Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lions And Tigers And ANTS Oh My...


I woke up this beautiful Saturday morning, went out to the kitchen to fix breakfast for my family only to find myself standing in a pile of fire ants.Having fire ants bite you is just plain non conducive to fixing eggs and pancakes for breakfast so I've got to fix this problem by facing it head on. How could this happen? I mop and clean and then I mop and clean again it seems and I know that I didn't use sugar water to mop and clean (unless I've lost my mind which is always a possibility in this household.) What Do I do here? I don't want to poison my family. Using any kind of poison where I fix my family's food is right out. So I googled solutions to my problems and came up with some really interesting finds.
With over 12,000 species of ants in the world, only a small handful of them insist on invading our homes in search of something tasty from either the sweet foods or flesh and greasy foods. Ants commonly found indoors include the Argentine ant, the pharaoh ant, the thief or grease ant, the pavement ant and the odorous house ant And if you're really unlucky, you might have the carpenter ant, an ant insistent on destroying the wood that holds up your house, so get professional help fast in that case!However, it would be unbalanced to see ants as bad on the whole. Most of the things ants do are good for us and the environment, including eating the larvae of fleas, spiders, bed bugs, flies, silverfish and clothes moths. From that point of view, aiming to control them and prevent them from accessing your food is a better approach than seeking to completely eliminate them and natural approaches are best for this purpose. For the ants you need to control, there are some very easy, natural and effective natural methods to either ward off or remove ants from your home areas.
Here are 11 natural methods to ridding your kitchen or other living areas from ants:
          1. Heed the scouts. The first signs of ants in your kitchen is a warning to you. These are the scout ants checking out your kitchen for signs of suitability to invade and their job will be to return back to the nest to inform the other ants that your kitchen is blooming with potential. Waste no time in getting to work cleaning your kitchen, sealing all food and removing all sources of sticky, sweet, greasy and flesh foods from their access.
Don't have any dirty dishes left out. Wash all dishes as they're used or place them into the dishwasher and shut the door tight. Wipe down all of your cupboard and benchtop surfaces with vinegar; this cleans, disinfects and leaves a nasty smell as far as ants are concerned. Remove all sources of garbage and keep the kitchen bin shut tightly. Rinse all recyclable containers before putting them into storage.

Sweep and vacuum the kitchen area daily.

Rinse off any jar, container or bottle that has a sticky or leftover residue. In particular, check jam/jelly jars, sauce bottles, pickle bottles, cordial bottles and honey and syrup containers. Place your honey jar and any other very ant-attractive foods inside a bowl of water (see How to keep ants out of honey and How to keep ants away from cat food for more details.

Seal every food item in containers. The containers need to be of the sort that ants cannot get into. Be relentless about this for 3-7 days. The ants, having nothing to eat, will go elsewhere. This works because the ants are following the chemical trails left by other ants, who did find food.

You may also need to seal fragrant items such as cleaning powders, deodorants, and the like in case these attract the ants' initial attention. Just be alert to any congregations around non-food sources
           2. Seal off all entrance areas. As part of your big kitchen clean, do some of your own scouting work. Can you tell where the ants are entering the house? Follow the first ants to see where they're entering and leaving from. Seal all the entrance holes that you can find using silicone caulk, putty, glue or plaster. Temporary methods can include petroleum jelly or poster tack. If you use a temporary sealant (such as poster tack), only do so until you can purchase a more permanent solution, as it will deteriorate over time and open up the gap again.
          3. Load the soapy water. Soapy water will both kill the ants it hits and it will destroy their chemical trail, preventing more ants from following in their tracks. This cheap and easy method consists simply of putting one teaspoon of liquid dish soap into a spray bottle and filling it with water. When you see ants, spritz them and that will be it!

  • Additions to the water for added potency include mint oil or citrus peels or citrus rind oil.
  • Adding soap to water barriers can make them even more effective than simply using the water.
           4. Put up defensive barriers. There are a number of barrier methods that you can put into place to really terrify the ants and keep them at bay. Many of the products that form these natural barriers are probably already in your kitchen; they just need to be deployed properly. A barrier doesn't need to be wider than a quarter of an inch (6.35mm) but it must be an unbroken line. Be clear that barriers won't work on ants already in the kitchen (indeed, you'll be trapping them inside) but they will prevent any more ants from coming in. Some of the items with which to make barriers include.
Powdered charcoal

Turmeric

Cinnamon

Citrus oil

Black or cayenne pepper (hotter is best); or try red chili pepper

Chalk lines

Vaseline (great for doors and windows)

Baby powder

Powdered cleanser

White Vinegar and Water

Desiccating dusts such as diatomaceous earth or silica aerogel.

5. Sprinkle around deterring odors. Ants dislike various scents such as peppermint and camphor. These can be used fresh or in oil form to disturb the ambiance of any area that ants have been making their way to. The great thing about these fragrant deterrents is that your own preferences for scent can be used to improve the household odors in general, all the while making your kitchen, pantry and other areas very ant-unfriendly. Here are some ideas:Crushed mint leaves; and grow mint near the entrance areas. Dried peppermint is also effective.

Lavender oil; and grow lavender near the entrance areas.

Oil of clove or crush cloves and sprinkle as a barrier.

Camphor.

Use laurel/bay leaves to keep the ants away from a specific food. Ants are especially attracted to sugar, paprika and flour. Put laurel/bay leaves in your sugar can, flour canister and paprika jar. You will be amazed!
          6. Create your own ant baits. You can buy ant baits but they're chemical preparations that don't fit well with natural attempts to control ants in the home. It's straightforward to make your own ant baits and a particularly successful one is made using boric acid. A natural derivative of the mineral boron, boric acid is used in borax and some saline solutions. Boric acid is a stomach poison – when ants walk in it and then clean their feet or antennae, they ingest it. Bearing in mind that removing too many ants from your local environment can harm the good they're doing in keeping down pests for you, here is how to make a boric acid bait:
Buy boric acid at the local drug store (it's about USD $2 a bottle).

Pour about a tablespoon of real maple syrup (or anything you know ants love) on a flat plate or saucer.

Sprinkle the boric acid around the syrup so that the ants must walk through it to get to the syrup, you may even use a q-tip to ensure a good distribution of the powder around the the syrup.

Place wherever the ants are frequenting. Keep out of the reach of children or pets. Be patient as this method can take a week to take effect
           7. Use food against ants. There are several techniques that can get rid of ants through their inability to digest the food or through expansion and death. It's not very pretty to think about but these methods do work. As with all methods, put the bait food where the ants are appearing:

Use corn meal. This method is especially great around pets or children, as corn meal by itself is not poisonous. The ants will carry it home and try to eat it, but they can't digest it properly. Be sure to put corn meal wherever you see that the ants like to frequent.

Put out cream of wheat (farina). Don't cook it – use it raw. The ants eat it and it expands in their stomachs, killing them. Put the food somewhere you know there will be ants and just leave it.

Ants are extremely susceptible to caffeine. Leave coffee grounds (used works) where the ants are and they will carry it home and eat it. This method takes a few weeks to see.
          8.Deal with carpenter ants in as natural way as possible. An invasion of carpenter ants is serious as they can damage your house structure. Be alert for their invasion – piles of broken wings can be one sign and it is longer than most ants. You may also see their fecal pellets (these appear like sawdust) and they can sometimes be heard rustling in the walls. Some ways to deal with them include:

Bait them. They like sugar, so you can turn this against them; use the boric acid method described earlier.

Vacuum their nests out of the wall if possible.

Have an exterminator drill holes in the wall and blow in diatomaceous earth, silica aerogel or boric acid. A professional exterminator specializing in natural pesticides can also use pyrethrin spray or boric acid baits of their own concoction.
          9.Use a professional exterminator specializing in natural pesticides to deal with fire ants. Fire ants rarely enter the home but if they do, get immediate help as they're aggressive and their stings are painful and can trigger off an allergic reaction in susceptible people. If the ants need to be sprayed, insist on the use of a bait that has an insect growth regulator like abamectin in it. In terms of outside areas, you can do this yourself provided you wear clothing top to toe and boots to protect yourself. Sneak up to the nest on a cooler day (the ants and queen rise to get more warmth) and pour several gallons/liters of boiling water into the nest. If you want to use additives to the water, try vinegar, insecticidal soaps, citrus oil, pyrethrum insecticide, or ammonia. And then repeat every day or so until it seems that the ants have given up and moved.

Coat your boots in something sticky to deter the ants from crawling on you as you perform this task.

Sprinkle Splenda where you see ants. We use this at school where it is not a danger to the kids.

Use coffee grounds. This really does work! You have to be persistent: empty coffee grounds on ant hills and along your house foundations. We generate a surprising amount of grounds in a week. This safe material confuses the worker ants because they lose their scent trails. Thus the hatched young in the ant colonies have no food and starve. It may take all summer at first but now we don't get ants in the house and the lawn is mostly clear of ant hills. It is important to apply grounds every year but that is what makes this safe! No residue effects. Clean kitchens are also a must.

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Camphor is a poison, not only for ants, but for humans. Do not use in places with children.
Boric acid is potentially harmful to humans. Although the toxic dose is several grams consumed, precautions should be taken when handling it. Always keep it out of the reach of children and pets and don't absent-mindedly lick it off your fingers!
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I have found several methods to getting rid of ants and I am giving them a try so far so good! Now back to  I breakfast or what really has turned into brunch! I hope this helps you to conquer or even prevent what we have gone through today!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Are You Looking For Great Books For 3rd-5th Graders?

Favorite Chapter Books for Grades 3-5 : PragmaticMom
I came across this blog listing some really great books for this age group. My 4th grader has read quite a few of these books and she loved them. Of course, she loves reading and can't get enough material to read so we are so very blessed with an exceptional reader. However, her younger brother and sister struggle with reading and unfortunately don't share her love for books and reading. luckily these books have had a positive and encouraging effect on them too. I read the books to them and they participate as they can which makes them feel very proud of themselves therefore increasing and reinforcing their reading skills. These books are highly enjoyable and keep their attention focused on the stories at hand. I can't stress enough how vitally important it is to read to and with your children and there is no such thing as too old to read with family members no matter what grade they're in. I've included the list below and also some links to buy the books for your convenience. I would love to hear about what your experiences with reading to this age group have been and what some of your favorite books are.

The Secret School by Avi. Ida Bidson becomes a teacher at 14-years-old when her teacher at her one-room schoolhouse has to leave due to a family illness. This is a Newbery Award Winner! My oldest highly recommends it! [ages 8-12]

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall. Her first book, The Penderwicks, won a Newbury Award. It’s a fantastic book but the sequel is even better. In this book, the girls try to find a wife for their dad. I think I was more excited than my daughter when the sequel came out! [ages 8-12]



The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney. When Eben McAllister is challenged by his pa to discover wonders in his small farming community, he finds the extraordinary in a doll, a bookcase, a saw, a table, a ship in a bottle, a woven cloth, and more. [ages 7-12]


Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume. [ages 8-11]


Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. [ages 8-11]


Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. Historical fiction about the author’s own grandmother who settled in Wisconsin during the 1860′s and their adventures getting along with the local Native Americans. [ages 8-12]


The BFG by Roald Dahl. [ages 8-11]


Matilda by Roald Dahl. (ages 8-11)


The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh. A true story about Sarah Noble, a brave 8-year-old pioneer child, who must leave her mother and siblings to accompany her father to the wilds of Connecticut while he builds a house for their family. Can Sarah keep her courage up when faced with Indians? With large type and short chapters, this Newbery Honor book is perfect for younger readers. Older readers might compare this to Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, another true story about a pioneer girl who befriends Indians. [ages 6-10]


Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Probably one of the best books I have ever read. An amazing and uplifting story. [ages 8-12]. A note of caution, A Tiger Rising also by Kate DiCamillo also won a Newbury Honor award but I didn’t think the content was suitable for ages 8-10. The realism is just too …real, and sad. A Tale of Desperaux was also difficult for my 4th grader to get into. She thought it was boring.


The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. My daughter’s 3rd grade teacher recommended this book and my daughter also said she loved it. It’s great for 3rd grade girls because this is when social issues such as cliques can form. [ages 8-11]


My Side of the Mountain series by Jean Craighead George. This series is about Sam Gribley living unhappily in New York City who runs away to some forgotten family land in the Catskill Mountains. He learns to live off the land with the help of a kindly librarian, a falcon baby, a flint and steele, penknife, and a ball of cord. He is joined by his sister in book two, and book three chronicles Frightful’s migration journal south. [ages 8-12]


Julie of the Wolves series by Jean Craighead George. My mom friend highly recommended this series. She’s reading it with her two girls and they all love it. [ages 7-12]


The Doll People by Laura Godwin (a three book series). [ages 8-11]

Umbrella Summer by Jan Graff. When her older brother dies unexpectedly less than a year ago, Annie reacts by excessive worrying. It’s not until a new neighbor moves in, with a secret of her own, that Annie is able to close the “umberella” of her sadness and let the sunshine in. [ages 8-12]


Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill. Technically, this is historical fiction about a teacher who goes to rural Alaska and transforms the lives of the children at a one room schoolhouse. [ages 8-11]


Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath. Everyone in Coal Harbor, British Columbia is convinced that 11-year-old Primrose Squarp is an orphan after her mother sets sail after her fisherman father during a big storm and both don’t return except Primrose who knows they will return deep inside her heart. Her uncle Jack is recruited to take care of her and he is convinced that Coal Harbor can be converted from a dying fishing village to a tourist destination. Primrose’s faith in her parents’ return tests the patience of those around her as she fails to accept their “death” by asking the doubters, “Didn’t you ever believe anything just because you knew it was true?” [ages 8-12]


The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. A princess gets the gift of being ordinary and that turns out to be the best gift of all. [ages 8-11].


Savvy series by Ingrid Law. For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a “savvy” -a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it’s the eve of Mibs’s big day. [ages 8-12]


Fairy Godsister by Liz Kessler. My oldest said to include this book; it’s one of her favorites. [ages 8-12]


Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth by e. l. konigsburg. For anyone who has had to move to a new town and stuggle to make new friends and fit in, this is the perfect read. A Newbury Honor Book, not quite in the same league as From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, this is a great book about girl friendships…and witchcraft. [ages 9-13]


The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin. This is the sequel to The Year of the Dog in which Pacy learns that her best friend is moving to California, faces prejudice including her own as a new “fresh-off-the-boat” Chinese boy joins her class, and struggles to fit in. [ages 7-11]



Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Grace Lin is the Amy Tan for the elementary school set. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is an Asian-American version of the Percy Jackson series starting with The Lightening Thief. Where Riordan weaves in Greek Mythology into his plot, Grace Lin uses Chinese Folk Tales into a wonderful, inspiring and heart-warming story that teaches all of us to just… BELIEVE. This book was listed twice as a favorite book on my kids’ elementary school newspaper. [ages 8-12]


In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord. 8-year-old Shirley Temple Wong immigrates to America and, after a bumpy adjustment, finds that America is the land of opportunity by discovering baseball, Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers. [ages 8-12]


Rules by Cynthia Lord. A really wonderful story about a girl whose special needs brother and special needs friend help her to discover the courage to just be herself. [ages 8-11]


The Pharaoh’s Secret by Marissa Moss. [ages 9-12]


Midnight for Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo. Another “Harry Potter”-like series that my oldest loves. [ages 9-12]


Shiloh series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. An excellent and award winning series about a boy rescuing a dog from his abusive neighbor. [ages 9-12]


The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park. Set in 15th century Korea, Korea’s Golden Age, two brothers — one skilled in kite making and the other skilled in kite flying — combine their skills to compete in a kite flying contest on behalf of the king. [ages 7-12]


Seesaw Girl by Linda Sue Park. Set during the Yi Dynasty, considered the Golden Age of Korea, the seesaw girl illustrates lives and limitations of women in a noble family. [ages 8-11]


A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. Set in 12th century Korea during the Koryo era, an orphan who ends up working for a celebrated celadon potter is able to realize his own potential. [ages 8-12]


A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. I have just discovered this Newbery Award-winning author and I have to say he’s an amazing story teller. A Year Down Yonder is the Newbery Award winning book, and it’s the sequel to A Long Way From Chicago. While this book is set in a small country bumpkin town during the Great Depression, it’s a hilarious story about fifteen-year-old Mary Alice who is sent to live with her Grandma for a year during the Great Depression while her parents get situated. Grandma Dowdel is a force to be reckoned with; her resourcefulness is matched by her heart of gold and Mary Alice’s year is filled with enough drama to fill a newspaper. A Long Way from Chicago is from Mary Alice’s older brother’s perspective during their eight summers at Grandma Dowel’s farm and the antics they got into. It also gives a gentle history on how the Great Depression impacted their community. [ages 8-12]


Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins. Set in Bangladesh, a sickly rickshaw driver’s daughter strives to earn money for her family. [ages 8-11]


The Lightning Thief series by Rick Riodan. This is “Harry Potter meets Greek Mythology” and it’s a fantastic read! It’s such a page-turner that I stayed up to 2 a.m. to finish it! Percy Jackson is an ADD, dyslexic 6th grade hero who has trouble staying in school because, as it turns out, he’s no ordinary human but a half-blood related to one of the big three in Greek Mythology. He must find and return Zeus’ lost lightening bolt to prevent WWIII. This series makes Greek Mythology come alive so I’ve included an Usborne Greek Mythology book that is easier and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology for those who want more details as well. The level of difficulty is slightly easier than Book 1 of Harry Potter; this book is 375 pages long, normal sized type. [ages 8-14]


Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. You’d have to be living under a rock for over a decade not to know about Harry Potter.  My 4th grade daughter is now racing through the series…I thought she didn’t read these books earlier because they were too scary. She said it was because she didn’t own them. Well, the 7 book series is $48.97; that’s a pretty good price. [ages 7-adult]


Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan. [ages 8-11]


Holes by Louis Sachar. [ages 9-12]


Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta. [ages 9-12]


The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This book is deceptively thick because it’s 250+ pages of illustrations that tell part of the story that I call “The Phantom of the Opera” of children’s literature. Set in 1930′s Paris, Hugo Cabret is an orphan with a talent for all things mechanical. The key to his future, he believes, is unlocking the secret of an automaton “wonder.” With other interlocking stories that weave together, this is a riveting story about the power of friendships, magic and perseverance. [ages 8-12]


The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan Long Shang. [ages 9-12]


Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee, an orphan and an athlete of legendary acclaim, breaks the racial barrier existing between two neighboring towns. [ages 8-15]


The Last Giraffe series by Lauren St. John. A mom friend highly recommends this series. [ages 6-10]


The All-Of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. Apparently the newest American Girl doll is based on this book so maybe it’s more well-known now. The first book is the only one in print, but you can find the rest of the series at your public library or used on Amazon at sometimes exorbitant prices: More All-Of-A-Kind Family, All-Of-A-Kind Family Downtown, All-Of-A-Kind Family Uptown, Ella of All-Of-A-Kind Family.


Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles. My daughter’s 3rd grade teacher’s favorite book in the world. Ruby Lavender spends the summer dealing with the absence of her beloved grandmother, who is visiting family in Hawaii. It obliquely deals with death, but in an uplifting way. The book manages to be hilarious and poignant at the same time. [ages 8-11]


Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles. My oldest daughter’s well-read friend says that this is her new favorite book of the year. Last year, her favorite book was Love, Ruby Lavender but she says this book is better and funnier. It’s about a 10-year-old girl named Comfort whose family runs a mortuary. Despite a spate of deaths in the family and other wacky adventures, the story is both hilarious laugh-out-loud and poignant. [ages 8-11]


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