Monday, December 31, 2007


Our 11 Favorite things about 2007
11 The Emporer's Genealogy bonanza/ the Prime Minister's sewing streak.
10 Mxyl n' Zorg doing Scouts & Klenda n' Leena doing Super Girls Night.
9 Starting our blogs.
8 Seeing a live giant squid in its natural habitat (on film).
7 The Plutarch party.
6 Seeing almost all of our nieces and nephews and the big trip to NJ.
5 Making the gingerbread houses.
4 Choclo being 2.
3 Seeing Zorg make his First Communion and also really start to read.
2 Angel deciding to stay for another 5 years!
1 Welcoming a new Zoomlian: it was The Year of Oob!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What Zorg learned about Santa in CCD

Disclaimer: If you and your family have a "Santa" tradition, I am OK with that!

First, about Santa: we thoroughly enjoy Santa under his more formal title, "St. Nicholas." The kids know about the conventional North Pole/reindeer silliness, but we present it as made up stories and we tell them the real stories about St Nicholas. When they ask, we explain that we don't call him "Santa" because the made up stories featuring "Santa" tend to get kids focussed on what they are getting, whereas St Nicholas helps lead them to Jesus and helps them think about what they will give. I've always thought that Zorg didn't really buy this.

Second, about CCD: it's the equivalent of Sunday School or Catechism class (it actually stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine). I am co-teaching Zorg's class this year and it is the first time I have taught kids who have not been taught the Faith at home.

I asked the group if they knew the story of Christmas. Hands shoot up! Pick me! Pick me! The answer: Santa comes and brings us presents. CLUNK.

The CLUNK was Zorg's jaw hitting the floor. In point of fact, the kids with that answer collectively had a hazy idea that there was something about Jesus and animals, but that was a minor detail to the Santa side of Christmas.

OK. I always wanted to be a missionary and proclaim the Gospel to the "pagan babies who had never heard of Jesus." Here was my chance...

It all ended happily with each child able to explain the actual Christmas story with the help of their own nativity set, but I don't think Zorg is quite the same. They really didn't know...

Zorg Would Like You to Know

That he lost his tooth! Also, he does not like the flash. But he does like the Tooth Chicken (who brought him a Spider-Man Pez dispenser).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Contest

Who can guess how high up Choclo can reach? Winner gets to have Choclo come over and redecorate their tree!

The Manger

On the right is our little manger stuffed with cotton balls (representing acts of kindness or prayer). The pail behind it holds the cotton balls.

On the left, we have the nativity sewn by Klenda, Mxyl, Zorg, and me. We got the panel as a gift from Angel, got on clearance at Wal-Mart last year.

The shiny thing in the back is our hermit crabitat. Glory, one of our 2 crabs, has been molting for a month and we are wondering if she will come out for Christmas...

The Jesse Tree

This is our Jesse Tree. Since flat space is at a premium around here with all the nativities, we put it on the wall. Each ornament symbolizes something in salvation history and the booklet that goes along with it gives Old Testament and New Testament readings. These, as well as instructions on making your own ornaments can be found here. The easiest way to do it is to get a group together from friends/family/church and have each make numerous copies of one ornament, then have a party to exchange them.

The Advent House

We got ours as a gift from Mumpy (my Mom). She got it at Cosco, and I've seen similar things at other warehouse clubs. If you are interested, looking for one after Christmas makes a lot of sense. Before this, we were using the Playmobil Advent calender, but the card stock boxes didn't hold up for more than a year or two, and this has room for candy!

Plan B is Working

So far Choclo is better, Leena is better, Zorg is better, Klenda, Mxyl, and I are getting better, Oob seems too young to get it and the Emporer had the good grace to not get sick while taking care of the rest of us. He's a hero!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It Wouldn't Be Advent Without

A stomach bug!! Surprise! Choclo woke up sick at 2:30 this morning, Leena and Zorg announced at breakfast that their tummies felt funny too. Perhaps they are only interested in watching movies all day. Perhaps they are actually sick. Several years ago I didn't believe Mxyl when he said he didn't feel good, partly because he seemed fine, partly because I really needed to go to the library. The library janitors still give me dirty looks. So, fine, truck videos for everyone!

Update: Choclo is playing with trains so he must be feeling better. It would be so nice if Choclo were the only one who got this and if it were to be this mild. But I have learned 2 things: 1, everyone will get this, and 2, it will get worse as it makes it's inexorable way through the ranks. So we are on Plan B: everyone catch it as quickly as possible and let's all be healthy by Christmas. Work with me people! Everyone give Choclo a big smooch!

I'm dreaming of a green Christmas, just like the three other times we've had it so...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gaudete Sunday!

Rejoice! We've lit the pink candle! Our Advent house has 16 doors open! Our Advent calenders are opening! Our nativity scenes are growing a cast of dozens! Best of all, the manger is growing an ever fluffier bed of cotton balls! Jesus is coming!!!!

For those who aren't cradle Catholics: The Advent wreath has 4 candles, 3 purple, and 1 pink, one for each week of Advent. Pink is the color of joy (gaudete means "rejoice"). Our Advent house has a door for each day. Behind each door is a piece of the Playmobil nativity set (and 5 pieces of candy!)

Since we have 5 kids old enough to "do" Advent, we have 5 daily Advent things (the kids rotate who does what). The Advent house is one, then there is a velcro/felt nativity scene, a traditional 3D paper Advent calendar, a Jesse Tree (daily scripture with representative ornament recounting salvation history and how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament), and the last kid gets to pick a Christmas decoration to take out.

The manger is my favorite Advent tradition. Every time some one does a good deed, says extra prayers, or makes a sacrifice, they put a cotton ball in the manger. The idea is actually that we are preparing a soft bed in our hearts for Baby Jesus, but it's a great visual aid! I have also seen this done with grass, hay, straw, or even shredded paper. The highlight of Christmas morning is seeing the lovely statue of Baby Jesus resting comfortably in the manger.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Advent Blogging

has been practically non existent. Sorry. The truth is, Advent is usually my favorite time of year. I love to do Christmas cookies and make decorations with the kids. It' s a lovely spiritually focussed time. Usually. That would be on those years when I manage to have the gift monster tamed before we get the Advent wreath out.

This is how it works (when it works). We make most of our gifts. I need to figure out who is making what for whom. Ideally I figure this out over the summer, buy the materials on sale and have started making things by August. It's nice. Spare evenings are taken up by handcrafting special items for special people. We buy kids presents in September. I usually have the last few stray presents done the first week of December so the Great Mailing can take place in the second week. Everything gets there on time. Our days are merry and bright.

This year, I started figuring things out in late October. Ouch. Trying to give the spiritual preparation pride of place while frantically jabbing at the gift monster causes headaches.

On the plus side, the heavy lifting is now done and I hope to return to more regular blogging. I hope to post later today about our advent traditions.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Today's Discovery

Kids in mittens can't buckle themselves into their car seats. I have gotten so spoiled with not having to buckle anyone but Oob!

For all those Moms with just little ones: everything is easier when they can buckle themselves (and when the older can buckle the younger you will feel invincible!)

Secondary discovery: matching goofy hats are fun!

Gingerbread: The Great Pyramid

How do you decorate a gingerbread pyramid? Zorg decorated by creating a (lengthy) myth involving displeased gods who required gifts of precious jewels to be left at the base of the pyramid.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pet Names

No, I don't mean cute things I call my kids, I mean the names the kids give their pets. Did I mention the menagerie? We are allergic to cats (alas), but not to catfish. We are also allergic to dogs, but I draw the line at dogfish. We currently have 17 live (non robotic) pets: 8 fish, 5 finches, 2 gerbils and 2 hermit crabs.

My favorite name is Leena's name for her frog. The frog is not alive, strictly speaking. It is a life sized bullfrog aerator. In other words, it sits in her fish tank and belches bubbles at intervals. Since he shares a tank with Princess (a very pretty male Betta) and Love (a catfish with spots and stripes), I thought he should be called "the Frog Prince." "No!" Leena protested, "His name is Mr. Juicy Frog!"

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Initially it tested as "Genius", but the last two Oob posts brought it down to postgrad. Boy, aren't I smart!

Except... as The Queen of Carrots pointed out, it doesn't mean that at all.

It's not saying I'm that smart, it's saying that you're that smart if you can read this blog. I'm not sure exactly how these things are calculated, but I think it means I am merely abstruse, excessively devoted to multisyllabic meanderings, and am entrenched in the habit of composing sentences that proceed for exorbitant lengths.

In other words, I don't write well... Sorry.

On the bright side, now you're a genius again!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gratuitous Cute Baby Post

You know, I have had a baby before, but there are all these things I rediscover with each one.

Top Ten things I forget about this age:
10. It is just so cute when they eat their toes!
9. Every time I pick him up he gets his hands into my hair, tries to eat my hair, then settles for giving me a big wet baby kiss on whatever part of my face he can pull close enough.
8.When he nurses, he sticks his fingers in my mouth.
7.He likes to try nursing on my chin.
6. He thinks Daddy's chin is weird!
5. He knows anything small on the floor must be good to eat because Mommy will wrestle him for it.
4. Dancing will always get a laugh, dancing with him gets extra laughs.
3. If he can move, he can move more quickly than you think (baby gate the first time he wiggles backward).
2.His head is warm and fuzzy and smells good.
1. A wiggling, giggling baby reaching out to you is irresistible!

Oob is on the Move!

He wiggles! He wriggles! He flips over! He turns on his tummy!

Watch out, little bits of stuff on the carpet, here he comes!

He's a big baby! sniff.

Great News and Not So Great News

Great news: The ever delightful Queen of Carrots is expecting her third duckling! Go congratulate her!
Not so great: she's "morning" sick! We all know this does not mean she feels better after noon, right? Go offer solace and support!

How about offering a prayer and/or making a small sacrifice for her today? I remember so well the 2 toddler and constant nausea thing. If you've missed out on the experience, try wallpapering a room without using your arms while having a splitting headache. For three months.

I guess that misses the nice parts: 2 amazing and wonderful small people and the delight of knowing another new little one is nestled in secret beneath your heart. Plus experiencing God's love and Providence at new levels through your spouse, family and friends... but I mean it's physically really difficult!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Let It Go

There was this guy who worked in the lab across the hall. One day I happened to be over there running some lengthy assays on their equipment and we started talking. This happens a lot in a lab. Experiments often take great gobs of time where you are either standing around watching or doing some brainless work that takes forever. So you talk a lot and you get to know your colleagues really well. One of my favorite things about the job.

Anyway, this is what the guy told me: His elementary school gave out awards at the end of the year, you know the type: most improved, perfect attendance, most trips to the nurse, whatever. He decided, at the end of second grade, to go for perfect attendance the next year.

The boy had a goal and he never wavered. No matter how sick he was, no matter what vacation his family wanted to take, no matter how nice the day, he was bound and determined to have Perfect Attendance. His eye was on the prize and he made it! Perfect Attendance! That fateful Last Day of School he sat on the edge of his seat as they handed out the prizes... he waited... he waited... They forgot the Perfect Attendance prize. They just forgot. No one had noticed his Perfect Attendance.

Unbelievable! Outrageous! It's a rotten, stupid, unfair thing to have happen... when you are 8. This guy was an MD and a PhD at one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. He was happily married to a lovely woman and they had two beautiful children. He was young and healthy. He had everything going right in his life and he was still genuinely mad about not getting that Perfect Attendance certificate when he was 8!

That's when it hit me: those rotten, stupid, unfair things that I was mad about from my childhood, I was never going to stop being mad about them until I made the decision to forgive the people and LET IT GO.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thankful for:

A full house, full hands, a full life. Packed down, shaken together, overflowing.
Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gingerbread: Oops! Wrong Holiday!

This was Mxyl's entry and he won 3rd place in the child division!!! He did a great job!

Notice the sharks in the pool and the octopus hanging out of the attic!

Gingerbread: Bethlehem Means House of Bread

This was my entry! Incidentally, this was the first year entering the contest for each of us. Zorg wanted to try, but was too young for the contest so he will be doing one this week just for us. Last I heard he wants to do the Pyramids.

Gingerbread: Plutarch's Temple to Apollo

This is Klenda's entry. Totally her idea! She explained that there were lots of fish in the stream because they were using them to sacrifice.

I love her Plutarch and Timoxena (Plutarch's wife)! They really look like little old people! I totally can not believe she didn't win a ribbon!

Gingerbread: A Very Married Christmas

So what did you do in your home school today? Um. All classes were called on account of gingerbread. We have done some things besides gingerbread in these last 2 weeks before the gingerbread contest. I'm pretty sure.

This is Angel's entry and it won third prize in the adult division. You do not want to know what first prize looked like! You can click on the pictures for a better view.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Adultification 2

There were some good comments on the first post:

I agree; many "safe" kid areas have become more "adult" of late, leaving fewer and fewer "safe havens" for kids' entertainment. I also agree that this comes from adults who haven't matured yet, partially due to the delay in/destruction of marriage, availability/encouragement of contraception, etc. (The Grand Emporer)

Well, it only makes sense since the kids can't vote and don't have any money so why not pretend they don't exist? (La Bibliotecaria Laura )

It's interesting, isn't it? I've heard people claim our culture is child centered because many parents give their children so much and enroll them in so many activities.

Which brings up another point: there also seems to me a variety of adultification wherein children's things are being done for adult reasons. I had a mom suggest my kids take up lacrosse because there were fewer kids competing for lacrosse scholarships in top colleges. My oldest was 8.

Another example would be over scheduling kids because the parents either are trying to live vicariously or make sure their kids don't "fall behind" in the perfection game. I'm not saying every soccer mom is doing this for vicarious thrills! I'm saying that kids should not be seen as extensions (or possessions) of their parents and that success isn't always defined by the ivy league.

The Imperfect Trip

After 10 years and 6 kids, I just had the loudest trip to the pediatrician's ever. Forget decibels, it was recorded by seismographs several counties away.

It was just me, Choclo and Oob. And several million ear dwelling bacteria, but I didn't know that when we started. I just wanted to know why Choclo was so cranky and thought we'd better check Oob while we were at it. I suspected the ears and dreaded the trip.

Choclo is smart. I remember wishing I had a genius child... I wish I had thought that through. I am sure that some day I will be glad for his excellent memory and creative problem solving, but the point at which he had squirmed under the chairs in the examining room, holding on to the back chair legs for dear life while screaming at the top of his lungs (and encouraging Oob to do the same), such gratitude did not occur to me.

I guess he hasn't forgotten, let alone forgiven, the shots 6 months ago.

Two nice things: I realized this would have been this bad if I had only had 2 kids, and I realized that when I did have only 2 kids, this sort of thing ruined my day. From the 6 kid viewpoint, I remembered the perfect trip from a few days ago, laughed at the cosmic melodrama and wished the doctor a quieter day.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


That's what I call it when adults take over something meant for kids and suit themselves by making it unsuitable for kids. The Transformer movie is a prime example. Heres what I think happened.

I think the adults liked Transformers when they were kids. Now, when they get to make a movie about it, they make the movie they would like to see: lots of violence, pretty scary, throw in a heavy dose of sarcasm and tight low cut clothing (on the girls, not the giant robots).

Another example would be video games. A cursory look at X Box magazine (in a barber shop) shows that they are not just selling games (heavy sexual content in the ads), and the games they are selling often contain "adult" (read impure and hyperviolent) content.

How about comic books? Not just for kids anymore? Try NOT for kids anymore! Immoral "heroes" reflect the desires of adults, not kids.

Heres my theory: Video games, comic books and other amusements are supposed to be primarily for kids. Not that an adult shouldn't be amused from time to time, but an adult should not have time for extensive video game playing (we can talk later about how much time kids should have for idle non constructive amusement.) The point is that childhood has been extended and idealized as a time of license: do what you want with no responsibilities and no repercussions. Why grow up and be responsible? Why have kids to ruin your fun? They might break your toys!

I think kids are being crowded out of childhood by adults who don't want to grow up. What do you think?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Boy Makeovers


And After:
As you can see they are all much happier except for Choclo. Maybe that's because he looks like wild beavers broke into the house and chewed on his hair. Or maybe he wanted to be a Beatnik.

I do pretty well on older kids but the Emporer still insists on getting a professional haircut. I don't know why. Maybe he thinks I'll give him the wild beaver cut, which I would if he didn't hold still even after I gave him a lollipop.

The Perfect Trip

We had a one in a million shopping trip at the grocery store this morning: the kids, unasked, pushed the cart and loaded and unloaded the conveyor while chatting nicely with the cashier and each other while the toddler made the baby giggle... The cashier asked if the kids were home schooled and I, of course, smiled like it was always like this and said, "Why, yes, we do. That's why my children are so well socialized." OK, so I didn't say the last part out loud! Still, it's kind of nice to not look like a lunatic all the time!

If you home school or have a large family, don't you feel like, good or bad, you are the poster family in people's minds? If you are having a bad day, you are the reason children should never be home schooled. If there is a rare planetary conjunction like today, you are the proof that home schooling produces model citizens. Same for large families. I, personally, do not seem to attract negative comments, not because my children are usually so perfect, but, I think, because people with negative comments seem to have a sense of who will or will not answer back. Must be a vestigial hunting instinct, but they avoid the lunatic with a glint in her eye!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hacking the "Non-Educational" Obsessions

I live in the shadow of giant robots. After years of carefully screening everything our kids watched, bought, or read, Transformers slipped in under the cloak of The Fight between Good and Evil. Well, it is about the fight between good and evil and the good guys win by being good and the bad guys lose because, well, they're bad.

It's not bad, really, it's just that the kids will live and breathe it to the extent we will allow. It would be great if they were this into Lord of the Rings, or Little House on the Prairie, or Ancient Egypt, or learning Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

After waiting a year or so for the obsession to die down or mutate into something "educational," I decided to hack into it. We were lagging in the math department due to pregnancy/new baby stuff so, over the summer I became: OPTIMATH PRIME!! (For the blissfully ignorant, Optimus Prime is the leader of the good guy Autobots). Mxyl was Sumblebee (Bumblebee) and Klenda was R squared (Arcee). They saved planets by doing long division! They conquered Decepticons by reducing fractions. They all did word problems involving how many blasts it would take to knock out (X) bad guys if each bad guy took (Y) blasts to knock out, and how far a sentry would walk around a (regular polygon) building if the side was (X) meters. Remarkable progress!

I branched out into spelling: Bumblebee's Spelling Bee was a hit. How about writing? Dictation or copywork or creative writing about giant robots? Best enthusiasm and longest writing ever!

I have to admit, Transformers did 2 great educational things on their own: 1 my kids now have spatial relationship skills which surpass my own (my friend, Bill, a brilliant engineer, is the only adult I know who can figure out how the toys transform) and 2, drawing incredibly detailed giant robots has done wonders for their art skills. I guess you could also consider the allowance-to-Transformer-toy calculations as a math and budgeting benefit.

Incidentally, I in no way endorse the recent Transformer Movie. My kids will not be allowed to watch it. The people involved should be ashamed at what they did to a movie that should have been for kids.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Eight Random Things

I have been tagged by Her Majesty to post 8 random things about me. I shall in all my best obey you madam!

1. I missed being a teenage bride by 9 days. I've always been grateful that I found True Love early, even if I had a few years there where I was asked, "You're old enough to be married?"

2. I worked in 2 labs over the course of 5 years and my favorite thing was meeting people from all over the world, but my second favorite thing was liquid nitrogen.

3. I was nervous about having kids because I didn't like babysitting. Ha! I also knew only one large family (more than 3 kids). They were crazy! They had 6 kids and were always yelling and screaming and then hugging and crying. I hoped I never had that many kids! Turns out they were just Italian. I am having the best time of my life with my 6 kids!

4. I make all my own bread and baked goods except for Oreos.

5. I must grow things. I once grew 16 kinds of fruit (not counting all the other plants) on 1/3 of an acre (counting the house and garage). I would rather weed than mow.

6. I love to ice skate, but don't see the point of doing it inside going around in crowded circles.

7. I have been blessed to meet some truly amazing and admirable people (some in the blogosphere!), but the most amazing have been in my immediate family. People are impressed with me until they meet my parents.

8. I am never bored.

I am supposed to tag 8 that haven't been tagged... Lets see: My amazing SIL, Danielle, the Princess' Mom, Sea glass hearts, and The Emporer and any three others reading this! If you don't have a blog, leave it in the comments section!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Super Kids Day

We had Super Kids Day here on Friday. This is an example of the random holidays which pop up here from time to time and which usually begin with, "Can we have a _____ day?"

This holiday involves only 2 steps of preparation both of which can be done at 6 am :1. Think of a good Super Hero name and 2. Find the perfect cape (except in Mxyl's case, Starboy does not wear a cape, just a mask and all black, easily accomplished by wearing his sweatshirt backwards.)

This holiday can be properly celebrated by:
1. Doing your chores using your super speed and super strength.
2. Doing your home school with your super smarts.
3. Responding every time you are called with, "Here I come to save the daaaaay!" (speaking in a heroic voice at all other times is optional and not for those prone to headaches) .
4. Lengthy debates on the merits of various super powers.
5. Staging various rescues of smaller children, pets, stuffed animals or parents.
6. Tracing yourself and coloring in your costume (optional, hanging it on the ceiling. Extra option: make a large monster to hang on the ceiling for your superhero self to fight).
7. Creating various artwork and writing detailing your fabulous exploits.

Around 7:15, Zorg brought me a space themed bed sheet (covered with stars, planets, and galaxies) and told me, "You can be Space Mom!"

Spaaaaaaaaace MOM!!!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Presenting the Practically Perfect Plutarch Party 3

Who was who:

Fr Mark was a very surprised Plutarch (It was a surprise party). He wore a modified himation.

The Emporer was Scipio Africanus, the general who beat Hannibal. He wore a toga.

I was Cornelia Graccha, and wore a pallium (simple tube pinned at the shoulders) and stola (shawl like long cloth). She was entertaining another noble Roman woman who was showing off all her jewels. The woman asked Cornelia where her jewels were, and Cornelia called her 2 sons saying, "These are my jewels." The boys grew up to become the Gracchi, noble men who were martyred for their staunch defense of the rights of the poor.

Mxyl was Solon, the wise lawgiver. He wore a himation (like a toga but simpler).

Klenda was Pieria, a Greek maiden known for her beauty and virtue . When Phrygius, an opposing general fell in love with her and asked what he could do to please her, she asked for peace for her country - and got it! The Greek women at weddings would tell the bride, "May your husband love you as much as Phyrigius loved Pieria!" She wore a white pelops trimmed with blue and gold which you see above.

Zorg was Julius Caesar complete with the purple toga of a triumphant general. His favorite joke was, "All Gaul is divided into 3 parts. I used Caesars!"

Leena was Lysistrata, the poetess who rallied the women to defend the city of Argos while the men were away at battle. Her pelops was trimmed with purple and yellow and tied with purple ribbon (the trim on all the pelops was painted).

Choclo was Horatius (of Horatio at the bridge fame. The Romans were chopping down the bridge that crossed the Tiber to prevent an invasion by the Etruscans. Horatio held them off until the bridge was down then jumped in the water and swam across in full armor. Demolishing the bridge was the closest thing in Plutarch to construction trucks...) He wore a belted tunic, the same as in his Halloween costume.

Oob was baby Romulus. Although I wasn't a wolf, he was still nursing!

Info on making your own Greek costumes can be found here.

Presenting the Practically Perfect Plutarch Party 2

The mural is a somewhat imaginary view from Plutarch's home overlooking the valley of Chaeronia and the temple at which he served (he was a priest of Apollo).

This only took half an hour to do, I have no idea why it came out this well! We used oil pastels the way my sister (an actual artist) showed us.

The lovely lady wearing the pelops is my dear friend whom I will call Angel (she is also the Jello Queen). She is wearing an Ionic pelops trimmed in gold because she attended the party as "The Wife of Pythes." Pythes is the king whom the legend of King Midas is based on. He found a rich gold mine and had all his subjects working in it. All, as in no one could farm or do anything useful. The people appealed to the Queen. She had the people make a fantastic array of food out of gold. Then, when the king came in from hunting and called for a meal, she served him the golden food. First he was fascinated, then amused as each food he called for was brought to him made of gold. Eventually he was really hungry and then the Queen pointed out that this was the only food being produced in the land. He got the point and set up a rotation so only a fifth of the country worked the mine at a time.

Incidently, pelops are super easy to make: they are a long tube with the top folded over, pinned at the shoulders and tied with a belt. Getting the lovely pleating and drapery to hang right takes more practice (an accomplished ancient Greek servant would have been a big help!).

Presenting the Practically Perfect Plutarch Party 1

The Plutarch party was a great success! This was in honor of Fr Mark on the day he finished his last doctoral exam and a week after the 15th anniversary of his 25th birthday.

Fr Mark is a historian, and his favorite non canonized person (besides Jesus) is Plutarch. Plutarch (b. 42 AD) was a philosopher, moralist, and diplomat who is best remembered for his Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans. There he sets out for us the lives of famous people and examines the morality by which they lived. Sounds dull in theory, but in practice Plutarch is witty and insightful, not to mention always ready with a memorable anecdote.

To celebrate, we decorated the house to look like a Greek house of the time period. The garland is just construction paper flowers and leaves. The columns are from my big roll of paper. 8 feet folded in half lengthwise then accordian pleated. The Corinthian capitals are the same paper cut like a crown with the spikes curled to bend down. We taped them in 2 layers then stapled them like a crown and taped them to the column and the ceiling.

We also built a mosaic which says the equivalent of "Happy Birthday." In real life the mosaic would have been on the floor, but construction paper and glue stick being what they are....

We discovered at the end that you can buy printable sticker paper, cut it into strips then peel and cut as needed. You put up the paper, sketch your design and have at it! This mosaic took 3 days of working on it when we felt like it, older kids with longer attention spans would take less time. You could also do a smaller mosaic! At last, a practical use for when the kids just want to cut paper into little bits!!! Another thing we figured out when half done: use smaller tesserae (pieces) in the back ground and larger ones in the foreground. It also looks good if you install them in a pattern like the flowing lines in the stream.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just for Fun

I left a little punkin head in the stroller on the porch.

St Elizabeth

Leena: I'm going to be St Elizabeth!

St Elizabeth of Hungary (the princess who fed the poor)?

Leena: No, St Elizabeth the snow princess.

Well, Hungary can be a snowy place. You can be St Elizabeth of Hungary.

Leena: No, she ate the snow!


Leena: She ate the snow, she wasn't hungry.


St Tarcisius

Pronounced tar-SIH-shus, this was a Roman boy who carried Jesus in the Eucharist to the condemned Christians under the noses of the Roman guards. When caught, he died rather than allow the Eucharist to be profaned.

St Cecelia

St Cecelia was a Roman maiden who was martyred for her faith. They tried to cut off her head but she lived for another 3 days, long enough to give away her wealth and turn her home into a church. Note the realistic axe mark on her neck!

St Jerome and the Lion

St Jerome translated the entire Bible into Latin so that everybody could read it (he was a Roman!). There is a famous story about a lion which he healed and befriended when he lived in Bethlehem.


We have a saying when we disagree with another family's parenting decisions: "Everyone gets to ruin their own kids in their own way." This means that if you do Halloween totally differently and think we're nuts, that's OK. We think you're nuts, too.

We do Halloween as All Hallows Eve. The kids dress up as saints (this years details and pictures to be posted). Many people we know will groan "It's just a fun kid holiday everything doesn't have to mean something!" We do not eliminate all scary stuff from the holiday. This week we made little haunted houses where you open the doors and see scary stuff inside. We carve pumpkins and we allow scary faces. (nothing super scary or gross) Other people will now groan, "You've sold out!"

Here's our rationale (or rationalization, if you prefer): Halloween, for us, is also a celebration of the glorious fact that we do not need to be afraid! Pre Christian religions, as they were actually practiced, were terrifying. It's horrifying to live in a world where the gods are capricious and vengeful. They might demand the sacrifice of your child and then still not send the rain. Maybe you did it wrong. Maybe you did something else wrong. Forget a personal relationship with a deity, you'd better hope they don't notice you. And then there are the other things around. We've watered down the stories of fairies. The "little people" would steal your baby and leave a changeling. I'm not saying never pretend that fairies are cute and sweet, just that people who had to live with them as "reality" did not find them so. And what about death?

Jesus said, "Be not afraid." We don't have to be afraid of death or evil spirits, or even of God. He is the light of the world and he chases out the darkness. That's really worth celebrating!

Solid Food at Last!

The Emporer didn't actually shovel the whole bowl into Oob's mouth in one shot, it just looks like he did...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Teaching Kids to Pray 1

First: I am not an expert here. Most of what I have I got from Fr. Pinto or learned from my Mom and other moms. All these are good ways for grown ups to pray, too! If you have ideas, I'd love to hear them! I will do 2 methods per post.

Rote Prayer
We usually pray formally several times a day: when we get up, have meals, go to bed , and before we start our home school day. We use a lot of rote (memorized) prayers this way: Prayer before Meals, Our Father, Hail Mary, Morning Offering, Glory Be, Act of Contrition, and each child has their own "special" prayer which corresponds to how we dedicated them to God when we discovered their existence. Rote prayers are great! The kids memorize them with basic understanding and their understanding should deepen and grow throughout their lives.

But. Rote prayer gets boring for kids if it's the only way they pray!

Empty Chair Prayer
Use 2 chairs. Sit in one and invite Jesus to sit in the other. Really use your imagination and faith to picture Jesus in the chair. Just talk to Him. Little kids often need to do this out loud, so it's good to do this in a quiet room if you have one. For adults, this is great to do while you are driving if you have no one in the passenger seat, put Our Lord there.

Often kids (and grown ups) feel bored or tired with prayer because they can't physically hear or see God speaking. They have to learn to hear Him with their hearts. The imagination is part of what God uses. Not that everything in our imagination is from God, but God does use it to speak to us in prayer.

Sometimes my kids say they don't know what to say to Jesus. I often suggest they tell Jesus a knock knock joke or anything else they would say to their friend. The point is that Jesus is real and really present. I like to tell my friends jokes and laugh with them, it's part of who I am, so I like to tell Jesus funny things. Realistically, A) you're not going to find a better friend than Jesus, and B) if you can't be yourself with God, who already knows what you are like and loves you anyway, where are you going to go?

Slow Posting

Looks like it's feast or famine around here! The Emporer has been sick several times in the last few weeks and is still recovering from the surgery (should be fine by January...), and was having chiropractic problems from spending all that time in bed!

I have finished my stint in the home school co-op and settled into teaching CCD (Sunday School). We have been having a great time home schooling and I want to blog about all the fun stuff we are doing! I am hoping to get to some of that today, but if not, it is coming...

The 2 big things to blog about are: teaching kids to pray, and Plutarch. We are launching into Plutarch week, both the Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans and the Virtues of Women. We are planning the perfect Plutarch party and I spent the morning painting pretty pelops. I promise a plethora of pictures. And perhaps some particularly prosaic prose. Pax!

Klenda Lost a Tooth

And the very next day, Oob found it! Or at least he got a tooth of his own.

The Tooth Chicken brought Klenda a horse puzzle. Klenda is convinced the Tooth Chicken let Oob borrow her tooth, but Oob didn't want to give it back.

"Oob sanded it down with a power saw (Zoomlians are very intelligent and good with power tools). It also explains why we heard so much noise one night."

Curiously, we do not have a Tooth Fairy, but we do have a rather odd Tooth Chicken who likes to collect teeth and leave children presents. The thing is, chickens have a rather strange idea about what children like. We've had little magnetic people, pictures of a bald man, flying chicken fans, interesting pebbles and shells, gaudy jewelry, sugar free gum, and always an assortment of multicolored feathers.

Oob Discovers

What I've known for months: his toes are delicious!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Tales From the Dinner Table: Leena's Story

When I was an orphan... (she stopped, thought that through and changed the beginning) When I was younger and lived by myself in a house with no grownups, I had a pet poodle named Fluffy who did gymnastics all day long.

I did not know that.

She does have a poodle named Fluffy. It looks a little like a beagle on wheels with a spring for a tail (and has no fur) but Leena is sublimely indifferent to such matters. It is her poodle and she named it Fluffy.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Fish for St Francis? You Betta Believe it!

I don't know if I've mentioned the menagerie yet, but for the feast of St Francis we got more pets!! Those with allowances contributed and we now have 4 new aquariums with 4 beautiful male Bettas named Jack, Lovely, Prince, and Princess. Leena thinks her fish is too pretty to be a boy. Zorg (owner of the lovely purple fish named Lovely) is far more pleased that he now owns a catfish named Fluffy. Klenda also got a catfish named Mittens. If only she could have a seahorse...

OK, so that is 6 new pets. Add them to the Emporer's 5 fine feathered flying finches, our 2 too cute gerbils and our 2 crabby hermit crabs (now going on 5 years old and growing to unnerving proportions). That's 15 pets and a wide representation of the animal kingdom. Ah, but this time the fish are the kids responsibility... We will remind them to feed the fish whenever they (the kids) get into pjs. We will remind them to change 1/4 of the water every week, but they will be doing it!

Did I mention we are allergic to cats and dogs? Thanks be to God!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Zoo for Trees

That's how my folks described the National Arboretum when we passed it on one of our trips to DC when I was a kid. Now that I live a possible 17 minutes from it (traffic makes a difference), I call it a Beauty Refuge. I don't mean "beauty" as in painting your toenails unnatural colors (that's for Girls' Night), I mean "Beauty" as in "Late have I loved you, ancient Beauty, ever new."

Aquinas tells us that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are all different words describing the same thing: God, the ultimate Beauty, the ultimate Truth, the ultimate Goodness. I had a hard time with that, Dominican though I am. Still, as I go on, it makes more and more sense. In the lab, we referred to the beauty of a discovery as "elegant." You knew you had the true answer if it was "elegant," even if the person describing it had no belief in God. It's funny: even if you deny God, you can't deny the astonishing beauty of His handiwork. It bears His mark and points to infinity - the more you look the more you see.

I live in what is technically a small town, but functionally a subdivision of suburbia. A maze of streets stuffed with houses, almost all of them red brick with white trim. Four stop signs on every corner. It's not a bad place. I bloom where I am planted and I plant where I am planted! Still, part of my heart longs for open spaces, broad views, and expanses of natural beauty which I do not have to weed or mow.

So, once a week in good weather, we pack our art kits and some lunch and head off to the Arboretum. I would say we've been there maybe 30 times, probably more. We still haven't seen the whole thing. We see new things almost every time we go, although we revisit our favorites often. The kids run and play and draw and soak up the beauty til it shines out their eyes. I walk with the Lord and play with the kids and return refreshed, my eyes retrained to see beauty wherever I am.

If you're curious, the picture is Leena in the older part of the Asian garden.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Do Not Call Expiring

Did you know that if you signed up as a phone-solicitor-free-zone when the Do Not Call Registry first started, your registration will expire next June? It only lasts for 5 years. Can it really be 5 years since someone tried to sell me siding during dinner? At any rate, you can re register here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When Scouts Night and Girls Night Collide

The boys left a little later, the girls started dancing a little earlier... Fun!

Part of Girls' Night is dancing, tea in the fancy cups, and make up of the most outrageous variety. Mxyl asked what the purple goo was for. Klenda explained that it was lip gloss, you know, to put on your lips to make them pretty. Mxyl had to make sure: To be pretty, you paint your lips purple? Uh huh.

Number Playground

With the weather cooling off, we are back to using the blackboard. 30' X 10' and walkable, what's not to like?

Here it is set up as a multi purpose number playground. You may need to click on the picture to see it. If you leap from star to star, you could learn your 7 times tables and catch a departing rocket. If you prefer lily pads, you can hop to your 6 times tables. 5s are on the coins (you have to jump with 2 feet). And 4s are in l'escargot, a French version of hopscotch (hopped on 1 foot, sil vous plait!).

On the side (and hard to see), we have the indispensable number line. Great for adding, subtracting, literal skip counting, and figuring out factors and primes. On a beautiful day, I often think we could home school with nothing but sidewalk chalk, the driveway and a library card!

Note to Oob

My dear, sweet Oob: I love you! You are the sweetest dearest baby possible. You are lovely and delightful. You point to where you came from (God).


You may not stay up past 10 PM.

If you stay up past 10, you may not get up before 5 AM.

If you stay up past 10, and get up before 5 AM with 2 extra wake ups in the middle, please do not look extra cute and perky.

Thank you.
The Management

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Home School: It's a Zoo

Yes! I actually took all 6 kids to the zoo by myself and no one got lost! After a week of various animal studies, we had a lovely day at the National Zoo.

Choclo discovered his favorite animal: the giant elephant shrew. Shrieks of laughter as this little fellow darted here and there wiggling his nose (I meant the shrew, although maybe it was a kindred spirit thing. After his first two bouts of darting here and there wrinkling his nose and laughing maniacally, Choclo was confined to stroller quarters for the rest of the zoo). Anyway, it's giant for a shrew, but it's only 8 inches long not counting the tail.

Mxyl saw 2 Orang utans walking on ropes overhead and a tribe of free ranging golden lion tamarins (little monkeys).

Klenda loved the underwater sea lions, the Prezewcki's horses and the maned wolves (the kangaroos were hiding).

Zorg got to see a young tiger walking around and 2 lionesses playing in the water.

Leena liked the elephant training session and the waterfall with turtles.

I got to nurse my small mammal (Oob) in the small mammal house. It's what mammals do.

The best part, for me, was that I had gotten the art kits together in time: each kid got a spiral- bound hard-backed book of drawing paper (probably 6 by 8 inches) and a case of colored pencils. There is something magical about the shift from casual viewing to really seeing that happens when you try to draw something. Plus, all the lovely pictures made great souvenirs and visual aids to explain the day to the Emporer.

Additional home school points: We talked about all the places the animals came from and learned all the countries in Asia which have elephants. We read all the signs and maps (they have lots of interactive exhibits). We memorized the 4 times table (how many legs on 6 Komodo Dragons?). We built muscles pushing the double stroller up the big hill (the entire zoo is built on one big hill! My advice, if you go there: park at the bottom and walk uphill in the cool fresh part of the day, down hill in the hot and cranky part of the day!).

Thursday, September 20, 2007


We've always liked having at least one striped baby suit so that when they get the BIG N (for Never Napping, thank you Mr. Sendak), we can put them in a jailbird suit. Oob is a mighty cute jail bird.

Fashionistas of Zoom

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On a positive note, the Dreaded Clothes Switch does bring out the fashionistas. Klenda is modeling her self designed "Cute Suit." Even more stunning in person, I assure you.

Zorg is reading in his own fashion statement.

Behind her you can see a faux tiger skin nailed to our living room wall. What you are missing is the faux lion skin nailed abpve it and the 2 faux marble columns on either side of the couch.

The Emporer assures me that some wives would be displeased if they came home and their husband had nailed faux animal skins on the wall. True, he doesn't usually take such an active hand in our interior decorating, but he fashioned the best possible back drop to our play about Croesus and Solon.

No stuffed animals were harmed in the making of this play.

My Favorite Chore to Dread

Alas, all the little Zoomlians were shivering in their shorts. It was time for the Dreaded Clothing Switch (that would be "switch" as in a hazel stick across the back of your legs).

Time to measure all the Zoomlians, to discover they are, er, zooming up by 1 1/2" - 2" each in the last 6 months. Time to figure out sizes and haul out the clothing bins.

I keep all the kids clothes (well, not the ones in current use) in about 30 of the 18 gallon Rubbermaid bins stacked in a row in the back basement. They sit across from the row of comic book boxes, eying each other to see which will ultimately win out and dominate the entire back basement -Bwahaha! I think the clothes may be winning, since I also have a number of odd garbage bags of clothes here and there, too.

The bins are much better than the cardboard box system I had used and much better than when all the clothes were in odd garbage bags (frequently with several sizes and genders in one bag). I really really TRY not to do that anymore since that way lies madness. I'm not sure how it keeps happening...

Anyway, today is my day of triumph since I have 6 dressers full of clean, usable, seasonable clothes. This will be followed by a night of anguish as I try to put everything away in the correct bins and get them all back to their neat row.

All this is not what I dread (much). What I dread is putting away the baby clothes. Can Oob really be in 6-9 months already? And Leena's clothes are worse! She will be too big for these next summer. I may never be given another little girl to wear them... At least with Mxyl I know Zorg will look great in them soon. Or Choclo. I have a hard time picturing Oob in Mxyl's clothes.

I have 6 kids. How many people get to have 6 of them? 6 babies to hold and snuggle and nurse. 6 first smiles and first belly laughs. 5 first steps and first words and first knock knock jokes. 4 first words read, first day really and truly potty trained, first writing their names. It goes on and on, opening into ever wider worlds of first robots built, first bikes and kites and trains. Ever wider, ever farther, all and each a bittersweet gift of God.

It seems trite: They're getting so big. The time goes so fast. I remember yesterday when they each were so small. Gee, you have your hands full. But it's all true and I am thanking God for every moment here and now with my hands and my heart full.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I am Mxyl. I think this planet is pretty weird but I like your technology. I like to make useful gadgets like robots.

On Zoom I had a spacecraft that was so fast it could vanish into thin air. It looked like a flying saucer.

I like Earth because I love exploring new places. I love to visit Google Earth to explore.

Earth is fun!

The Play Was the Thing!

It started with a series of signs (made by Klenda) which read:

Coming Soon....

King Cyrus!.....


and King Croesus!....

HISTORY! the play.

It was very well recieved. Not to be missed were:

Klenda as Croesus using a rich brogue (like Scrooge McDuck).

Mxyl as Solon, enjoying the shocked expression of Croesus.

Zorg bounding on stage as a singing Cyrus (he was convinced it ought to have been a musical): "I am King Cyrus! I conquered you!!! And now all your treasure and palaces and gold mines are....MINE!"

Leena, the scene stealing soldier, tying up and untying Croesus.

The whole thing was way too much fun! I think we will do more plays.... Maybe this was HISTORY, the play, Act 1!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

As Rich as...

We are reading A Child's History of the World by Villier. I'm reading it aloud and the older 3 or 4 are drawing pictures to accompany it. Great fun with the added bonus of extra projects with any story that catches our fancy. In this case the story was missing from Child's History but well worth telling. We came across the story of Croesus (the very rich king). What Child's History skipped was the story of Solon (the wise) and Croesus.

My very dear friend, Fr. Mark, is slogging toward his comps for his doctorate in Church History, but his original major was Classical History. Add to this a natural flair for story telling and throw in a quirky sense of humor and you will see why he is both a sought after dinner companion and our number 1 favorite history resource! He got me hooked on his favorite author, Plutarch (whom I used to confuse with Petrarch!). This story is from Plutarch's Life of Solon and will be acted out, dinner theater style for Fr. Mark tonight!

Croesus invited Solon to view his (ostentatious) wealth and expected, and then demanded, that Solon compliment him as the happiest man in the world. Solon gently declined saying that he knew of one happier. Who could that possibly be? A farmer who owned his own small farm, raised good kids and died fighting for his homeland, honored by all.

Hm. Not what Croesus had in mind. Well then, would the wise Solon allow that Croesus was the second happiest? No. There was this little old lady who wanted to go to a festival to honor the gods, but she was too poor to afford horses to draw her cart. Her kids hitched themselves up and took her there and back and that night she died content.

The king was pretty irritated now, but Solon explained that sure, Croesus had wealth now, but he had to defend it. How was he to know if Croesus would end up wealthy and happy or poor and miserable?

Croesus threw the bum out.

Some time later, Cyrus of Persia dropped by and snatched Croesus' kingdom. As Croesus was tied up and led away to be burned, he cried out, "Solon!" three times as loud as he could.

Curious, Cyrus called him over and got the whole story. He got the point immediately. Sure he was as rich as Croesus now, but... He turned Croesus loose and treated him with honor for the rest of his days. "Thus," says Plutarch, "Solon had the honor of saving one king and instructing two."


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Happy Birthday

To the lovely lady who shares a birthday with Zorg!

You showed me the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
You walked the walk and showed me how to walk it to.
You told me to do what He tells me!
Thanks Mom!
I love you!
Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Zorg!

Happy Birthday, Zorg! You are the funniest, sweetest, smartest, strongest, most helpful, most feline, most persevering, silliest, 7 year old Zoomlian I know (and I know a lot of Zoomlians!). There's a reason your nick name is "Mighty"! You are amazing and I thank God you every day. You are also the only 7 year old I've ever known who is crazy for cheese cake! Meow!!

The Grand Emporer Has Returned

After having surgery! He should be up and around by the end of next week. Til then, the forecast is for intermittent home school with light blogging.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Home School Blocks

This is how it works:

We always start with Prayer Time/Bible Time/Violin Time (usually also nursing Oob time).
The other kids can then take a 15 -30 minute break while I play with Choclo.
Now we start the blocks. I have 4 kids, so there are 4 blocks of time. Everything in a block happens at the same time.

Block 1:
I spend time with Myxyl, maybe doing some math.
Klenda works independently in a workbook, reading a book, or on a project.
Zorg does a chore say, cleans a bathroom.
Leena does something fun, either pouring water in different containers or her own idea

Block 2:
I spend time with Klenda, show her how to make designs with a compass
Zorg does independent work
Leena washes walls
Mxyl draws robots

Block 3:
I play Dolch knights with Zorg (sight word game)
Leena does her wipe off alphabet book
Mxyl cleans a bathroom
Klenda plays with sculpey clay

Block 4:
I do math manipulatives with Leena
Mxyl works independently
Klenda washes windows
Zorg draws on more index cards (he is making a game)

This leaves me time to do stuff together: Child's History of the World (I read while the kids draw about it, or do related activities), and an enormous unit on the human body (lots of experiments!). It also leaves us with large swaths of time free in the afternoon for kids to do their own thing.

Home School Style

Ive been reading the book 100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing The Right Curriculum And Approach For Your Child's Learning Style.

After taking the quizzes, it looks like I fall under the "unit study" type and the "unschooling" type in about equal measure. Oh, there is a strong dose of "eclectic" and some "Charlotte Mason" thrown in, to be sure, but I pretty much run shrieking from "traditional schooling" and "classical curriculum." If I really want a label (and I don't) I could go with Melissa Wiley's "tidal" style.

I'm not so interested in the labels as the different approaches. I've been thinking a lot about the why and the how and the what we do around here. Mxyl is entering 5th grade. We had a light year while I was on bed rest. We now have Oob the magnificent who does not ever want to nap along with Choclo who forgot, over the summer, how to amuse himself during home school time.

Time is increasingly precious and it is forcing me to distill the essence of what is important. This is good, I think I needed the squeeze. Here is what I am thinking:

We are raising people who are unique and eternal. I need to be focussed (and keep them focussed) on who they are becoming. For example: it isn't enough to tell a kid to stop smacking their sister with a brick (to be fair it was a cardboard brick) just because she is annoying them. I want them to become a person who does not respond in anger to petty irritations. It isn't enough to "do math," I want them to see in math the beauty of the rules which God used to construct the universe.

How to? I need to tighten the scheduling to provide one on one time with each kid. I am going to do homeschool blocks 2 or 3 times a week.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dino Photos

I blogged about this a while back, but just now found the pictures.

Here is the life sized T Rex coming out from behind the couch (his hindquarters would have been through the floor).
Here are the dinosaur tails with my lovely and gracious friend (the one who shared the great homeschooling books) modeling how to apply a dinosaur tail to your child:And for one last bit of dinosaur mayhem, we have Klenda modelling her dino model in front of her dino mural (note the cataclysmic meteor!):Hm. I think this was the time when Target had a clearance in their dollar section and all their dinosaur stuff was 25 cents (models, puzzles, workbooks, pens, posters and wind ups!) It was a great launching pad for a unit study!