch meat although I try to incorporate alternatives in our lunches such as cooking a roast just for slicing up for sandwiches or making homemade chicken noodle soup for lunches at home, etc. But... we do still eat lunch meat. On the other hand, I always heat it up to steaming for the dc and myself (but dh likes it uncooked) and I try to get it without any added nitrate/nitrite.

This is the weird part. Instead of finding out and solving why there are such high concentrations of listeria in lunch meat or teaching consumers to heat up the meat to steaming (it takes less than 2 minutes), they are working on an edible packaging that has an added antimicrobial in it that will kill the listeria. Yum??? Hmmm. How will this affect us? Who knows. Edible antibiotics in a constant food source. Aren't we suppose to be *avoiding* unnecessary use of antibiotics (superbugs, anyone?) and avoid routinely antibiotic-injected beef? You treat an infection of listeria with antibiotics, so I'm thinking "antimicrobial" is just a roundabout way of saying antibiotic (and if it's even broader wouldn't that actually be worse?).

Penn State is testing one using "Aureobasidium pulluland" as its main component (plus the antimicrobial) so of course I had to google it. Okay, they are trying to use a plant pathogen that grows pink, then black yeast-like colonies full of spores. And they want us to eat it? What about all of us that are mold-sensitive? I'm just shaking my head. I know wikipedia is not the most reliable source, but... "Chronic human exposure via humidifiers/air conditioners can lead to hypersensitivity pneumonitis (aka extrinsic allergic alveolitis) or "humidifier lung". This condition is characterized acutely by dyspnea, cough, fever, chest infiltrates, and acute inflammatory reaction. Condition can also be chronic, and lymphocyte mediated. Chronic condition is characterized radiographically by reticulonodular infiltrates in the lung, with apical sparing."

This is from another website ( that I found when I googled it. "Aureobasidium pullulans is a species of fungus which is capable of causing a variety of diseases in humans. The fungus is most often found in damp places either inside the home or in the environment. It is often pinkish or blackish. It is a rare cause of disease and is more likely to occur in immunosuppressed patients. It can cause infection in just about any part of the body depending on the nature of the exposure (inhalation, wound, ingestion etc.) and as such the type and severity of symptoms can vary considerably. "

I can't even eat untreated beans or corn because of the molds/toxins so I could never again eat packaged meat if it is packaged with a plant pathogen that causes fungal disease in cotton, pistachios, pecans, and citrus.