Sweet Dreams Are Not Made of These


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People don’t always tell you that some babies, toddlers, or children are not good sleepers.  Oh, you will get that passing comment about sleep-deprived newbie parents.  However, even the prenatal classes make no mention of possible sleep issues or prepare you for the reality of sleep deprivation.  Yet, there are tons of books, alleged sleep gurus, and general advice on sleep problems and sleep training.  But, when you are in the midst of it, you feel all alone and completely sleep deprived. Honestly, very few babies sleep through the night!  Parents should not expect that so they can be realistic on sleep expectations.  That being said, we know our child was an outlier on horrible sleep.  Hopefully, your child is better or that your future child will not be this difficult.

Here is our story of our son’s not so sweet dreams:

Our son was born with congenital scoliosis and kidney reflux which meant he had lots of specialists his first couple years.  He did latch but was not the best eater. We suspected something was not right but our first pediatrician just said it was colic and that some babies are difficult.  The longest he would sleep for was 1.5 hours.  We actually made logs of his spit-ups, projectile vomiting, gas, and crying fits (not normal baby cries).  His spine specialist showed us his x-rays at 6 months and said we need to to take a copy of the x-ray to his pediatrician and consider seeing a gastroenterologist as his stomach was filled with air despite not crying during the x-ray.  This lead to our pediatrician backing off all of her previous comments and getting us to a gastroenterologist rapidly.  Instead of the usual 3 month wait time, we were seen in 2 weeks.  We did switch pediatricians too.  This led to several diagnostic procedures and the diagnosis was severe GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) aka Reflux.  We tried various medications, sleep positioners, elevating bed, and played around with prescription formulas and breast milk and combining with rice cereal to thicken.  We got him to sleep at least one 3 to 4-hour chunk at night with smaller chunks but he never napped more than 45 minutes.  By age 1, he was only napping once a day but he was so alert during the day he truly did not need the naps. It was me who needed the naps!

By age 2 he was also diagnosed with abdominal migraines and delayed gastric emptying.  He was still only sleeping one 3 to 4-hour chunk at night with smaller chunks and no longer napping at all.  Again, he was completely fine and did not need the naps.  It was me who needed them.  And it was during this time that we may have missed how gifted he was.  By age 4 the abdominal migraines were gone and he was only on reflux medications.  He was finally sleeping for 4-hour chunks.  We did go through a phase of nightmares and night terrors (worse than nightmares) and sleepwalking.  And it was during this year he was diagnosed as profoundly gifted.  By age 6 we stopped prescription reflux medicine as there was no difference on it or off of it and there were risks of long-term use of such medication.  

At age 11 he still does not sleep completely through the night and requires significantly less sleep than his peers.  Like his physical size, his sleep is on the bottom of the chart and completely opposite of his cognitive and academic abilities.  His doctors and we realize he doesn’t know how to turn off his brain to relax and just sleep.  He is constantly thinking and planning.  He can pick up in the middle of the night or in the morning right where his conversation ended before going to sleep.  And, he is part of the small percentage of babies that never outgrows GERD and continue to have reflux their whole life.  The reflux is better but not gone.  He still takes forever to fall asleep.

Here is a list of things we tried (I am sure I am missing some):

  • Swaddling (he loved being swaddled but didn’t necessarily translate to sleeping)
  • Shushing
  • Rocking
  • Pacifier (due to reflux, he was never into one)
  • Singing lullabies & nursery rhymes
  • Sleeping in bouncer
  • Sleeping in car seat
  • Walking outside to put to sleep
  • Driving in car to put to sleep
  • Babywearing to put sleep (baby Bjorn was my best baby item)
  • Elevated bassinet & crib with binders (4 inch hard sided binders, and for a period of time multiple ones stacked on top of each other)
  • Wedge pillow
  • Baby sleep positioners
  • Elevated twin mattress with binders & books (we considered purchasing a wedge mattress but binders worked enough)
  • Double sets of sheets & mattress protectors so that if bad vomit or bathroom incident could quickly get back to bed (this was best baby tip we were ever given)
  • Cry-it-out aka Ferber Method (tried it and resulted in worse vomiting, and learned this method is not recommended for severe reflux babies)
  • Pick-up Put-down Method aka Hogg Method (tried it and didn’t work, he would get too worked up and vomit)
  • The chair method (the crying resulted in vomiting)
  • Co-sleeping aka the Sears Method (didn’t stop the waking up but everyone got more sleep)
  • Bedroom sharing aka McKenna Method (didn’t stop the waking up but everyone got more sleep)
  • No cry sleep method aka Pantley Method (reducing crying, reduced reflux compared to other crying methods)
  • Shush-pat method (less crying, but took over 30 minutes to fall asleep every time he woke up)
  • Sleep Fairy method (based on the book by Janie Peterson and Macy Peterson)
  • Medications
  • Probiotics
  • Sleep books for kids
  • Lavender baths
  • Calming Music
  • White noises (small fans)
  • Monster spray
  • Dreamcatchers
  • Detective Thinking
  • Deep breathing and counted breathing
  • Bedtime stories
  • Sleep reward charts
  • Strict bedtime routine
  • Quiet time before bedtime

Sleep-themed books for kids that we tried:

  • Sleep Fairy by Janie Peterson and Macy Peterson
  • Time for Bed by Mem Fox
  • Jake Stays Awake by Michael Wright
  • I Don’t Want to Go to Bed! by Julie Sykes
  • Go Sleep in Your Own Bed by Candace Fleming
  • Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton
  • Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
  • Mommy, I Want to Sleep In Your Bed! By Harriet Ziefert
  • I Sleep In My Own Bed by Glenn Wright
  • Good night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown’s
  • The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
  • The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  • Kiss Goodnight by Amy Hest
  • Big Enough for a Bed by Apple Jordan
  • A Book of Sleep by II Sung Na
  • Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss

I share our story, not to scare you but instead to assure you that you are not alone if you have a difficult sleeper.  Also, the books and sage advice may not work for your family.  Trust me, I read over a dozen sleep training books, watched several videos, and subscribed to several sleep training emails; you need to find what works for you and your child. You need to find a strategy that you can live with. There is no one-size strategy for sleep.  Some children are great sleepers.  Some are not great sleepers like ours.

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on “Sweet Dreams.”  I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see the other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants, or cut and paste this URL into your browser:



Algebra for High School Credit, Homeschool Style


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Algebra has been completed.  In order to document how DS received high school credit, I created the following class description.  Unlike traditional high school transcripts, homeschoolers often have class descriptions to document the content covered.

Algebra 1 (1 year High School Credit) Course Description

Online Programs Completed:

  • Knowre (12 chapters with 96% mastery)
  • Mathletics (completed all 240+ lessons with a 91% mastery)
  • Khan Academy (All 711 lessons completed with a 92% mastery)
  • Alcumus (Must sign up to access the problems, but this part is free and it complements the Art of Problem Solving books.  These are not traditional algebra or math problems.  This is not graded)

Textbooks Used and Completed:

  • Groundworks Algebra Puzzles and Problems (More like real life mathematical story puzzles and a fun way of doing algebra.)
  • Dr. Math Explains Algebra (A completely different style of book for explaining algebra.  It is a great complement to any online program or traditional algebra text.)
  • Mathematics Enhancement Programme Demonstration Project Practice Books (This is the UK math system and presents problems very differently than the US.  The project practice books all have answers online.  He enjoys them as they are very different from traditional US math problems.  They are used for students to prep for their A-Level exams)
  • Art of Problem Solving Algebra (This is a highly recommended algebra curriculum for gifted math students.  This curriculum is not used in traditional public schools but in some gifted enrichment programs, home schools, and some private schools.)
  • Beginning & Intermediate Algebra (Found this traditional textbook at half-price books really cheap and the textbook still had the DVD too.  This textbook is by Elayn Martin-Gay.)

Math Videos Used:

Joy of Math The Story of Maths
Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land The Story of One
Solving for X with Bill Nye Power of 10
Schlessinger Media Math for Children Series Vi Hart videos on YouTube
Standard Deviants Algebra Art of Problem Solving

The next step will be for DS to take the CLEP exam to earn college credit in addition to his high school credit.  He is now going to be working on geometry and algebra 2 simultaneously.

Astronomy Lessons via CAP


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This spring I became an educator member through Civil Air Patrol.  In June, I lead a civil air patrol lesson on the weather, the atmosphere, the climate, and weather forecasting.  I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  In October my Civil Air Patrol educational materials were the Hydraulic Engineering STEM Kit. I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  This time it is Astronomy.  This time the kit came with a telescope and activity guide.  Thanks to having access to a dark spot in Houston, we will be taking the kids to the Greater Houston Soaring Association’s Gliderport in Wallis where 2 of their members will be demonstrating their powerful scopes compared to the kit’s scope.  In addition, we will be attending the planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science to learn about the “Starry Night.”

The following list of terms came from the Civil Air Patrol’s “Astronomy Activity Booklet as a compendium to AEX Astronomy Module” and astronomy books:

Aperture Door – guards the telescope’s internal mechanisms.

Asteroids – are rocky, airless worlds that orbit our sun, but are too small to be called planets. They are often called “minor planets” or “planetoids.” Tens of thousands of these minor planets are gathered in the main asteroid belt, a vast doughnut-shaped ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Astronomical System of Degrees – is the system of measuring objects on the horizon.  Astronomers measure distances in the sky in units of degrees.

Cardinal Directions – are the four cardinal points from a compass: North (N), East (E), South (S), and West (W).

Cassegrain Reflector Telescope (what the Hubble Telescope is) – is a combination of a primary concave mirror and a secondary convex mirror, often used in optical telescopes and radio antennas. This design puts the focal point at a convenient location behind the primary mirror and the convex secondary adds a telephoto effect creating a much longer focal length.

Concave Lens – are thinner in the middle. Rays of light that pass through the lens are spread out (they diverge). A concave lens is called a diverging lens. When parallel rays of light pass through a concave lens the refracted rays diverge so that they appear to come from one point called the principal focus.

Constellations – are totally imaginary things that poets, farmers, and astronomers have made up over the past 6,000 years (and probably even more!). The real purpose of the constellations is to help us tell which stars are which and have been used for navigation. The International Astronomical Union recognizes 88 constellations covering the entire northern and southern sky. Over half of the 88 constellations, the IAU recognizes today are attributed to the ancient Greek, which consolidated the earlier works by the ancient Babylonian, Egyptian and Assyrian. Forty-eight of the constellations we know were recorded in the seventh and eighth books of Claudius Ptolemy’s Almagest.

Convex Lens – are thicker in the middle. Rays of light that pass through the lens are brought closer together (they converge). A convex lens is called a converging lens. When parallel rays of light pass through a convex lens the refracted rays converge at one point called the principal focus.

Electromagnetic Radiation – refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space-time, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy.  It is a form of energy that is all around us and takes many forms, such as radio waves, microwaves, X-rays and gamma rays. Sunlight is also a form of EM energy, but visible light is only a small portion of the EM spectrum, which contains a broad range of electromagnetic wavelengths.

Eyepiece –  is a type of lens that is attached to a variety of optical devices such as telescopes and microscopes. It is also called the ocular lens. It is so named because it is usually the lens that is closest to the eye when someone looks through the device.

Filters – are an invaluable aid in viewing plants, the moon, and the sun.  Filters reduce glare and light scattering, increase contrast through selective filtration, increase definition and resolution, reduce irradiation, and lessen eye fatigue.  To look at the sun you must use a specific solar filter and not just any color filter.

First Quarter Moon – is a primary Moon phase when we can see exactly half of the Moon’s surface illuminated. If it is the left or right half, depends on where you are on Earth. This First Quarter Moon is in the Northern Hemisphere mirrors approximately the calendar symbol.  It is also called the Half Moon.

Focal Length – is the distance between the lens and the image sensor when the subject is in focus, usually stated in millimeters (e.g., 28 mm, 50 mm, or 100 mm). The focal length is the distance between the center of the lens and the virtual image. In the case of zoom lenses, both the minimum and maximum focal lengths are stated, for example, 18–55 mm.  

Focusis also called the principal focus.  It is the focus of the point on the axis of a lens or mirror to which parallel rays of light converge or from which they appear to diverge after refraction or reflection. It is a central point of attention or interest.

Full Moon – is the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon is completely illuminated as seen from Earth. This occurs when Earth is located directly between the Sun and the Moon.

Galaxy – is a gravitationally bound system of stars, stellar remnants, interstellar gas, dust, and dark matter.  Our solar system is part of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Last Quarter – occurs a week after Full Moon. In this phase, the Moon is in quadrature, and one half of the Moon’s disk is illuminated as seen from Earth. The Last Quarter Moon rises at midnight, transits the meridian at sunrise and sets at noon.

Light – is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is visible to the human eye

Magnification – the action or process of magnifying something or being magnified, especially visually.  It is the process of enlarging the appearance, not physical size, of something. This enlargement is quantified by a calculated number also called “magnification.”

Moon Phases – are also called lunar phases.   It is the shape of the illuminated portion of the Moon as seen by an observer on Earth.  The phases are Full Moon, Waning Gibbous Moon, Last Quarter Moon, Waning Crescent Moon, New Moon, Waxing Crescent Moon, First Quarter Moon, and Waxing Gibbous Moon. The moon’s phases are caused by the changing angle from which the sun illuminates it as the moon makes its way around the Earth.

New Moon – the phase of the moon when it is in conjunction with the sun and invisible from earth, or shortly thereafter when it appears as a slender crescent.

Objective Lens – the lens or system of lenses in a telescope that is nearest the object being viewed.

Observatory – is a location used for observing terrestrial or celestial events. Astronomy, climatology/meteorology, geophysical, oceanography, and volcanology are examples of disciplines for which observatories have been constructed.

Optical Tube – contain the objective and the eyepiece for a telescope. The objective of an optic tube is a collecting system (usually consisting of two cemented lenses, less frequently a multi-lens or catadioptric system). It gives a real reduced and inverted image of a distant object near its own focal plane.  Astronomers and opticians call eyepieces “oculars.” Oculars are a self-contained system of magnifying lenses (usually between two and seven elements) that are mounted in a tube and attached in the focal plane of a telescope to magnify the image formed by the telescope.

Orbit – is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an object, such as the trajectory of a planet around a star or a natural satellite around a planet.

Planetarium – is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky, or for training in celestial navigation.

Planets – an astronomical body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion and has cleared its neighboring region of planetesimals. The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, astrology, science, mythology, and religion.  The planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.  Pluto has been classified as a dwarf planet.

Reflector telescope – is a telescope that uses a single or combination of curved mirrors that reflect light and form an image.

Refractor telescope – is a type of optical telescope that uses a lens as its objective to form an image. The refracting telescope design was originally used in spy glasses and astronomical telescopes but is also used for long focus camera lenses.

Satellites – is an artificial object which has been intentionally placed into orbit. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as Earth’s Moon.

Secondary Lens – is a lens designed to be used in conjunction with another lens, called the primary lens. A secondary lens may be designed to be used either in front of the primary lens, between it and the subject, or behind the primary lens, between it and the film.

Solar System – is the gravitationally bound system comprising the Sun and the objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of those objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest eight are the planets, with the remainder being smaller objects, such as dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies.

Stars -is a luminous sphere of plasma held together by its own gravity. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun.

Telescope – works by collecting more light than the human eye can capture on its own via mirrors or lenses.  The larger its mirror, the more light it can collect, and the better its vision.  It is an optical instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation (such as visible light).

Universe – is all of space and time and its contents, which includes planets, moons, minor planets, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space and all matter and energy.

Waning – means shrinking

Waning Crescent – follows last quarter.

Waning Gibbous – comes after full moon

Waxing – means getting larger

Waxing Crescent – comes after new moon

Waxing Gibbous – follows the first quarter


The following are links to online resources that I located or were suggested in the activity booklet (videos, lesson plans, e-books) that can be used to better understand astronomy:


The following are books (all at our local library) about astronomy:

  • “Astronomy: A Visual Guide” by Garlick, Mark A.
  • “Astronomy” by Lippincott, Kristen
  • “The Young Astronomer” by Ford, Harry.
  • “Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide” by Moché, Dinah L
  • “Astronomy: The Story of Stars and Galaxies” by Gore, Bryson
  • “Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope– And How to Find Them” by Consolmagno, Guy
  • “Space And Astronomy Experiments” by Walker, Pam
  • “Practical Astronomy” by Dunlop, Storm
  • “The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Amateur Astronomy” by Bakich, Michael E.
  • “Stargazing Basics: Getting Started in Recreational Astronomy” by Kinzer, Paul E.
  • “Hubble’s Universe: A Portrait of Our Cosmos” by Goodwin, Simon
  • “The New Astronomy Guide: Stargazing in the Digital Age” by Moore, Patrick
  • “Illustrated Dictionary of Practical Astronomy” by Kitchin, C. R.
  • “Kepler and the Universe: How One Man Revolutionized Astronomy” by Love, David
  • “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astronomy” by De Pree, Christopher Gordon
  • “Be an Astronomer” by Shea, Nicole
  • “Galileo’s New Universe: The Revolution in Our Understanding of the Cosmos” by Maran, Stephen P.
  • “National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky” by Chartrand, Mark
  • “Making & Enjoying Telescopes: 6 Complete Projects & a Stargazer’s Guide” by Miller, Robert
  • “Starwatch: A Month-by-Month Guide to the Night Sky” by Kerrod, Robin
  • “Astronomers” by Haydon, Julie
  • “Night Sky Atlas: The Moon, Planets, Stars and Deep Sky Objects” by Scagell, Robin
  • “Astronomy 101: From The Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts About the Universe” by Petersen, Carolyn Collins
  • “The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes” by Jackson, Ellen
  • “Astronomy for Beginners” by Becan, Jeff
  • “Cambridge Illustrated Dictionary of Astronomy” by Mitton, Jacqueline
  • “Janice VanCleave’s Astronomy for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments That Really Work” by VanCleave, Janice Pratt
  • “The Universal Book of Astronomy From the Andromeda Galaxy to the Zone of Avoidance” by Darling, David J


The following are DVDs (all at our local library) about astronomy:

  • Greatest Discoveries with Bill Nye. Astronomy
  • Discovery history of astronomy; Night sky: navigating the constellations
  • Seeing in the dark
  • Earth home planet; Orbit: Earth from space
  • Core astronomy
  • Understanding the universe, what’s new in astronomy 2003
  • Space exploration: Adi in space. The outer planets
  • Journey to the edge of the universe
  • 400 years of the telescope a journey of science, technology, and thought
    Space exploration: Adi in space. The Earth
  • The universe. The complete season three explore the edges of the unknown
  • Journey of the universe
  • Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey
  • Bill Nye the science guy. Outer space
  • At the edge of space
  • Science for kids. Universe, galaxy, black holes, solar system
  • My fantastic field trip to the planets
  • Dark matter, dark energy: the dark side of the universe
  • Black holes explained
  • Invisible universe revealed
  • The universe an amazing journey from the sun to the most distant galaxies

World Schooling Round 6

The past couple years we have taken homeschooling and roadschooling to a new level, world schooling.  In previous blogs, I have explained exactly what world schooling is and what adventures we had: New Zealand, Germany,  England, Hawaii, and Canada.  This time our world schooling adventures lead us to Ireland.

Ireland was a different kind of trip because we traveled with my mother to the home country of her great-grandparents and visited sites we had listed in the McGlinn family book (birth city, departure city, baptismal city, and marriage city).  Ireland was both a cultural and a genealogy trip.  And it was a multi-generational family trip.  Our son had done readings and watched videos to better understand Ireland’s history and the reasons our family left Ireland to Canada and then to Wisconsin.  He learned about the Irish-English land wars, the potato famine, and the mistreatments of Irish Catholics that led to them leaving.

Here is what we experienced during our 7-day adventure in Ireland:

  • Bog of Allen
  • Saint Brigid’s Cathedral & Round Tower
  • Killdare
  • Cathedral of Saint Peter & Paul
  • Ennis
  • Cliffs of Moher & O’Brien’s Tower
  • Doolin Cave
  • Bunratty Castle
  • Knappogue Castle
  • Quin Abbey
  • Clare Abbey
  • Ennis Friary
  • Blarney Castle & Gardens
  • Cork City Gaol & Radio Museum
  • Cork
  • Grange Stone Circle Lough Gur
  • Lough Gur Heritage Centre
  • Saint Munchin’s Church
  • King John’s Castle
  • Saint Mary’s Cathedral
  • Limerick
  • Dysert O’Dea Castle, Church, High Cross, & Monastery
  • Imeall Boirne Parish
  • Burren National Park
  • Coad Church
  • Parknabinnia Wedge Tomb
  • Bodyke
  • Wild Irish Chocolate Factory
  • McKernan Woollen Mills
  • Lough Derg Beach
  • Lua’s Oratory
  • Flannan’s Church
  • Saint Flannan’s Cathedral & Oratory
  • Killaloe River Cruise
  • Killaloe
  • Garrykennedy Castle Ruins
  • Castletown ruins
  • Castlenaugh Castle Ruins
  • Scarriff
  • Tuamgraney

Here are some phrases we learned:

  • Gaol (prison)
  • Dia Duit (hello)
  • Slan Leat (goodbye)
  • Gardai (police)
  • Failte (welcome)
  • Stad (stop)
  • Lough (lake)
  • Aimsir (weather)
  • Slan (keep safe, farewell and often by exit signs)
  • Eire (Ireland)
  • Amach (Exit)
  • Bally or Baile (Place of)
  • Kill or cill (Church of)
  • Boot (trunk)
  • Toilet (bathrooms or restrooms)
  • Diesel or Petrol (gas)
  • Minerals (soft drinks or sodas)
  • Chips (fries)
  • Jumper (sweater or sweatshirt)
  • Who’s all there (how many people in your group)
  • Washing (laundry)
  • Noodle (your head)
  • Sap (sad)
  • Banshee (fairies, elves)

Travel to Ireland was similar to traveling in England and New Zealand because the driver sits on the right side of the car and drives on the left side of the road.  However, the roads in the region of Ireland we were in were much narrower and often lacking markers, making it a bit more challenging and stressful.  Thus, our son having his grandma with him meant he had someone to talk to, show things to, help get food and water, and lean on when tired because his parents were hyperfocused on driving and navigating.  Just like all of the other countries, Ireland does have some different signs used too as well as uses the metric system.  It is always a chuckle when you see speed limit signs of 100 or 120 but it’s not that fast because it’s kmh and not mph.  Gas is also in liters and not gallons.  

The one thing we found completely interesting is that Gaelic was on every sign.  On maps, sometimes we would see the English name and others would have the Gaelic name.  This would make it confusing if we didn’t have both names.  In the cities at crosswalks, they would have “look right” in both English and Gaelic to remind you where cars were coming from.  We also were impressed with how many ruins sites we could find.  Many places were clearly marked and often you would see ruins while driving.  And, in many of the ruins of abbeys and monasteries, they are now being used as cemeteries.  If it wasn’t for lack of parking on dangerously narrow roads, we may have stopped at more sites.  As is, I think we were able to visit way more ruins and historical sites in Ireland than we thought possible.  

Travel to Ireland was a great way to physically experience and learn about: bog ecology, Irish farmlands and practices, Irish culture, Irish fairy tales, foreign language (Gaelic), Ireland’s National Parks, historic sites, ruins, religious history, world history, genealogy, different signs, use of the metric system, accents, and currency exchange.  There is no doubt, travel is a great educational tool.   Remember, travel could be local, regional, your own country, or foreign countries.  Travel can be via “armchair” with the use of books, videos, and computers if you are unable to travel.  Exposure to the world is so important for children.  Be inspired, go explore!

College Tours at Any Age


Our son has always loved college campuses!  He started going to UH when he was 2 to participate in language development studies.  The students would take him to other cognitive study labs after he finished the experiments because he was so fascinated by the students and what they did.  Then we started attending special events and open houses at UH, UT and A&M starting when he was 5.  He loves A&M’s Physics Department to the point that he will not let us skip Physics Festival weekend.  And, thanks to being part of TPPG our son gets 3 days of special activities, lectures, and tours for Physics Festival.

His love for universities has completely expanded to the point that he asks for university tours.  For his 10th birthday, he got a private tour of Marquette University’s engineering building and computer science department due to his Aunt working for the university and having friends in the department.  He was only supposed to be there for one hour but he was there for 2.5 hours!  For his 11th birthday, he wanted to go see MIT & Harvard.  Since we had friends nearby, we made a trip to see them along with the universities.  And they suggested adding Yale to the list.  We also planned to be MIT for the solar eclipse.  So in lieu of a birthday party this year, he got to go to his favorite university!  He absolutely loved MIT and did enjoy both Harvard and Yale.  But, MIT won him over.

Here is the list of colleges we have visited thus far:

  • Harvard (self-guided tour & their museums)
  • MIT (self-guided tour, their museums, & solar eclipse activities)
  • Yale (self-guided tour & their museum)
  • Rice (individually guided tour of Engineering, self-guided of campus, & their museum)
  • University of Houston (participated in several language studies, group guided tours, self-guided, and open houses)
  • University of Houston – Sugar Land (self-guided tour, local library on campus)
  • University of Texas – Austin (UT Explore day, group and individual guided tour of labs, & self-guided of campus)
  • Texas A&M (Physics Festival, Chemistry Open House, group guided tour of labs, private lectures, lunch with math & physics department, & self-guided tours)
  • Marquette University (individually guided tour of Engineering & self-guided of campus)
  • Houston Community College (open houses & individually guided tour of labs)
  • Baylor University (self-guided tour & their museum)
  • University of Otago (self-guided tour)

We will obviously continue to visit UT, A&M, Rice, and UH quite frequently due to where we live and the activities we pursue at these campuses.  Soon he will be taking classes at HCC.  However, we plan on continuing to visit more universities, even when in foreign countries.  Our son absolutely loves being able to go into buildings and get lab tours.  But he also appreciates the building designs, safety analysis, and their architecture.  He is always hoping for private lab tours or a chance to talk with either students or professors.

College tours are something more people should consider doing with their children of any age and for children who are gifted or not.  It is true that not all students will go to a 4-year college.  However, that doesn’t mean they should not go visit colleges.  Any student should go and tour colleges.  Young children seeing a college campus may inspire or motivate them.  They may learn about additional career options that they were unaware of.  They may learn what fields require more than 4 years of college and which only require a trade school certification.  In addition, many colleges (both 4 year and 2 year) offer open houses that are filled with hands-on activities for childrens of all ages and tours of the buildings.  Some universities even offer a variety of camps that college students run.  And, many universities have museums on site, some of which are free.

There is another perk of college tours, even at young ages, a tour allows your child to see the environment first hand.  Even young children can get a feel for a college.  It is important to determine if it is the right place for them and if they feel comfortable.  I know our son was turned off by some of the colleges he toured because he did not like their labs, thought the campus was “cold” or “unfriendly,” or did not like some other aspect of the campus.  Some campuses were a hit immediately because of the friendliness of the students and professors regardless of his age. As with high school students, even younger children will either love a campus or not upon arrival.  Thus, experiencing the trip involved to get to the campus is important.  In addition, meeting the people who are there and seeing the actual learning environment are great experiences that can help with future planning.  College tours give you the opportunity to start the conversations about colleges, future education choices, and planning for the future.  Consider adding college visits as a fun activity to do with your child!

Hydraulic Engineering Lessons via CAP



In June, I lead a civil air patrol lesson on the weather, the atmosphere, the climate, and weather forecasting based on my recent Civil Air Patrol Education material arriving.  I wrote up a list of resources for this here.  This time my Civil Air Patrol educational materials are the Hydraulic Engineering STEM Kit.  My kit came with 4 different projects to build and an activity guide.

The following list of terms came directly from the Civil Air Patrol’s “Hydraulic Engineering STEM Kit – Tips for AEOs and AEMs:”

Fluid Power – fluid power is a complex discipline of engineering that spans pneumatics and hydraulics; it is the use of fluids under pressure to generate, control, and transmit power.

Fluids –  a liquid or a gas when defining fluids as it relates to fluid power within hydraulics & pneumatics.

Power – as it pertains to hydraulics & pneumatics, to supply with mechanical or electrical energy.

Pneumatics – (root Pneuma is from Latin/Greek and means air, wind, breath) the branch of physics, technology, and engineering concerned with mechanical properties of gases, pressurized gases or air; using compressed air for special applications.

Hydraulics – (root Hydra is from Greek and means water) at the basic level it is the liquid counterpart of pneumatics; focuses on the applied engineering using the properties of fluids.

Viscosity – a thickness or internal friction attribute; the less viscosity the fluid has the easier movement.

Hydrostatics – pressurizing a liquid to produce a force, unmoving; liquid at rest; the weight of a liquid.

Hydrodynamics – manipulating liquid to flow to push something; liquid in motion (i.e. Hoover Dam is hydroelectric, historical grist mills are hydromechanical).

Pascal’s Principle – pressure applied anywhere in a closed container of fluid is transmitted equally to the container walls in all directions (P = F/A; pressure equals a force divided by an area).

Mechanical Advantage – the advantage gained by the use of a mechanism for transmitting force; the ratio of the force produced by a machine to the force applied to it.

Bernoulli’s Principle – pressure applied to a fluid is decreased when flowing through a narrowed section of pipe/hose; a slow-moving fluid exerts more pressure than a fast-moving fluid.

Venturi effect – the reduction in fluid pressure that results when a fluid flows through a constricted section of a pipe.

The following are links to online resources that I located (videos, lesson plans, e-books) that can be used to better understand hydraulic engineering:

The following are books (all at our local library) about hydraulic engineering:

  • “Rubberband engineer: build slingshot-powered rockets, rubber band rifles, unconventional catapults, and more guerrilla gadgets from household hardware” by Lance Akiyama
  • “Fluid mechanics and hydraulics” by Ranald V. Giles
  • “Basic physics for all” by B. N. Kumar
  • “National Geographic science of everything: how things work in our world from cell phones, soap bubbles & vaccines to GPS, x-rays & submarines.” by National Geographic

The following are DVDs (all at our local library) about hydraulic engineering:

  • “The way things work. Pressure” from Schlessinger Media
  • “The way things work. Pumps” from Schlessinger Media
  • “Bill Nye the science guy. Pressure” from Disney Educational Productions
  • “Science of Disney Imagineering. Fluids” by Disney Educational Productions

World Schooling Round 5



As you can tell from the title, this is not our first round world schooling.  In previous blogs, I have explained exactly what world schooling is and what adventures we had.  In Round 1 I discussed New Zealand.  In Round 2 I discussed Germany.  In Round 3 I discussed England.  In Round 4 I discussed Hawaii.  Well, Round 5 is Canada and specifically the Banff, Alberta area.

Canada was not a new experience for my husband and I.  I had the privilege of taking many trips to Canada as a child growing up in Wisconsin.  In addition, I have a familial connection to Canada due to my mom’s grandparents immigrating from Ireland to Canada before arriving in WI.  And, we have several longtime family friends who were born in Canada.  In addition, Canada is America’s neighbor to the north.  Thus, Canada does not seem foreign to us.

Here is what we experienced during our 8-day adventure in and around Banff:

  • Calgary
  • Banff
  • Banff Visitor Centre
  • Bow River
  • Lake Louise
  • Lake Louise Visitor Centre
  • Lake Louise Gondola
  • Buckhorn Wildlife Interpretative Centre
  • Bow River Valley Dr.
  • Johnston Canyon
  • Junior Explorer Program (4 different badges)
  • Jasper National Park Icefields Visitor Centre
  • Athabasca Glacier Adventure
  • Skywalk Adventure
  • Saskatchewan River Crossing
  • Moraine Lake
  • Consolation Lake
  • Vermillion Lakes
  • Bow River Falls
  • Sundance Canyon
  • Cave & Basin National Historic Site and Visitor Centre
  • Enemy Aliens, Prisoners of War Museum
  • Banff Hot Springs
  • Luxton Museum of the Plains Indians
  • Banff Park Museum National Historic Site of Canada
  • Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
  • Mount Norquay Ski Area
  • Two Jack Lake
  • Lake Minnewanka
  • Transformer Building (first site of electricity in Banff)
  • Park Administration Building & Cottage Gardens
  • Banff Centre
  • Tunnel Mountain
  • Canmore
  • Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail Road (numerous stops)
  • Spray Valley Provincial Park – Kananaskis Country
  • Spray Lake
  • Buller Pond
  • Peter Lougheed Park Discovery Centre
  • Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
  • Upper Kananaskis Lake
  • Bow Valley Provincial Park – Kananaskis Country
  • Beaver Ponds
  • Mount Lorette Ponds
  • Canadians Brew House
  • Telus Spark Science Centre

Here are some phrases my son learned:

  • Sortie (Exit)
  • Centre (center)
  • Washroom (bathroom or restroom)
  • Texas Gate (cattle guard)
  • Pop (soda)
  • Merci (Thank you)
  • Bienvenue (Welcome)
  • No Worries (your welcome or no problem)
  • Eh? (common phrase heard, but also common in parts of the Midwest of the US)
  • Brown bread (whole wheat bread)
  • The bill (the check)
  • Poutine (french fries covered with cheese and gravy)
  • Mountie (police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police)
  • Loonie (1 dollar coin)
  • Toonie (2 dollar coin)
  • Ya know? (common phrase heard, but also common in parts of the Midwest of the US)
  • Chinook (warm wind that comes in over the mountain, raises temperature)

Travel to Canada was actually easier than any of our other international trips because it was a 3.5 hour non-stop flight.  In fact, travel to Canada was easier than many of the domestic trips we have taken.  And, Canada is very similar to the US in terms of speaking English, similar stores, and having free WiFi in many places.  Like remote areas in the US, you don’t always have cell reception in the remote areas of Canada.  The difference in Canada is that signs and packages are in both French and English.  And, the people greeting you often spoke both French and English to you until you speak.  If you spoke in English, they would not continue in French.  My son had put French into google translate so that he could play with it on informational signs and on food packages as we prepared him for this fact. Travel to Canada in late September also meant a true experience of other seasons as he got to see fall colors and experience accumulating snowfall.  He even had his first snowball fight as we don’t get that kind of snow in Houston, TX (it gets ice and grapple every few years).  Travel to Canada was a great way to physically experience and learn about: mountain ecology, mountain geography, mountain weather, Canadian culture, First Nations culture, foreign language (French), Canadian National Parks, provincial parks,  historic sites, different signs, use of the metric system, accents, and currency exchange.

I strongly believe that travel is a great educational tool.   Remember that travel could be local, regional, your own country, or foreign countries.  And, if you can not physically leave, travel can be via “armchair” with the use of books, videos, and computers.  Exposure to the world is so important for children.  Please, be inspired and go explore!

Our Lessons from Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey was our 2nd major hurricane we went through as a family.  The first was Hurricane Ike.  We thought we learned from Ike.  We thought we learned from previous flood events (tax day flood 2016 and memorial day flood 2015).  Hurricane Harvey was worse!  It was an emotional rollercoaster that taught us even more lessons.


  • People are more important than things.  With Hurricane Ike, we knew there could be damage (and there was) but we never felt the dire need to evacuate and we were never under evacuation orders.  We also knew we weren’t going to lose everything.  We had done the standard hurricane preparations.  However, Harvey was scarier because from the get go we were being told this is going to be record rain event.  And preparing for being flooded is completely different than preparing for a major wind event.  Once we knew Houston was going to get hit, we started moving what we could upstairs.  This is where it became clear, you cannot save everything.  Prior to our son, we evacuated for Hurricane Rita and it was easy to take lots of things when traveling as 2 adults.  Well, for Ike we rode it out as a family of 3.  And for Harvey, we thought we’d be riding it out until we got put under mandatory evacuation orders.  Well, evacuating as a family of 3 means you definitely can’t take everything.  We were lucky enough to be able to get out in our car (albeit we had to wait several hours after the evacuation order for the street to be low enough to get out).  Otherwise, we would have walked out each with just one bag.  The point is, we were told directly we were facing the potential of 3 to 5 feet of water due to the Brazos River going 3 feet about the flood stage for Oyster Creek which connects to the Brazos and runs through our neighborhood and connects to Ditch B and American Canal which are directly next to us.  Ditch B had topped its banks twice with Harvey and was awfully close to our house.  Thus, the city knew if the river rose to the height and at the speed, it was forecasted, we would be flooded.  You have to act fast.  You can’t save everything.  Saving our family was important!  Thus when we came home, we were overjoyed to only have seepage from Ditch B touching our foundation (way better than standing water) and water issues from the chimney (very common problem around us).  Now, we are in the process of analyzing what we have.  We don’t need it all.  We have already passed on items of clothing and jackets, donated many bags of stuff to charities, donated old curriculum to flood damaged schools, donating homeschooling materials to friends with younger kids, etc.
  • Harvey taught us way more about weather forecasting and weather chart reading.  I had just done a weather lesson with my son and 3 of our friends.  I even wrote a blog about it here But the information we learned never had as many colors as we would see on the charts for Harvey.  We learned there are extra colors for when you exceed 20 inches of rain and when the rainfall rate exceeds 6 inches per hour.  Our neighborhood ended with 37 inches but just a couple miles east and south of us they had over 40 inches.  And some parts of Houston had 52 inches.  This wasn’t discussed in any of our weather materials!  In addition, we experienced way more weather warnings at once.  We discussed various weather warnings as well as the difference between watches and warnings, but, it is completely different to go through so many all at once.  At the worst of it we had simultaneously received hurricane watch, tropical storm warning, flash flood warning, flood warning, civil engineering warning (this was a new one and was related to issues with reservoirs north west of us), and tornado warnings.  On Friday and Saturday night, we slept downstairs due to the number of tornado warnings and the fact that we had been under a tornado watch for more than 24 hours.  We never had this number of warnings and alerts with Ike.  Harvey was definitely a monster on the weather charts.
  • Being able to read hydrological data is important.  Sadly, in my previous weather lessons with my son and our friends we had missed this.  However, Harvey made it clear, you need to understand hydrological data.  Hydrological data is a different set of graphs documenting the levels of the major rivers and reservoirs along with the various flood stages.  This data combined with topological data can help you determine what flood stage is bad for you.  You also need to understand flood plains, flood maps, inundation maps, levees (lots of levee districts around Houston), and where the various ditches, creeks, bayous, and rivers meet.  This is why for us, the original forecast of 59 feet for the Brazos was so dangerous.  56 feet is already severe flood for much of our area but that is the danger number for us as that is when the Brazos then floods Oyster Creek completely over its banks.  This 3 feet of water above 56 would translate into a lot of water by us and standing water in our house.  Thankfully, we were reading the hydrological data daily.  What saved us from severe damage was the fact that the river did not crest as fast as forecasted and it didn’t reach the original forecast height.  Instead, it crest just shy of 56 feet and 5 days later than original projections.  This made all the difference for us in terms of minor damage versus severe.  However, it didn’t stop other parts of our area from getting severely flooded.
  • Understand your insurances and know the difference between standard homeowner’s insurance and flood insurance.  We have always had flood insurance ever since Tropical Storm Allison.  We know how easy flash floods occur in TX and we know the streets are designed to flood in an attempt to keep water from homes.  Sadly, when rain falls too fast that drains can’t keep up homes flood. However, many people around here still don’t have flood insurance.  Some people were wrongfully told they don’t need it.  Some people never read the fine print in their homeowner’s insurance.  We read ours and was shocked which is why we will always have flood insurance.  Down here, water rising into your house is not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance regardless of how the water rises (street flooding, storm surge, sewer backup, flooding rain, etc.).  Water rising is only covered under a flood insurance policy which is bought separately.  We are not in a coastal county.  In the coastal counties, they often have a separate windstorm policy in addition to a separate flood policy.  For us, the windstorm policy is part of our standard homeowner’s insurance.  But there is another small detail that many were unaware.  The windstorm has a higher deductible than the standard policy.  For us, our standard policy has a 1% deductible but our windstorm has a 2% deductible.  The percent is off the insured replacement value of your house.  Thus, it is common to see people with $3K standard deductible and a $6K windstorm deductibles.  However, some people have policies with 3%-6% windstorm deductibles.  So during storms like Harvey there are two different deductibles.  And if you don’t have flood insurance, your homeowner’s insurance is not going to cover any of the flood related damage.  What is worse is those who are renters often didn’t have a separate flood insurance for their contents because they were unaware that their renter’s insurance didn’t cover floods either.  People need to read their insurance policies!
  • Have your most important documents in a sealed plastic bag.  We decided that the most important documents were going to be the ones that proved who we were and our insurance documents.  We had inside a plastic bag our social security cards, our driver’s licenses, our birth certificates, foreign currency (upcoming trip), and copies of our insurances (car, health, house, and flood).  These are things that are not easy to replace and critical for our identification in case our house was damaged beyond being able to return right away.  We had these items double bagged just in case. Because we evacuated by car, we also had our son’s homeschooling portfolios in a big bag.  We felt we needed those perchance we couldn’t return to our house or had to evacuate further from Houston.  All other papers could be replaced.
  • Understand evacuation zones versus evacuation orders.  For people outside of coastal regions they may not understand how evacuation works.  Houston is huge, over 10 million residents in the greater metro Houston area.  But remember, Harvey was hitting way more than just than the Houston area.  The state and city came up with better evacuation zones and procedures after Hurricane Rita when they mistakenly told almost the whole area to evacuate at once and included areas that shouldn’t have been.  There are now very clear evacuation zones (coastal, A, B, C, and D).  These areas were created based on flooding at various storm surge estimates.  These areas are the areas that are going to get flooded first and are the most critical to get out before the Hurricane comes.  They don’t order them all at once but in stages and there are designated evacuation routes so everyone is not on the same highways out.  Evacuation orders are voluntary and mandatory and they can be given to areas outside of evacuation zones.  Mandatory means you need to leave and if you stay there will be no emergency services for you.  Voluntary means you should leave and if you stay there may or may not be services for you depending on road conditions.  Due to the nature of Harvey being a heavy rain event, the counties were issuing evacuation orders to areas outside of the Evacuation Zones based on previous flood events.  But as harvey rains continued and rain totals were exceeding initial projections, counties were issuing additional evacuation orders which is why we were bumped into a mandatory evacuation order so quickly after the storm started.  In normal hurricanes, we are far enough inland to not be affected by storm surge and our area can handle about 10-12 inches of rain.  Harvey changed all of this because of how fast and how much rain came down.
  • Collective trauma.  We may have walked away with very minimal damage compared to others near us.  However, Harvey was still emotionally traumatic for everyone here.  There is a fight or flight reaction going on your body when you receive so many constant severe weather warnings and are placed on mandatory evacuation orders.  There is the stress of the unknown and there is stress from watching the area you call home being destroyed.  Yes, there are people with no damage, a little damage, a lot of damage, and those who lost everything.  Everyone experienced the trauma and fear that came with Harvey differently.  The children in the area are definitely carrying some emotional scars from the evacuations and fear of losing everything.  Everyone knows at least one person who had severe flood damage.  My husband has helped demo and gut several co-workers homes that had several feet of damage.  We know there are a couple dozen people in our area who had the same type of chimney water problem as us.  We also know a handful of people who were just as lucky as us to only have seepage damage instead of standing water.  But everyone around here experienced some form of trauma.  It will take time to rebuild Houston.  And it will take time to heal from the trauma.  Sadly, we watch those affected by Irma and know the collective trauma those from Florida and the Island nations are going through.  Compassion is needed!

Music Appreciation & Theory Homeschool Style

Our son has always loved music.  At the age of 2 ½, he asked for a pipe organ for Christmas.  He took music classes at our church with our pipe organist and participated in the children’s choir since he was little.  He took more general music classes at Gymboree as a toddler and then Fundamentally Music until he was 4 ½.  We had trouble finding teachers who would take a young student for private piano lessons which is why it wasn’t until he was 5 that he had formal private lessons.  He participated in the Fort Bend Boys Choir for 2 years.  He chose to stop choir completely and only do piano.  It took a couple teachers before we found the perfect teacher.  He has had his current teacher for almost 5 years.  He truly has a great teacher who understands his perfect pitch and that our son enjoys music theory even more than playing.  He is still doing weekly piano lessons.  Due to his piano lessons covering piano playing, music reading, and music theory I came up with additional resources to use in order for him to earn his 1 year of high school fine art credit for Music Appreciation & Theory.

Here is what I am currently using or have already finished using:

  • How Music and Mathematics Relate from the Great Courses (12 45-minute lectures from Dr. David Kung) 
  • Khan Academy Music (23 video lessons) 
  • Defining the String Quartet: Hayden (6 lessons, free online course from Stanford University) 
  • Attended a 3 hour Pipe Organ Workshop from Dr. Jeong-Suk Bae at the University of St. Thomas (this was a workshop open to any piano student with 5 years or more experience regardless of age)
  • Attending performances of the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, a variety of musicals at the theaters in the Houston area, and concerts or recitals held at our church.
  • Weekly piano lessons at Calliope School of Music
  • In addition to using a piano, also using a Lyons Diatonic Soprano Xylophone with Mallets
  • Alfred Alfred’s Basic Piano Course Lesson Book 4 & Book 5
  • Alfred’s Basic Piano Library Theory, Book 4 & Book 5
  • Alfred’s Complete Color-Coded Flash Cards for All Beginning Music Students


Here are some book titles that were available from our public library:

  • “This Jazz Man” by Karen Ehrhardt
  • “Young Musicians in World History by Irene Earls
  • “Leonard Bernstein: all-American Musician” by Marlene Toby
  • “African American Musicians” by Eleanora E. Tate
  • “Great Musicians” by Robert Ziegler
  • “The Deaf Musicians” by Pete Seeger
  • “A Horn for Louis” by Eric A. Kimmel
  • “Honky-tonk Heroes & Hillbilly Angels: The Pioneers of Country & Western Music by Holly George-Warren
  • “Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll” by Holly George-Warren
  • “The Really Awful Musicians” by John Manders
  • “Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and what the neighbors thought)” by Kathleen Krull
  • “The School of Music” by Meurig Bowen
  • The Great Composers: the Lives and Music of the Great Classical Composers” by Jeremy Nicholas
  • “The Carnival of the Animals” by Jack Prelutsky


Here are additional resources on music theory or music appreciation:

Saying Goodbye to Fur Babies

Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows that there comes a time when you must say goodbye.  And, that time is difficult regardless of the age.  Well, for us, the time to say goodbye came on Monday, July 10th.  It was a sad day for our whole family, but our son was the saddest of all.

Sagwa was given to us by her previous owner who couldn’t keep her anymore. Sagwa joined us in June of 2004.  We even made a website of her for her previous owner.  She had her first round of kidney failure in 2006 but she survived.  She then watched our son enter our family.  She tolerated him for the first 4 years but then she really warmed up to him.  She partook in our bedtime story routine and she expected morning brushes.  When we switched to homeschooling, Sagwa benefited too.  She would sit by my son and me during our lessons.  And, if our son was being slow at the breakfast table she would meow as if to tell him to hurry up because she wanted her attention down by his laptop.  We knew Sagwa was getting old as she was slowing down.  Sagwa started being really funky on Friday, July 7th  but by Sunday she was completely refusing all food, including food with catnip, catnip alone, milk, and chicken.  We knew this was bad as she never refuses these.  We were hoping it was just a teeth issue, but I knew it could be her kidneys failing for good.  We took her to the vet on Monday and sadly her kidneys had failed again.  The bloodwork found kidney failure and liver failure.  She made it to 15 and half years with 11 of them as a kidney special cat.  Sadly, the kidney failure this time was much faster than 11 years ago.  Lake Olympia Animal Hospital was wonderful with us.  They gave her the medicine and let us hold her until she went.  And they gave us plenty of time for saying goodbyes!  My son and I greatly appreciated being able to hold, pet, and talk to her while she crossed the rainbow bridge.  Now, she is no longer suffering and is pain-free.

Within hours of sending our closest family and friends our announcement of Sagwa’s death, we received the sweetest note from a dear friend, Dr. Amanda, who was Sagwa’s former vet before moving to New Mexico.   I found her note to be extremely helpful because it was loaded with resources.  And, it was her letter that inspired me to write this blog.  Her resources could be helpful to others.  And, after going through saying goodbye with Sagwa at our vet’s office, I love that she offers services in the family home through her mobile clinic http://www.chamisavet.com/ Chamisa.

Dr. Amanda Mouradian, DVM sent us the following (sharing with permission):

“Please accept my deepest sympathies and sorrows as you grieve the loss of Sagwa.  My heart goes out to you as you walk down this path of grief and sadness,  there is no way to skip it, only to pass through it.  Sagwa will be with you always, even if it is just in memories.  Please know that your feelings are normal, that your sorrow is normal, that depression and anger are normal after losing someone so close.

I have compiled some resources surrounding the grieving process and loss of a beloved pet in hopes that it makes your journey a little less painful and maybe a little transformative:

Things to do at home:

-Create a memorial for your pet

-Rest and acknowledge that grief is exhausting and that it takes time to adapt to the new world you live in

-Visit some on-line support groups with folks who are traveling through grief as well

-Care for yourself- drink enough water, eat healthful foods, rest, and exercise

Memorialization Ideas:

On-line Support:

On-Line Support Groups:











If you need support outside of your home:

Private Grief Counseling in Santa Fe:


Grief Support Groups/Facilities in Northern New Mexico:


Support Via Phone:

ASPCA National Pet Loss Hotline – 877-GRIEF-10 (1-877-474-3310). This is a 24-hr direct line to the ASPCA’s psychologist and grief counselor, Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, Ph.D. www.aspca.org.

Iams Pet Loss Support Hotline – 1-888-332-7738 – M-F 9am-5pm Eastern

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine – 607-253-3932. 6 pm – 9 pm, EST, Tues-Thurs. www.vetcornell.edu/org/petloss/

Argus Institute at CSU Veterinary Medical Center – 970-297-1242. www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu

Pet Loss Books for Adults:

When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing – Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

Grieving The Death of a Pet   – Betty J. Carmack

Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet – Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed.

Pet Loss and Human Bereavement – William Kay

Animals as Teachers and Healers – Susan Chernak McElroy

A Final Act of Caring: Ending the Life of an Animal Friend – Herb and Mary Montgomery

Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children – Herbert A. Neiburg, Ph.D.

It’s Okay To Cry – Maria Luz Quintana

Pet Loss Books for Children:

When a Pet Dies” – Fred Rogers

Dog Heaven” – Cynthia Rylant

Cat Heaven” – Cynthia Rylant

I hope all of this information helps you and your family.

With hugs,

Dr. Amanda“

Seriously, when I received this email, I cried.  First, Dr. Amanda is a dear friend and was Sagwa’s former vet before she moved.  Second, I was moved by the thoroughness of the resources and thoughtfulness she put into compiling this list!  And, finally, I knew she cared about our pet and our family to take the time during her vacation to send us the note. She went above and beyond both friend and vet duties.  We greatly appreciate it!  And, due to her letter my son and I picked out our favorite pictures for hubby to photoshop and make frameable.  We took pictures of the paw print her current vet sent us and we are keeping her brush (it has been cleaned) as a memento because it was Sagwa’s favorite activity and one she even let our son do to her!

The first couple story times at night without Sagwa were hard as were the first couple of mornings of homeschooling.  Sagwa is missed, but we have some amazing memories and we know she lived a long life with us!  Grief takes time.  We hope that if you have to experience pet grief with your child, you’ll use some of the resources and suggestions from our friend, Dr. Amanda.