The Joys of Homeschooling (for kids), part #2593: BUGS and SPIDERS

Had it not been for the rain that pervaded the entire Central Kentucky area this morning, our activities today would have included something as wonderful as catching Monarch butterflies to tag and then release to continue on their merry way.   Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Alas, we woke up to grey skies and a chilly wind, and by the time we arrived at the UK Arboretum around 9:00 this morning, the rain had begun to fall.  The entomologist in charge informed us that, because the air was too cool for the Monarchs to fly, plans for the presentation had changed.  We discussed the amazing qualities of Monarch butterflies for a while and saw some intriguing pictures of them congregated on tree branches while in their migration process.

But that only took about ten minutes or so.

The entomologists there probably thought that hadn’t been enough to justify the trip out–especially in the rain.  So they pulled out plan B:  the dangerous insects and spiders collection.

I’m not exactly anti-bug, but…well, wait a minute.  Yes I am.   Why bother pretending? I don’t enjoy bugs, spiders, or anything that creeps, crawls, scurries, or scampers.  The legs and hair really creep me out.

It’s amazing what we do for our kids.  The bug man started pulling out his specimens and all the kids watched with rapt attention.  As he walked around with a tarantula (I can’t beleive an arachnid that large was a foot from my lap!), a scorpion, a Black Widow, and a small village’s worth of Madagascar cockroaches, the kids were all intent on getting a good close look.   I was relieved that they were excited and not fearful of the little–and not so little!–creepies.

After he’d finished showing off his cache, he concluded the program and invited the children to come closer to check things out or even go outside to see the Monarchs they had under cover.  From this point on, most of our kids really enjoyed their time at the arb!  The pictures below include Andrew and Patrick with some friends of theirs totally enjoying their time with the roaches.  Blech.  I will say that I was happy to be the photographer so there was no worry that I’d be asked to touch anything that moved.  Ben also held the humongous insects, but I didn’t catch any good shots with him.  Brendan was wholly uninterested in feeling one in his hand.   Andrew, however, couldn’t walk away.  We practically had to peel him from the table!  Maybe we have a budding entomologist in the family?

 

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Not Your Average Date Night

Since we began the new school year–a very short period of time, really, and not quite long enough to label it a tradition–Todd and I have designated Monday evenings as our date nights. During the day, from 7:30am-3:30pm, the kids and I occupy ourselves at our homeschool (Classical Conversations) campus for the weekly classes, and by the time we get home later in the afternoon, we’re all sort of brain dead. Because of this, it’s relaxing to be able to go out with Todd and spend a few minutes alone to share a meal.

This past Monday, however, we had the chance to spend a different kind of date night, and Ben was lucky enough to tag along as well. First, though, lwe have to back up to Saturday morning, when Ben presented us with some red dots he had on his leg and arm. He said he’d started feeling itchy on Friday, but didn’t say anything until they got really bad. They looked a bit like hives, but then not like hives, and the worst-case-scenario-gene in me immediately sprung into action. Although we haven’t had to personally walk through the evil that are bed bugs, they came to mind since we have known people very close to us who have. It’s amazing how quickly your mind can race ahead in roughly 0.00265 seconds: I had zoomed ahead to the long, slow, and often unsuccessful drudgery of cleaning every single crevice in our entire house (which, quite honestly, has had it coming for a while; its crevices could use a little extra attention) and fighting a tiny creature that seems to be almost indestructible. Thankfully, Todd doesn’t think that way and he helped catapult me back into reality. As we looked through different pictures of childhood rashes, what we saw online didn’t ever really match up with what we saw on Ben’s arm and leg, so we were understandably confused. It was Todd, a guy with considerable first-hand experience with the skin ailment, who first thought it might be poison ivy.   I was just relieved that it didn’t involve bugs.

Later that day he reported that he had new patches that sprouted up and that every patch was incredibly itchy. Benadryl didn’t seem to help and a topical ointment that had previously helped Todd’s poison ivy wasn’t taking away the need to scratch. He was growing more and more miserable.

Of course it seems that children only get sick in this house after business hours on Friday, so we had nothing to do really but wait until Monday to get him checked out. A friend who is a doctor looked at him before church on Sunday morning and she confirmed what Todd thought: it appeared to be some sort of contact dermatitis. Maybe not poison ivy, but something Ben had brushed up against was really causing him to react. (I was so relieved that a medically trained person had confirmed that it wasn’t any kind of bug. I’m really illogical when it comes to bugs. Perhaps you’ve noticed.) We tried to make him as comfortable as possible until we could see a doctor the next day.

Monday is our homeschool group meeting day, so we had to wait until after 3:00pm to visit the doctor, but Todd had set up an appointment for just before 5:00pm. I figured that we would see her just to make sure that we weren’t missing something other than poison ivy, but also to help him if it had gone too far and topical ointments weren’t enough.

Ben’s doctor checked him out thoroughly, but wasn’t positive that it was poison ivy. She said it looked like some kind of contact dermatitis, but that it also presented like a bite. Throughout the visit, she hemmed and hawed–surprisingly to me!–about putting him in the hospital to run stronger antibiotics than we could get at the pharmacy. She threw around terms like cellulitis and tissue death without stopping to explain them to Ben, and really didn’t like what she saw. I was more than a little taken aback: I thought for sure that we’d go in, she’d say “Yep, that there’s some mean poison ivy! Take this and you’ll be OK.” I was definitely not expecting any of this hospital talk.

After much internal debating among herself, she decided to let us go home to see how his skin reacted to the meds she planned to prescribe for him. Ben hopped off exam table as we were talking about the plan and after a minute or so, she stopped and looked concerned again. Apparently the area where his rash was the worst (a large spot on the inside of his ankle), had turned to a splotchy purple when he put weight on it. The doc said that could indicate circulatory problems and changed her mind altogether. Her recommendation was to go to the ER directly to have them check him out. She prepared us for the strong possibility of an overnight stay as well. By this time, I was more than a little confused, but Ben was trying his best to keep it together. He had heard words like “tissue death,” and was just waiting to fall apart once we left the office. He didn’t even make it up the stairs before he broke down in tears. “Is my leg going to die, Mom?!!” It suddenly occurred to me that we had been discussing all this without stopping to fill in (and reassure) the very tenderhearted Benny. I hugged him and assured him that right now we were just going to check it out to make sure nothing like that would happen. (Talk about Mom dropping the ball and feeling horribly about not sensing her son’s anxiety!)

I called Todd on the way back to the house and he was just as surprised as I was to learn that we were advised to take a trip to the ER, but he agreed to go with us. Not only were we going to miss our date night (not even a consideration at this point….Child’s health and well-being vs. happy hour half-price appetizers!? No contest!), but most likely we were going to miss a leader’s meeting for the upcoming small group sessions that are scheduled to meet at our house. Perfect timing, that’s how we roll.

We checked into the UK Emergency Department at 6:15. Because of my illogical bug-mindeness, I immediately noticed that the waiting room seats are cloth. REALLY!?!? Even after more than one report about bedbug problems at the UK Library and at least one dorm? UGH. I decided that we’re not going to sit back against the cloth part of the seats and we would be just fine. After the first hour of sitting, I changed my plan slightly and decided that I’ll just throw every article of clothing into the dryer once we get home and kill any nastiness that may have thought hopping on us was a good idea, and slumped against the back of the chairs.

Waiting in the ER is always an interesting opportunity to people watch.  The characters for entertainment that night did not disappoint…like the boy who was waiting for a CT scan because he fell and hit his head–and was passing the time by jumping from stool to stool. There were what looked like truly sick children as well, but as I looked at some of the people with them, I thought “Next time we have to go to the ER, I’m doing it right and showing up in my jammies!”

It was about 8:45pm when they called us back to an exam room. The irony of postponing treatment that we could have started as soon as we left the pediatrician’s office three hours earlier was not lost on me. So far Ben had had no relief and was still itching. On top of that he hadn’t eaten dinner and was pooped after an already full day and he was ready to go home. In other words, people watching hadn’t been as entertaining for him as it had been for me.

The first nurse who asked us questions looked at his most visible patches and only said, “WOW. What do you suppose THAT is!?” You can imagine how at ease we were after hearing that. Did our son catch something exotic that would put in a medical journal of never before seen skin rashes?! Probably not, but still. If I had a survey to fill out about our ER experience, one thing I’d feel like suggesting is “Don’t freak out the patient with exclamations.” Just maybe.

Next to enter the room was the med student, complete with his little notebook. He was wholly unimpressed with whatever Ben was presenting with, and called it a simple case of poison ivy. End of story. He left after asking Todd if he was medically trained after Todd had thrown around some important-sounding words like “topical ointment” and “scratching.”

It wasn’t too long before the med student reappeared with the resident in tow, and the two of them looked over Ben’s spots. The older doc wasn’t as convinced that it was straight up poison ivy and she saw signs of infection, though early, but still wasn’t seeing anything threatening. They talked for a while about how it looked a little strange and then left. Ben went back to watching TV.

Soon after that, three docs came through the door: the med student, the resident, and the attending physician (does that sound like the start of a bad joke?). The attending doc got called out of the room twice by her pager, but still had the same reaction as the nurse and the resident: WOW. Her definitive (while saying he had symptoms and signs of multiple different possibilities) diagnosis was contact dermatitis with initial cellulitis. Basically poison ivy that he’d scratched and gotten infected. We caught it early, thankfully, and they thought we could fight it with antibiotics alone without needing steroids. I was happy to do that; steroids are better left alone if at all possible. It was mildly disconcerting to leave close to 10:00pm and have such differing reactions to his rash. Our doc had made us alarmed while the ER staff seemed to wonder why we thought poison ivy necessitated a trip to their possibly bedbug infested waiting room. I have to say I was thinking the same thing while walking back to the car that night, but after further reflection, I knew that we did what we had to do. The doctor had recommended that we go, and it would have been taking a risk to go against her wishes. I know I would have been watching him very closely throughout the night had we not gone, so to have made the trip and gotten a better reaction about the whole thing allowed us all to sleep well that night.

As it turned out, he responded very well to the antibiotics. The next day, he complained about his leg aching, which was one of the warning signs they’d given me. We made a quick trip back to the doc to let her look at him, but when he had no fever and his spots looked a little better and smaller to her, she felt better as well. Another doctor looked him over and had the same reaction: “Wow.” They talked about how it was sort of a little of this rash and a little like this one–a mystery. While we were there, the doc cultured a spot on his leg just in case. She also advised me to take pictures daily to compare from one day to the next and sent us home.

By Friday, his skin looked completely better. Perhaps we had overreacted in the first place, but the ped said she’d seen cellulitis spread quickly and have bad things happen in as little as a few hours. At the end of it all, since Ben was feeling better and his skin looked so much better, it seemed to be worth whatever we did.

And, at least it wasn’t bedbugs. Right? Am I right?

Just for the record, I felt like things were crawling on me the entire time I wrote this post and I still feel itchy all over. Marvel at the amazing power of suggestion. Is that something on your shoulder??

Don’t let summer slip away before you try this trifle recipe

Aren’t these just beautiful?

I don’t think I could love raspberries any more than I do…

I’ve been trying to post this recipe for the better part of the summer (and technically, until September 23, it still will be). I’ve had some pictures of different ingredients for a while, but never could remember to snap a shot of the finished product before diving in. Part of me hesitates to post this, basically because it will reveal just how lazy I am as a cook. While I enjoy making delicious foods, I don’t really like to work very hard. This recipe fits that description perfectly, but whoever you serve it to will think you slaved away creating the eye (and tummy) pleasing concoction. If you’re like me, though, you’ll assure them that it took no effort whatsoever. In my opinion, don’t be like me: tell them you worked incredibly hard to make it for them.

The versatility of the recipe is wonderful, too. Use whatever fruits you enjoy and whatever is in season.

My personal favorite is raspberries, but strawberries and blueberries add a colorful variation.

Blackberries would work, too, if you’re willing to hand over your first born in order to pay for them. The original recipe calls for angelfood cake, but in making it, I found that the cake breaks down very quickly. Unless you plan on putting it together just before serving, I suggest pound cake. (There’s a reason it’s called pound cake, however, so be warned…I’m sure this is not news to anyone…)

Fruit Trifle

1 family size pound cake, slightly thawed
2 boxes of instant vanilla pudding, prepared according to package directions
Cool-Whip
Fresh berries (raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, or any combination of these)

Cut pound cake into bite-sized cubes.

Assemble all other ingredients. From here on, it just gets embarrassingly simple. In a trifle bowl, layer in the following order: cake cubes, pudding, fruit, cool whip. Repeat as many times as your ingredients allow, finishing with a layer of fruit. Garnish with cool whip if desired. Serve immediately or refridgerate until serving.

 

Fix it and forget it? Definitely! A recipe that will make your family cheer!

Life is busy right now around the Tighe homestead with school back in full swing for five students, childbirth classes beginning again, three boys playing soccer, and just trying to keep up with everyone. You may be singing the same tune! Since we all have to eat every day (and multiple times at that!), I’ve been on the lookout for quick, easy, and tasty dininers that are easy both on the grocery budget and my already crunched timetable. Imagine my delight when this recipe found me and appeared a few days ago in my email inbox. How easy is that?! A few months ago, I posted a similar recipe for a baked ravioli lasagna that turned out really well, and if you’re interested in comparing the two, check this out. Working from the premise that if the baked recipe was good then the crock pot version could be even better, I decided that yesterday was the day to try it. An added bonus was that Meijer has ravioli on sale this week (you could make your own, or subsitute gluten-free, like the original blogger used in the recipe that can be found here), and it was a no-brainer.

This recipe really couldn’t be easier. Although the original instructs calls for a 4-qt crock pot, we don’t have no stinkin’ 4-qt crock pot in this house. We use the industrial-sized, feed a herd crock pot, because otherwise someone would be left out in the rain, crying because they had no dinner. I try to avoid making people cry over having no food whenever possible. I am happy to report that even with the larger crock pot, the cooking time–and results–were the same.

In any case, it takes a bit of time to brown the ground beef or turkey, but after that the entire dish goes together very quickly. Here’s what it looked like after it was assembled:

At least 5 of the 6 kids came in to ask what I was making during the process. Even before it was ready, it smelled really good! I posted the picture on Facebook when it began crock-potting, and a few comments kind of got me worried–especially the “how do you keep the pasta from getting mushy?” from my observant friend Amy. I hadn’t even considered it before she brought it up, and so then I was a bit concerned. I needn’t have wasted the worry time. It cooked all morning and into the afternoon, and around 3:30ish, I turned it down to warm from low to wait for the soccer boys to come home after running themselves into a tizzy on the field.

Here’s a poorly presented plated version of the finished product:

Served with a green salad, everyone at the table gave rave reviews of this meal. The only comment for improvement was to add more cheese next time (this is a common request in the Tighe home, however. I was not surprised to hear it!). I will definitely make this again and often. Perhaps your family will be as pleased with it as mine was.

Crock Pot Ravioli Lasagna

1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 (28-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
25-30 frozen cheese or meat ravioli
2 cups shredded mozzerella cheese
2 tablespoons warm water
Use a 4-quart slow cooker. After browning the meat in a skillet, drain well and add the pasta sauce (save the jar!) to the meat in your saute pan. Stir to combine.
Scoop a large spoonful of meat sauce and spread into the bottom of an empty slow cooker. Add a layer of frozen ravioli. Then add another layer of meat sauce. Continue layering until you run out of ravioli and sauce. Sprinkle cheese evenly all over the top.
Put 2 tablespoons of water into the empty pasta sauce jar, and shake. Pour this water over the top of your “lasagna.”
Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. (Though the original recipe calls for 6-7, that seemed too long. I was home the first day I made this, and it was heated through well before 7 hours had passed. Now I plan on 5, and check it with a meat thermometer after 4.) Your lasagna is done when the pasta on the ravioli is tender and the filling is heated through.

Fix it and forget it? Definitely! A recipe that will make your family cheer!

Life is busy right now around the Tighe homestead with school back in full swing for five students, childbirth classes beginning again, three boys playing soccer, and just trying to keep up with everyone. You may be singing the same tune! Since we all have to eat every day (and multiple times at that!), I’ve been on the lookout for quick, easy, and tasty dininers that are easy both on the grocery budget and my already crunched timetable. Imagine my delight when this recipe found me and appeared a few days ago in my email inbox. How easy is that?! A few months ago, I posted a similar recipe for a baked ravioli lasagna that turned out really well, and if you’re interested in comparing the two, check this out. Working from the premise that if the baked recipe was good then the crock pot version could be even better, I decided that yesterday was the day to try it. An added bonus was that Meijer has ravioli on sale this week (you could make your own, or subsitute gluten-free, like the original blogger used in the recipe that can be found here), and it was a no-brainer.

This recipe really couldn’t be easier. Although the original instructs calls for a 4-qt crock pot, we don’t have no stinkin’ 4-qt crock pot in this house. We use the industrial-sized, feed a herd crock pot, because otherwise someone would be left out in the rain, crying because they had no dinner. I try to avoid making people cry over having no food whenever possible. I am happy to report that even with the larger crock pot, the cooking time–and results–were the same.

In any case, it takes a bit of time to brown the ground beef or turkey, but after that the entire dish goes together very quickly. Here’s what it looked like after it was assembled:

At least 5 of the 6 kids came in to ask what I was making during the process. Even before it was ready, it smelled really good! I posted the picture on Facebook when it began crock-potting, and a few comments kind of got me worried–especially the “how do you keep the pasta from getting mushy?” from my observant friend Amy. I hadn’t even considered it before she brought it up, and so then I was a bit concerned. I needn’t have wasted the worry time. It cooked all morning and into the afternoon, and around 3:30ish, I turned it down to warm from low to wait for the soccer boys to come home after running themselves into a tizzy on the field.

Here’s a poorly presented plated version of the finished product:

Served with a green salad, everyone at the table gave rave reviews of this meal. The only comment for improvement was to add more cheese next time (this is a common request in the Tighe home, however. I was not surprised to hear it!). I will definitely make this again and often. Perhaps your family will be as pleased with it as mine was.

Crock Pot Ravioli Lasagna

1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 (28-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
25-30 frozen cheese or meat ravioli
2 cups shredded mozzerella cheese
2 tablespoons warm water
Use a 4-quart slow cooker. After browning the meat in a skillet, drain well and add the pasta sauce (save the jar!) to the meat in your saute pan. Stir to combine.
Scoop a large spoonful of meat sauce and spread into the bottom of an empty slow cooker. Add a layer of frozen ravioli. Then add another layer of meat sauce. Continue layering until you run out of ravioli and sauce. Sprinkle cheese evenly all over the top.
Put 2 tablespoons of water into the empty pasta sauce jar, and shake. Pour this water over the top of your “lasagna.”
Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for about 4. Your lasagna is done when the pasta on the ravioli is tender and the filling is heated through.

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