Saturday, August 31, 2013

Some Pig

We finally got some answers for our sweet piggy. But let me start from the beginning, now that we've figured out where the beginning might be.

A month or more ago, Guinea got very territorial. She puffed up and tiptoed and rumbled. She strutted around in a show of piggy dominance. I worried she had a hormonal imbalance, and we joked about her being a guard pig. After a week-ish, maybe more, she mostly went back to her usual ways. We figured it was stress. We'd just had the house re-roofed, we'd had repairmen and friends over, and we had recently driven over 5,000 miles.


Then C started making comments about Guinea getting fat. Last Friday I saw red urine and chalked it up to eating red peppers. On Saturday it was too red to be food pigment, so I took her to the animal ER. Dr x-rayed and said probably bladder stones. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed.


Wednesday she quit eating. Her poops got hard and tiny and she got wider and wider. She hunched and got very snippy. By bedtime she was looking pretty bad. She and I headed back to the pet ER. Around midnight we finally saw a vet. She didn't know a whole lot about guinea pigs but her tech did! Turns out she is a tech for a local museum's exotics! She gave Guinea some fluids under the skin and critical care formula, and me the number of the awesome exotics vet at the museum (who also has her own practice). Guinea perked up with the fluids and besides being royally annoyed at us for the force-feedings, overall appeared to be improving.


Yesterday e and I took Guinea to see this wonderful exotics vet. Her tech (not the same one) is awesome as well. He joked with e and found the perfect scratch spot between Guinea's eyes to quiet her so the vet could hear her heartbeat. In the end Guinea had a shaved belly and an ultrasound had confirmed that she did not have bladder stones.


So... What was it? A ruptured ovarian cyst. Her show of dominance was because she was in pain, because if prey animals act sick they get eaten. Also why she was looking wider. Then it ruptured, allowing the fluid into her abdominal cavity, causing inflammation, and she got wider still, plus the blood. Most Guinea pigs don't survive that.


The treatment is to let her get better, then next time she shows signs of pain take her in right away. If indeed she has a cyst, the vet puts her under and spays her. Problem is, most guinea pigs don't survive that, either.


So....bottom line is our time with Guinea may be very limited. We feel so bad that she was in pain and we didn't know. We hope she will stay with us for a long time yet. And we pray she will not develop another cyst!! She really is 'some pig'.


Thursday, August 29, 2013


I love Waldorf. The way subject matter presented at each grade reflects the underlying development of the child, the way it brings balance and beauty and fills a child's cup. And just like many of the unconventional choices C and I make for our children, this one was met with great skepticism.


E didn't help our case in the first few years. He did not decide to read until second grade and when quizzed by well-meaning people, almost never seemed to understand what he was being asked. Over time and with required exams, he proved that he is indeed doing very well in reading and math. But science? You see, we have a science teacher in the family. An incredibly wonderful high school science teacher.


Which does not fit with the fact that we have spent the past three years in fantasy and nature. We devoured classics like fairy tales, native tales, Paddington, Poppy, and Pippi Longstocking. We memorized poems about nature. We didn't check-out a single non-fiction library book for the entire three years we were in Alaska. Crazy, no? First through third grade. Nothing. We did visit the museum in town to learn about Native Alaskans and local animals. We attended a powwow. We tried out dog mushing and gold panning. We observed. Observed, observed, and observed. We noticed the birch bark and the moose poop, watched fox run through our backyard, examined the dead vole we found near the bike path. Pressed fireweed and primroses, dug in the rocky soil, noted the changing of light with the seasons. Ice fog, northern lights, packed tundra snow. In third grade E kept a weather journal and learned the basic cloud types. He could fairly accurately estimate temperature outside. We blew bubbles and tossed boiling water at -56 degrees F to see what would happen.


Beyond those cloud types, there were no scientific terms. No magnifying glass, no microscope, no teacher-directed experiments. Of course there were questions, some of which I answered and others we looked up. Some I even told them they'd learn later, or asked them what they thought the answer might be. Mostly, though, we observed. Just. Observed.


I think that made the science teacher of the family nervous. He strove to fill in the gaps, to teach E about atoms and everything else a first/second/ third grader should know. E took in what he could, but atoms are hard to grasp. Kids can memorize the facts and draw the models, but the information will not live in them until they are in high school and capable of such abstract thought. I look forward to when my children are old enough to truly take advantage of what this person has to offer. He has so many tricks, experiments, and demos up his sleeve. It is going to be awesome when our children are old enough to fully partake.


For now, though, facts presented purely as facts make them nervous. They realize what it is like for information to truly live inside them, and when it doesn't, they ask question after frantic question, barely waiting for the answer before they utter the next question, not stopping to ponder but hoping that something said will fit into their heads and make sense of it all.


Science this semester for E is the Beaufort Scale. Wind, wind, and more wind... Virginia will provide where Alaska did not. We have wind here in abundance! We also have insects and spiders and and flowers and chipmunks and squirrels and rabbits and something that tunnels under our grass. Not to mention all the pretty little birds who visit us. e and I are going to make a knitted sky blanket this year. Observe, observe, observe. Wonder at God's creations. Next semester for E is man and animal. He is going to make some absolutely amazing drawings after all these years of careful observation.


Indeed, free observation is a vital skill that is too often stamped out in school programs. Children are taught to notice only what the teacher or text deems important. Yet how much better for children to feel secure in their own ability to observe, be it science, literature, social studies, friendships, families, math, art, music, movement... observation is necessary in every single aspect of life.


Here are some of our favorite bits of nature we've observed lately:

Why are the top pollen bits yellow, but lower down white?

A flower inside a flower?!

Extra-thick spider silk, teeny-tiny spider.

A huge spider has taken up residence outside E's room. Her web is larger than the window! She puts on quite a show at meal times.

She measures over one inch in body length.

e's nature shelf inside the screened porch during a downpour!

Rain on the green grass, rain on the tree.

Rain on the rooftops, but not on me!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Crafting Kids


The kids woke up this morning with a crafting bug. Before I had even made breakfast, they were sewing away! E used part of a baby sock to make a coin pouch with a drawstring closure to store his euros from Nana and Papa. e made a black bag filled with white chocolate (felt). Our house is full of treat bags from e. :)


Then we found that not only did we have azalea caterpillars, carrot green caterpillars, and parsley caterpillars, but now also radish green caterpillars. Fun to watch, but they ate e's entire crop! How can we prevent this next summer?


Today is a clean-the-house day, and a do-we-risk-it day at the gym. They are cleaning out the foam pit (think 5 yrs of chalk and foam dust!) this morning. I'm not so sure it will be settled by noon, and E is already coughing from who knows what. But I did finally get his fall training schedule. It isn't as bad as I thought- only 3 week nights plus Saturday afternoon. We will still have 4 nights a week of family dinners, yay!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Form Drawing


I have been wanting to do this set of pages since E was in first grade, and I finally got my wish with e! She absolutely adores this poem.

I took the poem from A Little Garden Flower first grade curriculum and combined it with Christopherus first grade form drawing. I am so happy with the result!

This morning I found caterpillars in one of my azalea bushes. Caring for all these plants is new to me- should I be doing something to protect against bugs?


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy Endings

Power struggles are never fun. Ever. Nobody really wins. Today we had a big one. E vs mom and then E vs dad and then E vs both mom and dad. It was really big, and it went on and on. We tried every non-violent method of problem solving. We set limits. We held the space. We tried ignoring. But it is hard to ignore a kid who will. not. give. space. and will not stop badgering. (Mom, are you laughing yet? He is way too much like me!). After a long time C took E's door off its hinges (because of slamming, and you can bet E simply moved to slamming the bathroom door instead). Most parents would say to maybe take away toys or privileges, but this kid has none, and spanking does not work for us. There is absolutely nothing in the world that will stop E once he gets going. That is, until C started dismantling E's bunk bed. E was glad to have it gone (?!?) and calmed down. Go figure. But he was still not happy with us.


Now E is and always has been a child who is hard to figure. Hard to plan for, hard to parent. He rebels against any and all rules. He is his own person. He was born believing that if I know something, he must also... Which of course he doesn't, and it kills him. Homeschooling him is a challenge, let me tell you! After 4 years, I think I have it worked out. He does Teaching Textbooks math on the computer- can't argue with a computer, though sometimes he tries. No circle time for him- I write poems and songs on a chalkboard and he challenges himself to memorize them. I leave out books and stories that relate to a main lesson block until he asks to do them, then I approach it as us learning together even if I already know what I'm talking about. He is eager to learn and oh so smart. He forces me to use all my roundabout teacher skills and to be infinitely creative in how I present things. He brings out the best and the worst in me. Did I mention he is Just Like Me? Sigh. What comes around, goes around.


Anyway, this latest rough patch began around the time we started preparing to move. Routines changed, houses changed, gymnastics coaches changed....everything changed. He had a resurgence of asthma and of course reacted badly to the medicines. I have been working hard to create a new, constant rhythm for him, which of course he is fighting. So I have been chalking up the difficulties to all that and had no idea where to go from here. My brilliant hubby, on the other hand, got in the car. He was gone for quite a while, and when he got back, he had..... Games! Yard games to play with the kids. Indeed, one of E's biggest complaints since we moved in was that daddy always had a project he was busy with. No time to play. He's here, but not here.


C taught E and e how to use a baseball glove and how to play badminton. They hauled the bunk bed boards out to the shop. They put E's door back on. They played and played WITH DADDY. I love happy endings!

I finished the pumpkin hat. My sweet e has worn it almost all day, despite the fact that it is almost 80 in our house. E has requested a watermelon hat. I love that my children appreciate homemade. :)


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Calcium and a Brownie Recipe

This is GuineaRabbit. She's been with us since she was a teeny piggy, when we brought her and her sister Popcorn home almost 3 years ago. Unfortunately Poppy had tooth trouble; her jaw was not lined up so her teeth did not wear down. She died suddenly after only a few months, leaving Guinea as an Only Pig. After a while we brought home two friends for her to play with. Big fail. So Guinea remains happily single. She spends her days roaming free, causing troubles here and there, standing on our feet and wheeking loudly for food. She has a big personality. She wages piggy war if her bed needs cleaning or her hay pile is too small. She demands her portion of smoothies and salads. She watches tv and has favorite shows on Netflix. She even tried out being a guard pig for a while, puffing up on tiptoe and pacing when anyone outside the family entered the house.

But today piggy tragedy struck. While Guinea licked the banana masher, she peed red. A few minutes later, she did it again. And again. The pig who hadn't needed a vet since babyhood. I called a few vets nearby but found no exotic vet open. It's Saturday. So off to the pet ER we went.


Guinea spent a lot of time on my lap, mad that wouldn't feed her. She did not think highly of the big dogs in the waiting room, the vet feeling her belly, the stethoscope, and the metal table, especially when I continued to with hold not just veggies, but also hay. Oh, the horrid-ness of it all. She squeaked at everyone who would listen. She was smart enough to pee on the table after the vet was explained how she would use a needle to obtain a urine sample, but the urinalysis yielded no definite answer, so I agreed to an x-ray. I signed sedation forms and handed her over.


After a while, a nurse brought me back an incredibly puffed up, huffy Guinea. She had obviously been unhappy with the proceedings and voiced her desire for a most-deserved treat. The nurse gave the go-ahead, and I put her hay and veggies (that she KNEW I had brought along) back into her cage. At last. She gave one last very loud wheek and dove in.


Turns out she hadn't been sedated. She had actually laid on her side for the x-ray! Amazing. Anyway, good news is that her bladder stones (pigs are prone to calcium stones) are small and passable. After 5 hours, Guinea and I went home with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and instructions to feed her only low-calcium foods.


Low calcium? I thought we already were! But it turns out that nuts are high in calcium. Oranges. Cucumbers. Celery. Romaine lettuce. Sunflower seeds. Oops. And her beloved smoothies.... Sometimes we make them with almond milk from a carton. Calcium. Good to know that WE are getting plenty of calcium.... But not so good for Guinea.


Meanwhile, the kids were at home with daddy. They ate every leftover they could find, including the brownies and coconut cream. :) e does make excellent brownies.

We found the recipe on the back of the bag of Let's Do....Organic coconut flour. Here it is:


1/3 c coconut oil

1/2 c cocoa powder

6 eggs

1/2 c honey OR 3/4 c maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 c coconut flour

1 c chocolate chips (e prefers chunks instead)


Bake at 350 degrees F. Yum. I would suggest using duck eggs instead of chicken eggs or perhaps adding an extra chicken egg. The brownies were extra yummy and moist made that way.


e helped me make dinner, we did another page in her main lesson book (picture of that tomorrow), and E and C looked up information on how diatomaceous earth works (ick).


Friday, August 23, 2013

Caterpillars, treadmills, and friends, oh my!

This morning C and I took e on a bike ride while E was at gymnastics. We admired the crepe myrtle trees with peeling multi-colored bark, pink flowers, and dark green leaves. When we got back, we found this:
Three fat, striped caterpillars in her carrot planter, and, well, no more carrot greens to speak of. She wasn't too upset. After all, how can one be upset with such lovable creatures?

C set to work practicing saxophone, and e and I made brownies. Apparently two things must happen on Friday: making brownies and downloading the newest Sparkle Stories. To finish off the morning, e watched Wild Kratts while I tackled some lesson planning. Here's my table....
So... about that Wild Kratts thing. My children watch Netflix. They also play video games. Mostly on an iPad. In fact, E has his own iPad Mini. We are Waldorf-inspired.... Not Waldorf purists. We insist on non-violent, non-sassy, slow games/shows, and honestly even the stuff E loves is geared towards preschoolers, like Babar and Caillou, or about animals like Wild Kratts. I know the brain research, I know Waldorf philosophy, but I am okay with this. Usually. Every once in a while I wish they didn't, that maybe I've screwed up their vision or their learning potential or something. But we do so many things differently- our diet, homeschooling, natural living, our diet....and did I mention our diet? The food thing alone makes us so very, very different. If my kids also had no idea about tv or video games.... Well, I just want SOME version of normalcy for them, and, I'll admit it, a half hour free of the incessant questions and requests is a bonus.

After we brought E home, C's new treadmill arrived in a crate. Wow, that thing is heavy! But it is now set up and ready. The kids tried it out. e ran over a mile straight. I was impressed. Poor E was interrupted by dinner, so had to stop before he wanted to.
Somewhere in there we also had two sweet gymnastics friends and their mama come play. I suppose that means I didn't forget to socialize my children today. ;p

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Father Sun

e started her main lesson book! She was so excited. It's purple, and big, and finally she's allowed to copy words into it!

Today was one of those roller coaster days. The nine-year change has really thrown us for a loop! But we managed a bike ride and a game of Battleship. Plus a boy from around the corner came over.... Three times. e was THRILLED, E was a bit non-plused. I was glad to see our neighborhood actually has kids.

We sang some rounds, which the kids asked me to post on Facebook so that Nana could see. Fish and chips and vinegar... And then after I posted one I saw that E was not only upside down, but also patting his bottom for most of the song. e was insulted that he had ruined a video she was in and E thought it was hilarious. Sigh...

I am told there is frost in Fairbanks, I see pictures of friends wearing fleece, and then I go outside to breathe the thick, hot, humid air and feel the warmth of the sun here in Virginia. Is it crazy that I am craving cooler air? I look to the trees hoping to see yellow, but everything is still green and flowery. I must be crazy to want hats and mittens! But I do. So I started knitting a pumpkin hat. Take that, never-ending-summer. :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Today's been quiet. E woke up angry, so he chose to listen to Sparkle Stories all morning. e and I did a little bike ride and found that the next street over is pretty quiet. It was fun, after e remembered how her brakes work! Nothing like catching your child by the arm as she zooms past screaming.... But we got it worked out.

I managed to start kombucha fermenting without breaking any glass with boiling water like last time. That was a painful lesson for me... But did provide the kids with new information. Especially since I managed to crack a few jars in the freezer as well. It wasn't my day for glass!

Now e and I are going to pick out her main lesson book, cut up a chicken, and chop some veggies before we pick up E from the gym. Hopefully we'll make some soup, too, although she'd much rather be baking brownies.

Tomorrow is E's gym-free day, so we may start some planning for the school year, or we may just ride our bikes up and down the street. If e has her way, there may also be some brownies.... But only if C remembers to get eggs from the commissary today!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Today we spent the morning at the botanical gardens learning about butterflies! Then we dropped E off at gymnastics and went back for the sand pile. e and I spent 2 lovely hours admiring spiderwebs and plants, digging in the sand, and riding the tram until it was time to get e to her own gymnastics class. Such a lovely day.


Tiny little caterpillar sleeping on a leaf,

She made a little chrysalis and then went fast to sleep.

While she was sleeping, she dreamt that she could fly.

Later when she woke up, she was a butterfly!


sand bird


Monday, August 19, 2013


Hello! We are a family of four (plus a guinea pig), making our way creatively through life with our own Waldorf-inspired version of unschooling. A new school year is beginning- so here we go!
The kids tossing and stacking boxes full of packing paper.

2 months ago we left Alaska and DROVE to Virginia. Crazy to think that, but its true. And we did it without eating out even once. Because we had to- we are gluten-dairy-soy-beef-corn-rice-potato-etc free. So we ate a lot of jerky, Lara bars, nuts, dried fruit, bacon, cookies, lunchmeat, hotdogs, fruits, and veggies. One of us ate lots of hay. And watermelon. We saw a lot of beautiful scenery, amazing wildlife, and some wonderful friends we never thought we'd see again.

When we arrived in Virginia, we immediately set about modifying our newly-purchased home. We ripped up carpet and refinished hard wood floors, painted walls, replaced the ancient microwave with a good stove hood, put on a new roof, changed out light fixtures, added skylights....

And while we did that, the kids used our moving boxes as gigantic blocks. They figured out how to make a leaning tower, at what angle and how hard  to toss a box so that it will land (and stick) at the top of a stack, which boxes should be placed where, and whether the boxes worked better empty or full of packing paper. Math in action.

Now we have settled in, C has returned to work, E has begun training hours upon hours each week with a boys' gymnastics team, and e and I are left to hold down the fort. It has been quite an adjustment- our kids have never before been apart for so many hours- but e and I have come to enjoy our time alone together. Lots of picture books, silly voices, and songs. She wants to learn to read. What she doesn't realize is that she already can, and I'm trying to figure out a way for her to discover that on her own.

In a few weeks school will start, E's gym schedule will move to evening, and we can get into a daily and weekly rhythm more suited to our style. I'm looking forward to sharing our adventures here with you!