Unwelcome Critters! The unofficial scoop on head lice.

Let me start this post with a rant.

We are farmish people. We like critters. We consider a certain amount of dirt good for our health. We like the idea of our kids digging in the mud. You can tell by looking at us. We are almost never totally put-together and spiffy. But there is one little line I just have to draw when it comes to filth.

Head lice.

I hate those guys.

They are constantly going around in our kids school, and we’ve caught them more than once.

Naturally, we treat our heads, wash all of our clothes and bedding, vacuum all the rugs and furniture, comb, comb, comb for nits, and repeat. It’s a lot of work, taking all the necessary steps. It’s exhausting for me, painful for the kids, and absolute murder on the drain field, not to mention the pocket book.

When we’re sure we are lice free, we re-enter society. We send our kids back to school, where they pick up a fresh case and bring it back home.


Okay, it’s not that they bring it right back. It’s usually a while before we make the fatal mistake of forgetting the anti-lice detangling spray, but It’s maddening. It’s embarrassing. It makes me itch just thinking of it.

Most schools have abandoned the “No Nit Policy” citing information such as this.

So we’re just supposed to be OK with our kids getting lice on a semi-regular schedule? I’m not.

In case you’re new to the wonderful world of cooties, here’s the scoop.  This is not the official scoop, which I happen to think is part of the problem, but the real dirt.  This is what I’ve learned through our own experiences and by talking with other moms.

  • Your children may complain of itching for several weeks before you can visually see that they have lice.  This has been true both times my kids have had it.  They started itching, and I checked, and re-checked,  but saw no evidence of lice, then one day BAM, full scale visible-to-the-naked-eye infestation.  GROSS
  • Your child may not itch at all…ever.  You may just stumble upon the grisly discovery when you decided to do a french braid.  GROSS!
  • When another parent lets you in on the news that there is lice going around (because your school probably won’t) you’ll do a check, naturally.  But again, you may not see any lice or nits.  They are very hard to see, especially in the early stages of an infestation.  I’ve had parents tell me that they never would have seen the lice or nits if it hadn’t been for using the comb “just in case”  Here’s what they look like by the way.
  • You may see red dots, but no lice or nits, and think to yourself, oh no wonder Junior is itchy, he has a nasty rash.  News Flash: that nasty rash is lice bites.  Sorry.
  • Whichever treatment you use, the comb is KING!  The plastic ones are just okay, the metal one is the one you want.  (not an affiliate, but maybe I should be.)Since the majority of the OTC treatments do not kill nits, you will need to do several nit-checks with the comb after your initial treatment.  I’ve taken to doing them every single time I wash my kids hair.
  • Sitting outside in the bright sun is your best hope for seeing the nits.  Yes, that’s right.  You’re going to have to go out on the front porch and let all the neighbors watch you nit-pick your kids head.  HOORAY!
  • Don’t forget, we now have super-lice!  That’s right, many of the lice in our communities are now resistant to treatment. Please refer to “The comb is KING”.   HOORAY!

I’m well aware that this is something most families with school aged children will deal with at least once, but I’m pretty annoyed at the frequency with which it’s happening in our neighborhood.  I feel that the treat and return policy is a major player here, and could very well be responsible for Super Lice.  It makes perfect sense that if you can’t return your child to school, and get back to work yourself, until your child is nit-free that you will be extra vigilant and make darn sure you’ve gotten every one of the buggers.  On the other hand if you can treat your kid and get back to school and work the next day, it’s very easy to get swept back into being a busy parent, and forget the subsequent nit-checks.  Now you have the most resistant nit hatching into a new stronger louse.  I agree with the folks at the National Pediculosis Association;   a couple years of this and it’s easy to see why we now have Super Lice.  GROSS.

Please people, when the cooties come to town, whatever your school’s policy, I’m begging you to check, treat, and make darn sure your kids are lice and nit free before you send them back to school, daycare, sports and church.

Thank you.

What have I missed, Mamas?  Please feel free to add your advice in the comments.


She’s one of ours!
Reading books and making messes. . .
We went for a day hike at the Cascade tunnel, the site of the Wellington Disaster.
Fairy mushrooms
Concrete snowshed installed after the Wellington Disaster
Leaves on Steven’s Pass just beginning to turn.
Our Camp Fire club visited the Stormy Creek Preserve.  Some of our members had built this fun structure during summer swimming excursions, and were excited to see it still standing.
All of the kids managed to catch frogs.
Horseback riding at Grandma Jeanne’s house.
Plenty of room for everyone!
What a country baby does when Mama turns her back.  This kid LOVES tomatoes!  
A wagon full of pumpkins is too irresistible, they must climb in and request a photo op.  

She doesn’t sleep.

I come to you today, folks, with my head hung low.

I have to ask forgiveness for thinking I had all the answers about grumpy babies.

“Jut put them on a schedule”, I said.

“They thrive on routine”, I said.

“It only takes three days to sleep train them”, I said.

“They aren’t the boss of you” I said.

And all that may be true. It certainly was for our two older daughters.

I don’t know if it’s just harder when you’re in your thirties, rather than twenties, or if having a combination of older children and babies makes it harder, but I have not been able to get this beautiful, precious girl on a schedule. I’ll start thinking things are going well; two naps a day, and to bed by eight, then BAM, she hits a growth spurt, or a developmental milestone (guess who’s fully mobile?), or starts teething, and there goes sleep out the door again.

Is it possible that my older girls did this too, but I’ve locked it away in my mind, like some kind of trauma?

As much as I hate to send my kiddos back to school, I’m hoping that the structure which comes with it will lull the baby into a better routine.

I need some sleep.

Last night I was up every hour and a half.

At one point my husband got up. He came and patted my shoulder, as the baby screamed through a diaper change and said he was sorry.   I’m certain he just came down to make sure I wasn’t shaking her.

So that’s where we are today. Since I don’t know what else I can do, I’m just going to keep trying to get her on a routine.
I know that’s the definition of insanity, but she can’t possibly be up every hour and a half until college right?



The 30 Day Walking Challenge

I have to admit something embarrassing.

I’ve put on almost 20 pounds since little Hazel joined us.

This is especially embarrassing, given that I only gained 10 pounds over my whole pregnancy, and was about 15 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight when I came home from the hospital.

There are a lot of factors (excuses!) involved, which I’m going to share, only because some of them really just dawned on me even though I know how it all works.

The first issue, is that I have slipped off the low-carb wagon. For me that’s bad, m’kay. I passed my 6 week postpartum diabetes test with flying colors, and celebrated with a trip to Jack in the Box. I don’t go to town very often, so thankfully fast food isn’t really an issue for me right now. It does speak to a larger problem though, which is that with my personal and family medical history I should be watching my diet very carefully.

I’ve been joyfully eating carbs, taking comfort in my normal blood sugar, and wondering why I’ve been putting on weight. Then it dawned on me… My blood sugar is good, yet I’m still gaining weight, because my insulin is doing it’s job–moving extra sugar (which  I’ve been providing!) out of my blood to be stored as fat.

The next issue is that I haven’t been exercising like I did when I was pregnant. I have a million excuses for that, running the gamut from our crazy summer schedule, to my unpredictable baby, no sleep, and the fact that it’s been 172 degrees here all summer. Okay, not quite that hot, but genuinely too hot to feel like moving much.

You know what, though? I have to do it anyway, or I’ll end up diabetic for real, and I don’t want that.

I also don’t want to be fat after the “I just had a baby” phase. I don’t want to keep holding my baby in front of my sagging belly, pretending that you can’t see the body flaws past the cute baby. (I’d need a much larger baby to hide it all!)

Most of all though, I want my energy back.

So when I ran across the 30 day walking challenge today, I decided that now is as good a time as any to jump back up on the wagon, and invite you to join me!

The plan is designed to build you up to 10, 000 steps per day, but don’t let that put you off, whether that sounds too easy or too hard.  The main thing for me is to get back in the habit of deliberate exercise every day.  No more pretending that gardening or playing with the kids is a good enough long term plan.  Those things are great lifestyle choices, but someone like me needs to exercise for exercise’s sake most days.

I’m walking today, because I don’t want to let this turn into another “I’ll do it tomorrow”, but we’ll start day one of the challenge tomorrow, since it’ll be August 1.  So you have the rest of today to find and dust off your walkin’ shoes!

If you want to join in, we can stay in touch via Half Acre Heaven on facebook. I’ll also be tracking my progress on myfitnesspal, which is free for those of you who want to join.

Myfitnesspal also gives you the option to track food choices, so it’s a great tool for keeping you on track with whichever meal plan works for you.

Who’s with me?

Our Charlotte Mason Summer

I love summer.  Despite the heat wave and drought we’re enjoying in our corner of the world, the girls and I are having a great time.  I love having them home, and they love being home.

We’re doing summer homeschool Charlotte Mason style, and it’s going very well.

Late in the school year, I ran across the series, Homeschool Made Simple, by Carole Joy Seid.  I didn’t plan to buy it since my husband is dead set against homeschooling.  But after I watched the preview chapter, Children and Reading, I was completely sold.  I bought the series on DVD the same day.

Around the same time A Twaddle Free Education, by Deborah Taylor-Hough, was offered for free on Kindle, so I read it, and was surprised to find that her ideas and methods lined up very closely with those of Carole Seid.  She often refferred to Charlotte Mason’s works in her book.

Who is Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason was an English educator, and ran a school for educators and governesses in the late 1800’s.  She wrote volumes on child-training, habit forming, education, and character development.  She believed in teaching the whole child.  She believed that sit down instruction should be short, to the point, and never dumbed-down.  She believed that alternating intellectual, and painstaking work, and giving children plenty of opportunity for physical exertion would maximize the child’s ability to learn, and remain focused.  While certain aspects of her teaching don’t necessarily translate the the twenty-first century, (one must never assume that the Nanny already knows she should thoroughly air the nursery and the children’s clothing each day 😉  ) her understanding of the nature of children and the force of habit is rock solid.  I first started reading her works, several years ago, but I must admit that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to sift through the heavy and sometimes tedious language, and get to the heart of what she was saying.  Between Homeschool Made Simple, and A Twaddle Free Education, my interest in Charlotte Mason has been renewed, and I am now happily wading through her Home Education lectures, and applying some of her principles to our summer “homeschool”.

So what does it look like in practice?

Well, I’m in the early stages of learning about the teaching style, and only a part timer, really just a summer-bridger, but, so far, our days look like this…

During or shortly after breakfast, Araya reads aloud from The Story For Children, a story book Bible, by Max Lucado, Randy Frazee, and Karen Davis Hill.  We’re reading through it one story per day, and the kiddos narrate it back to me in their own words after we’ve read the story.  We’re also memorizing one verse of scripture per week, using Seeds Family Worship.  I have the girls look up and highlight the verse, and then we listen to the song on Seeds.  They also write the scripture of the week out for penmanship practice.  This section of work lasts about half an hour, and covers reading, history, Bible, and penmanship. When we’ve worked through the Story Book Bible, we’ll continue on to American History, using literature as a starting point, but keep up with our weekly scripture memorization.

Next up is Math.  With Araya I’m working through a third grade math workbook I got at a yard sale.  She has also started working on multiplication and division.  While I do think it’s important for a child to understand what is happening “behind the scenes” when one performs mathematical operations, I still believe rote memorization will be most useful in the long run, so she’s started memorizing her math facts starting with the two’s and working from there.  Most days she spends about 15-20 minutes doing a page from her workbook, modeling concepts, or going over math facts with me.

Montana is still practicing addition and subtraction, pattern recognition, and basic math concepts.  She is also working through a workbook, which takes her about 10 minutes per day.

Montana also still needs extra help with reading practice, so we work on sounding out BOB books, or reading short story books while Araya finishes up her math.

That is the end of our sit-down work, most days.  It generally takes no more than an hour.  After sit down work, it’s chore time, and then they can take their Nature Notebooks, and go out to play.

While I did explain the purpose of the notebooks before their first entries, I don’t give directions, or “correct” their Nature Notebooks.   I also don’t “make” them do an entry every day, rather only when they see something that intrigues them.  I expect there will be entries more days than not.  I do encourage them to share their observations with me, Daddy, and anyone else they want to share with.

After lunch we have an hour of quiet time, during which they can choose to read, sleep, think or pray.  They typically choose to read. When I’m babysitting, generally preschool kids,  I give them  the options to read, cuddle a toy, or daydream.  I don’t feel comfortable telling other people’s kids to pray, and even mentioning the word sleep would be ridiculous.  Of course the preschool kids always choose to cuddle a toy, and they always end up asleep.  This ain’t my first circus!

We try to visit the library at least every couple of weeks, and we generally read “just for fun” books out loud at least a few times a week, with the goal of getting to it every day.

Even doing all this, the majority of their day is free for playing, swimming, and visiting friends.  They are still very much having a summer vacation.

When school starts back up in the fall, we’ll continue with scripture,Nature Notebooks, and read, read, read.   We’ll see how the rest fits in with regular school work.  I’m still praying that my husband will have a change of heart and let me keep them home.

How is your summer shaping up?





A Soothing Spring Facial


Spring brings changing weather, changing wardrobes, and changing routines.  It’s a perfect time to update your skincare habits to reveal your best skin.

I know, this isn’t my usual food/dirt/baby poop kind of post, but I bet you didn’t know I was a skin therapist in a former life.  I actually keep my license up to date, even though I don’t work in the field any more. What can I say?  I am a woman of many faces, and I’d like each of them to be as fresh and supple as possible.

After facing dry indoor air, cold winds, and perhaps reduced activity levels all winter, your skin may be feeling dry, itchy or just plain dull.

The first thing you need to do, in addition to your regular cleansing, is get rid of the layer of dead skin which is likely  dulling your complexion, making you feel itchy, and preventing your skin care products getting where they can be the most effective.  My favorite exfoliant is fine rice flour.  Mixed into a thin paste with water and massaged lightly over skin for a minute or two, it feels wonderful and rinses away to reveal fresh bright skin.  Just remember to let the paste do the work.  You’re exfoliating your face here, not scrubbing the floor.  Keep a light touch.

After you’ve revealed that soft new skin, you’ll want to balance it with a spritz of witch hazel, and nourish it with a soothing mask.  I recommend a paste of fine ground oatmeal and plain yogurt, left on for about five minutes before rinsing.  This will reduce any itching or redness left over from the long winter.

Finally you’ll protect your skin from  further dryness with a light moisturizer.  My favorite is plain virgin coconut oil.  It feels a more oily than a commercial moisturizer at first, but it quickly soaks in leaving your skin dewy and glowing.

I know most of you don’t have time to give yourself this kind of treat very often, but if you can find a few minutes at the changing of the seasons your skin will thank you.  Even better, why not try to find a few minutes once a week?


Roast Beast

We are so fortunate to live in a place where there is abundant game. No joke, this is something I thank God for every day, and twice or three times when I go to the grocery store and look at the price of the crummy beef, let alone the higher quality stuff.

It also helps to have a dedicated hunter in the family.

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When I first saw this photo I thought he was goofing around, but it turns out he was hunting overlapping seasons.  I won’t lie.  He’s quite studly and I have a huge crush on him.

So do some of the neighborhood girls.  😉

Enough about the man though, this post is about a different beast.

When I tell people we eat bear,  I get a range of responses.

I could never eat bear, you can tell they have a soul by looking in their eyes.   Although I don’t think she ever actually looked a bear in the eye.

Ewww, do you like it?  It’s so (insert adjective, greasy, pungent, stinky, …)

Wow, I’d love to get your recipe!

First I’ll give you some background on our local bear population.  We live in a very bear friendly country.  Apple Country.  Actually these days its really more pear or cherry or wine country as more and more farmers are pulling out their apples in favor of more lucrative crops.  But you get my drift.  Lots of low hanging fruit.  We also have plenty of wild fruit such as elderberries, service berries, and choke cherries.  In the summer it is very easy to pick out a berry bush that has had a bear foraging in it.

In fact there is no shortage of bear sign, from tracks, to scat, to mauled branches, it’s obvious we have a healthy bear population.

Despite all the sign, it’s very easy to forget we live in bear country. Unlike some of our neighboring communities, we have never had our garbage raided, never had one in our camp, never seen a bear when we weren’t specifically looking for one.  The raccoons give us more trouble than the bears ever do.  They just don’t need to venture into our neighborhood because there is plenty for them to eat in the hills and orchards.  I suppose they also eat small critters and fish sometimes too, but with such abundant fruit, they can pretty well rely on easier meals.

Fruit eating bears are mild-flavored bears.  I have no experience cooking or eating bears from areas where they mostly eat fish.  From everything I’ve heard, if you’ve had bear that tasted “pungent” it was probably a fish eater.

We usually have our bears processed into jerky, German sausage and summer sausage, but we also have a bunch cut into roasts.  My absolute favorite way to eat bear is as a pot roast.

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I cook it the same way I would a beef or pork roast.

Pop it in the crock pot and give it a generous coat of minced garlic or garlic powder, and black pepper.

Toss in some coarsely chopped onion and one or two bay leaves.  You don’t need to add any liquid.

Put the lid on and cook it on low for around 4- 6 hours.   More won’t hurt, but you’ll want to baste it if you go much past 6.

Chop a couple potatos and carrot, or whatever veggies you like, and add those for the last hour of cooking.

Really that’s it!  It’s tender and juicy, and as good as any roast beef I’ve ever had.

Leftovers (which we rarely have) make awesome sandwiches, or stews.





Cloth Diaper Poop

I know there are some of you (LISA!) who will never buy into the whole cloth diaper thing, and that is totally ok. I’ve said it before and I still totally understand why anyone would choose disposable over cloth. Cloth ARE more work, and yes, there are really gross moments occasionally. That said, I am LOVING my cloth diapers and not minding the extra wash.  And they are SO stinking adorable.

Fuzzi Bunz perfect size xs on Hazel who is under 7lbs here.
Fuzzi Bunz perfect size xs on Hazel who is under 7lbs here.

My cloth diaper stash is composed mostly of prefolds and covers. I’m currently using two types of covers; Bummi’s Super Whisper Wraps and wool soakers upcycled from old sweaters. I also have some pocket diapers from ebay and craigslist.

I have some Bummis indian cotton prefolds left over from when my second daughter was a baby, but we haven’t been using those much, because they are still too big for Hazel. I’ve mostly been using some birdseye prefolds that a friend gave me. I don’t know the brand, but they are quite a bit thinner than the Bummis. I love them because they fold up nice and trim to fit my petite baby. I also have a handful of the newborn sized indian cotton ones that are nice for over night because they are quite a bit thicker than the birdseye ones.

The pocket diapers I have are Bum Genius 4.0 one-size, and Fuzzi Bunz perfect size.

The Fuzzi Bunz perfect size are xs and have fit my baby since she was born, even when she lost more than a pound before she started regaining. I didn’t start using them until the cord stump fell off, but they fit well even when she was under seven pounds, and are still a good fit at nine pounds. I don’t use these for overnight, because the fuzzy lining does wick moisture to the outer edge when the diaper is saturated. Instead I use the thick prefolds with a wool cover or the larger Bum Genius pocket diaper.

Happy as can be in a birdseye prefold
Happy as can be in a birdseye prefold

My Bummis Super Whisper wraps are a really nice PUL and aplix (velcro) cover.  When used correctly, which I’ve discovered I wasn’t doing with my first two kids, they are leak proof and lightweight, but not terribly breathable.  They require frequent washing lest they start stinking up the joint.  If they aren’t poo soiled they can be reused all day, but I wouldn’t go more than one day, which brings me to wool covers.

Hazel at 9 lbs in a wool interlock cover

Wool covers are brilliant.  Brilliant, I say.  I have five of them, all upcycled from old sweaters, and I love them.  Two are from a 70/30 wool/rayon blend interlock.  Those are nice and lightweight, and not even a little scratchy but not quite as absorbent as I would like, and I wouldn’t trust them for overnight.  Sometimes they feel a little damp, similar to how a sweaty baby’s jammies feel when you get them out of bed.  Not wet, but not completely dry either. I still use them quite often, but I’m extra mindful of changes when she’s wearing them because they do wick more than I’d like.  I think they’ll be wonderful for summer, because without a layer of clothes over them, they’ll be lightweight enough and allow for some air flow and evaporation.  Another pair are 80/20 wool/rayon, which I attempted to felt, but only accomplished a little shrinkage.  They are a little thicker, and a little more absorbent than the lightweight interlock ones, but not as absorbent as the final cover which is 100 percent wool, which I felted in my washing machine and is absolutely bullet proof.  It is still just a little too big, so I have only really used it with thick indian prefolds for overnight.  It doesn’t feel damp or leak/wick at all.  The one downfall of this one is that it feels a little scratchy to me, but Hazel doesn’t seem to mind.

The most amazing thing I can say about my wool covers is that they don’t need washed very often and they don’t smell bad at all when they are dry.  There is something about my American upbringing that tells me this is wrong.  Surely something that is getting peed on must need to be washed between each use right?  Nope.  Apparently lanolin saponifies when it comes into contact with urine, making it essentially self-cleaning.  I’m currently hand washing mine about once per month, which is probably more than necessary, and I haven’t had to re-lanolize them yet. Some people boast going two to three months between washes and four to six months between re-lanolizing.

I believe a person could easily get by on five or six wool covers and two dozen prefolds for the majority of her diapering career.

I currently have three sweaters from Goodwill waiting to be turned into more diaper covers.  Sewing them is super quick, easy and addicting using the free Katrina’s pattern.  I love sewing them so much, that when I have more time, I may start making them to sell.

All in all, cloth diapering has been a win for us.  Daddy is even edging toward being okay with it.  :-)  What about you?  Cloth, disposable, somewhere in between?

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What I Suck At

Do you ever feel like bloggers only share the pretty or funny parts of their life? Yeah, we usually do.  I’m actually a little iffy about weather I really want to post this.  Usually I’m pretty open because most of my failures are kind of hilarious, but this one is extra dear to me.

Yesterday I shared how I have quick and easy labors, or at least that the part that’s hard is short and kind of funny. Today I’m going to tell you something that makes me really sad.


Photograph courtesy of Rebekah's Photography.
Photograph courtesy of Rebekah’s Photography.


I SUCK at nursing my babies.


I have a really hard time for the first couple months and all of my babies have been skinny and needed formula supplements because of it.

With each baby I hope it will be easier this time.  I’ve seen the pediatrician, my midwife and lactation consultants(one of which watched me try to nurse and handed me a bottle of formula), I’ve joined Kelly Mom. I’ve taken fenugreek, swilled Mother’s Milk tea, hot packed my boobs, pumped and pumped and pumped. I’ve tried, dang it, and I just can’t get it right soon enough to avoid giving formula. I will never be one of those women who can simply nurse her baby and watch her grow.

And that makes me cry. A lot.

Even long after the baby is fat, even years later, when the baby isn’t a baby any more, and I’m not pregnant, or sleep deprived I still feel sad and shed a tear when the topic comes up.

Why do we feel so bad, we moms who have a hard time nursing? I think it’s because somewhere deep inside we know that we can never be all our babies need, and that is just an awful, scary feeling.

It doesn’t help that we know on an intellectual level that formula is not the end of the world. It doesn’t help when the doctors (or our husbands…ahem) tell us it’s okay to give ourselves a break and feed the baby some formula.  Maybe I should only speak for myself.  It doesn’t make me feel better to try to think of it that way.

Giving my baby formula doesn’t feel like a break, it feels like a failure.

It goes against everything I’m trying to do here. I HATE it.

I don’t want to feed my child, who is already going to be predisposed to diabetes, a lab created concoction of which the first ingredient is corn syrup.  Why can’t I just do what millions of women have done since forever?  Why does this have to be the thing I suck at?

But I hold on, keep nursing, give a few ounces of formula and pumped milk here and there throughout the day, and try not to dwell on how sad it makes me.

Sometimes we have a great nursing day and I don’t have to give any bottles. Other times she just won’t latch on or won’t stay awake.  Yes, I’ve undressed her, played with her feet and pretended to drop her, sometimes it just ain’t happenin’.

The good days are finally outnumbering the bad, and I know that soon we’ll have it together and might be able to eliminate the formula. Until then I’m just trying to keep my chin (and milk supply) up, and love on my baby the best I can.

So there you have it. Not everything on the Half Acre is easy, or successful, or funny, but by golly we keep on trying.

Disclaimer, I hope I don’t sound judgmental when I say I hate formula. I’m too busy worrying about my baby to care what you choose for yours.  Thank goodness we live in a time when there are options.   

Join me as I learn to raise good kids, good food and good fun on our teeny-tiny little farm