Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Sleap Day!

That doesn't seem right somehow...

Oh yes, Happy Leap Day!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Choclo's Special Baby

We have a custom dating back to my pregnancy with Klenda, that the new baby is the Special Baby of the former youngest child. So, Klenda was Mxyl's special baby and I have a picture (which I should scan and post) of Mxyl at 16 months kissing my very large belly button. He's not actually kissing me, of course, he's kissing his Special Baby. He was 18 months when she was born and the first thing he did when he saw her was to kiss her.

Oob is Choclo's Special Baby. That's usually what he calls Oob, "Special Baby." But he says it with a smile and the heart-melting tenderness that two year olds sometimes have. When I nurse Oob, Choclo often wanders over and gently strokes that soft baby hair and smiles. "Special Baby gots hair. Special Baby soffft."

I love to watch this. I know that eventually they will fight and we may get some sibling, er, revelry going on. But for now, nothing beats the sound of the two of them making each other laugh. They just look at each other and Choclo breaks out giggling which makes Oob chuckle and then all bets are off and we have gales of laughter. There's something that is honey for a parent's heart in seeing our children love each other.

Is it love? Let's try the ultimate test: will Choclo let Oob touch his trucks? NO ONE can touch Choclo's trucks without facing his fiercest wrath...except for Oob. Oob can play with trucks, Oob can pull hair, everything Ooby is OK. Because Oob is his Special Baby.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Days of Knights

The suits of armor came out very well indeed!

The one with the plumed helmet is Sir Zorg.

The frightening one is Lady Klenda.

The gold and silver armor is Sir Mxyl.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Our Home IS Our Castle!

When we hit the Middle Ages in Child's History of the World, I asked the kids how much they remembered from the unit study we had done 2 years ago. They actually remembered quite a bit, but they wanted to do it again. Sure, why not!

I made a KWL chart listing what we Know, what we Want to know and a space for what we Learned. I've since seen fancier charts that include a column for How we can find out what we are interested in. KWHL! I'll try that next time.

So far we've made a castle from our Big Roll of Paper. We learned how to rag, that is, paint with rags (paper towels!) and very dilute liquid watercolor. I knew this would give a mottled stone effect, but I was delighted to find that the water in the paint also puckered the paper into a great stone texture. We made the portcullis out of several thicknesses of foil. We discussed building techniques from then and now, especially the importance of staggering the courses of stone.

We talked about heraldry and designed coats of arms. We made windows. My personal favorite is Zorg's window. It's the black and white one which shows a hail of arrows storming the castle and several small snails on the window sill. The snails make it so that it's not too scary.

We did some weaving on a tapestry and we will do some embroidery on it later.

I almost forgot! The thing in the middle is the head of some hideous beast (slain by the noble knights, no doubt!) You may have to click on the picture to see it (if you have strong nerves).

We did some castle websites like Ghosts in the Castle and Kids Castle.

Today I traced the kids and they designed their own armor. We talked some about the parts of armor and what they are for, but not as much as I wanted to. I had wanted to go through it all before they started, but I didn't have my act together.

Mxyl and Klenda picked out topics for research reports on the Middle Ages and started reading and taking notes. Klenda wants to know about food and Mxyl is thinking about knights, particularly the relationship of the knight to the king. They will write their reports, create a visual aid and present them for us and some guests at a Medieval Feast in a week, or two, or three! Depends how into it they are.

I am hoping to do paper making and calligraphy later this week, and maybe experiment with some of the medieval technology: sundials, catapults, maybe dying cloth. I don't have it all figured out, but a lot will depend on the length and depth of interest. I found a free printable 3 D castle here.

I'd kind of like to do something with stained glass, but I'm not sure what the patience level will be for cutting and gluing tissue paper and construction paper. I may "cheese" and do crayon shavings! Or worse, oiled paper!

This whole project touches on my core educational philosophy about doing things that are interesting and/or useful. I want the kids to be able to find information on the things they want to know about. They need to be able to explain what they know. I want them to experience history and science as vividly as possible. I want them to understand that the people who were then and the people who are now are equally real. I want them to be able to see from other perspectives.

Best of all, I love to hear, "Daddy's home! Raise the portcullis!!!"

More Lenten Gospel Desserts

So far we have had the Desert Dessert (Sunday I: The Temptation in the Desert), The Mountain Dessert (Sunday II: the Transfiguration), and now we bring you the Well Dessert (Sunday III: the Woman at the Well).

The water is blue jello and the stones are rice crispy treats.

Next week's Gospel is tricky. It's the one where Jesus cures a blind man with mud. I am thinking of a mud pie. Or we could do tapioca in reference to the eyeballs.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Age Before Beauty

I don't know if you heard about this fashion search for models over 40. The lovely 25 year old at left was the winner. She's actually 43.

I have issues with this. To be fair, I have issues with the whole beauty industry, in part because it presents only one vision of beauty: a 25 year old, heavily made up woman, provocatively dressed, who has nothing to do with kids.

Ok, here we have a 43 year old, heavily made up woman, provocatively dressed, who actually has 3 kids, but looks like she doesn't. And she looks 25. So she's "beautiful."

I don't know anything about this woman, she may well be a beautiful person. I hope so.

I am irritated by the view of womanhood which equates beauty with sexual attractiveness and translates that to the worth of the person. It's a lie, an ingenious lie intended to turn you into a fountain of money in the pursuit of the fountain of youth. If you can't be worth anything unless you look 25, well, you can't look 25 for very long without help... Ka-ching!

I have often thought that the TV is the most expensive appliance you could ever own because, if you watch it, it will tell you over and over that you are unhappy with your life and unhappy with yourself. That's what it's designed to do. And, of course, it offers you salvation in the form of the stuff that will make you happy if only you buy the right: food, clothing, age defying wrinkle cream, or whatever. What, you thought it was for entertainment?

This model thing is the TV problem without even pretending to be entertainment!

The Truth requires a shift in perspective. Happiness comes from who and what you are in God's eyes. An extension of this, if you are married, is how you look in the eyes of your spouse (this is about more than externals, obviously). If we are being honest, how does it help a married woman to be sexually attractive to random men?

The big lie here is that if you only stay looking 25 (and how many women look like that at 25?), you will be happy. Really? Aside from the time and money, would you be happy? If you fit a particular standard of beauty, does it follow that you will be happy? How happy were you at 25?

25. That was before I had kids. I was happy then, but I am far happier now. I've grown in so many ways since I was 25. I've lived another 12 years and it shows. Late nights show. Six pregnancies show! Hours and hours of laughter show. I'm 37 and I probably look a little older.

The real irony for the beauty industry is this: I look into my husband's eyes and I see myself reflected and there I am very, very beautiful.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


No, not the poem, alas, I mean the time in toddlerhood where they jabber. I love to hear Choclo talk, really I do! When he speaks in small words, I even understand him. But now he has hit the stage where he speaks in paragraphs. Large, mostly incomprehensible paragraphs.

This morning, over breakfast, we took turns attempting to translate. My favorite was Zorg's translation: "He said, 'I killed Darth Vader!'" I had thought it was something about an excavator, but it could have been the Sith lord.

It's so cute! The only problem is... it just doesn't stop. This morning at Mass (a practically silent daily Mass) he prattled away merrily. Not at the top of his voice, mind you, but not trying to whisper either. Eventually I took him to the back and tried to impress upon him the need for silence. And it worked, kind of. All the way up the long, silent center aisle as I went up for Communion he announced over and over,"I am be QUIET!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Queen of the Squirrels Proclaims

that when it is snowing, she stops being Queen of the Squirrels and is instead Queen of the Snow. When the snow melts,she is Queen of the Squirrels again.

Zorg, Klenda, and Mxyl immediately began to speculate on when and how exactly this transformation took place (notice that no one doubted the Queen's proclamation!).

I asked her what if it were snowing on a squirrel.

She looked at me as if she couldn't believe she had to explain this: "Then the squirrel is cold."

What about Klenda?

Klenda, the Yahtzee Queen, has been cleaning my clock. She beats me. Every. Time. She is gracious in victory, of course, but still...

What has Leena Been Up To?

Leena desperately wanted to do the volcano experiment. It's easy to forget, when you've made so many exploding vinegar, soap, and baking soda volcanoes, how special and fun they are to the kids that haven't done them 50 times.

When we started mixing up the clay, however, it soon became clear that everyone wanted to make a volcano. Given the chilly weather, we set them off in the bathtub. Her delight was contagious!

About the bathroom... Yes, the bathtub is yellow, the tile is turquoise and the trim is black. The house was built like that. The only real improvement ever made was when the Emperor was a teenager and his mom let him choose the color to paint the walls of this bathroom. In a fit of irony, he chose neon magenta. And she let him do it because she had said he could. I love this woman! It is, incidentally, the "public" bathroom.

It was that color when I met him. Woah. It was the most ironic bathroom I've ever seen. It is currently painted white. Thank you LT! One can only live with so much irony. Did I mention it is now decorated with frogs?

Monday, February 18, 2008

What's New With Mxyl?

Mxyl was officially installed as an altar server yesterday! Here he is with our pastor, Fr Stack. I meant to get a picture of Mxyl in his alb, but with baby and toddler issues, I couldn't quite manage it...

Congratulations Mxyl! We are proud of you!!

When he hasn't been in training for altar serving, it's been robot mania: Roboquad, Roboreptile, and NXT. Robots scanning the landscape, robots walking around, robots dancing... all robots all the time!

What has Zorg Been Doing?

Reading! Really, truly, on his own, real book reading!

We've often noticed that teaching kids to read is like pushing a ball up a hill: it's work, it's work, it's work, then, suddenly, you're at the top. You can really read, so you do read, and the more you read the better you are at it; you're rolling down the hill.

After a very tough uphill climb (it turned out the letters don't stand still for him), Zorg is now racing down hill! Hooray Zorg!

What's Up With Choclo?

Did you guess trucks? Yes indeed, we discovered (in the size 4 bin) a sweater with a front end loader on it. I remember when we were given the sweater a year or so ago I wondered why someone would put a loader on a sweater. I mean, I could see a dump truck, but a loader? I'm not even sure I knew it was a loader at the time. Well, now I know: A front end loader with it's arm raised will make a truck maniac swoon!

Speaking of which: we have been singing The Truck Song (sing as if you were doing The Wheels on the Bus):
The dump truck says we'll dump that load....(pretend to dump the kid off your lap)
The excavator says dig and scoop...(scoop kid up from your lap)
The roller says we roll it flat... (roll on kid's tummy)
Continue with as many trucks as you can think of. Repeat as "teeny tiny" trucks using a teeny tiny voice.

I also have discovered that Choclo knows his colors, he just thinks you're crazy if you ask him what they are.

So, What Has Oob Been Up to?

Even when sick, life does go on. Oob is now 9 months old and has acquired 5 enormous teeth of his very own. He is crawling very quickly, pulling up to stand around, and crawling up stairs.

In other news, we have been remodeling the house to include baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs.

Much to his delight, we found a large box and made him a house. It has 2 doors and 2 windows and one very happy baby crawling in (laughter) and out (laughter) and peeking through windows (shrieks of laughter!). Oob is such a satisfying baby!

The Real Reason for Slow Blogging

As helpfully posted on the kitchen cabinet by Klenda.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Small Pleasures

One good thing about the big kids being sick is having more time with the little ones. More knee rides, more peek-a-boo, more board books, more finger painting, and more of this:

X marks the spot (draw x on child's palm)
A circle and a dot (draw on palm)
Thunder (tap palm rapidly)
Lightning (draw a zigzag going up the arm)
And Darkness very frightening (cover child's eyes briefly with your hand)
(gales of laughter and "Again! Again!")

I don't know where that came from. I'm pretty sure we didn't make it up. Does anyone else do this?

Happy Valentines Day!

We are celebrating in a lower key this year between Lent and nearly a month of sickness. Still, so far today, no one threw up, had a fever or whined persistently enough to convince me that they had an ear infection. Definite progress! So:

Happy Valentines Day to my Sweet Emperor! This is our 19th Valentines Day together! There's no one I'd rather have gone through the last 4 weeks with. Rain or shine, you are the greatest of the Great Bears!

Happy Valentines Day to my sweet kids! There's no place I'd rather be than here with you. You are the goofiest, smartest, sweetest Zoomlians ever!

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Zoomlians are nutty,
And I love you!

Lastly, Happy Valentines Day to you, if you're reading this! Thank you! Having readers is very encouraging! God bless you and have a great day!

Here is what we are making today: My favorite cookies ever!
I add cinnamon oil to the frosting and replace part of the butter with cream cheese.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lent 2008

I do realize that my ideas for celebrating seasons would be more helpful if I could get them up before the season started. Alas, with back to back stomach bug, flu, and colds this was not likely this time around. Actually, with all the sickness, it feels like we are already in the fourth week of Lent instead of the first!

Anyway, our theme this year is "Walking With Jesus." I looked at the readings for the Sundays of Lent and drew out a map for where we would be going with Jesus. Then I drew the arrows for all the days in between. We start at the heart on Ash Wednesday ("Turn to me with your whole heart...") and go into the desert for the Temptation, then the mountain for the Transfiguration, then the well to meet the Samaritan Woman, you get the idea. Along the way, as we make little sacrifices, acts of kindness, or extra time with Jesus, we draw flowers near the arrow for that day. We are strewing flowers on Jesus' path.

I am hoping that we will all get well enough to do some physical walking or hiking prayer time (literally walking with Jesus) and we are doing some guided imagery meditations of our walk with Him also.

We talked about the usual ways to walk more closely with Jesus: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The kids asked to go to Mass more and join in on Evening prayer for the prayers part. They wanted to give up candy and desserts for the fasting part, and want to give more of their allowances for the almsgiving part (usually they tithe).

We do celebrate Sundays with desserts, incidentally, so last Sunday when the Gospel was the Temptation in the desert, we had a desert dessert: spice cake covered with sandy brown sugar!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Klenda!

9 years old! Half way to 18 already? How did that ever happen? From sweet sweet baby to sweet sweet young lady is turning out to be an awfully fast trip.

Klenda says: Nine is nice! Nine is nifty! Nine is neat!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Domestic Church vs. Domestic Monastery

This article (HT: Ask Sr. Mary Martha) is about a group of Evangelical Christians trying to form a monastic/communal life in the inner city, a laudable goal.

You know the feeling you get when you see someone about to do something you tried and it burned you but you know they aren't going to believe you or take your advice? I bet there's a German word for that.

Anyway, this is not a personal memory, it's a Catholic cultural memory that flares up when we see our Protestant brothers and sisters doing certain things. Like having your spiritual leadership also try to take temporal charge? We know your minister would make a great senator, but we also remember why you left us. We know you want it for good, but it's just not going to end well.

We know you don't see that. If you did, you'd be Catholic.

This is another one of those. Living in communities like those in Acts never disappeared. It's been tried many times and refined pretty well under the direction of the Holy Spirit. New variations and trials are popping up all the time. They're called religious orders (or communities). The gift of 2000 years of history is that the Church remembers what doesn't work.

Families don't work like this. Families weren't designed by God to work like this.

Not that families can't live in community, near each other, or even in the same house, but that families don't work without time and space for the spouses to be together as spouses and to be with their children as a family. As parents you have obligations to your children, yes, to raise them to be active Christians, but also to protect them from drug addicts.

I just see see so many ways they could have been helped by the wisdom of the Church. What does it mean to live a simple life? Visit the Poor Clares, the Cistercians, and the Trappists. Need to work out community rules or figure out a healthy balance of work and prayer? Look at the Rule of St Benedict. How do you incorporate families? Look at the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

Wait a minute! I haven't even mentioned my order! For the very perfection, see the Dominicans!!! ;)

Seriously though, this is close to home for me because my own parents, while they didn't join a community, took a lot of people in when I was growing up (no, this is not going to turn into an abuse story!). We had children from foster care who had been abused, we had women fleeing abusers, we had people who were mentally unbalanced, old people, young people, but mostly pregnant moms and babies who needed help.

In some ways, it was a good way to grow up. My parents were pretty protective of us in terms of whom they would allow in. It was certainly a great witness. But, when I talked to my Mom about it later, she told me she wished she hadn't done it that way. She wishes that she had waited until we were older and had been more fully formed, that we had been given more time to develop as a family (although we did have times when no one else was living with us). Now that I am a parent, I see what she means.

The penultimate test (of "Is this the right thing for me to do?") is not, "Is it good?" There are a lot of good things. It is, "Is it faithful to my primary vocation?" (whether you are called to the single, married or consecrated life) And the ultimate test, of course, has the title: Universal Call To Holiness, "Is it what God wants me to do now?" :)

Bottom line? Every family is called to be a Domestic Church, but very few families are called to be Domestic Monasteries.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Speaking of Freight Trains

The one that hit me was called "The Flu." After 3 days in bed I am finally (wobbly) on my feet. I don't think I have ever had the flu before. I have 5 kids in various stages of getting better.

Oob escaped with a mild fever a few days before I got hit and is now fine. Except he missed me enough that by the third day he figured out how to say "MaaMaa!" in a plaintive wail. First baby to say "Mama" before "Dada!"