Monday, June 30, 2008

Zoomlians on the Go

You know, for when Blue Streak is in the shop.

Actually, it's a vacation picture I had missed posting earlier. It was too fun! But very hard to get up hill (we live on a big hill). And no room left for groceries. Well, maybe the top?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Random Science Experiment

Discovered in the yard. I have no idea what it's all about, I am still tracking down the scientist. They aren't allowed to dig in the yard (just the garden) but if it's for science...

I can see this working out in later years: "But, Mom, we needed to know the inertial force in order to calculate the mass of the car!" Oh, all right then, I guess the insurance won't go up that much...

Update: Klenda fessed up, it's a working (!) solar still! It is successfully harvesting water from our excessively humid air! Call me crazy, but that's worth a hole in the yard to me!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Would Like to Thank

whichever Zoomlian taught Choclo to randomly shriek, "SNAKES!!!" and take off running.

It has done wonders for my heart rate.

Hacking the Non Educational Obsession Round 2

It was a moment of half rationalized weakness.

The Wii was so great at keeping the kids moving, that a standard video game where the kids really jumped and moved would be terrific.

Well, it would be. This isn't it.

It's basically a joy stick game played with the Wii tools. Great exercise for thumbs... too late to put the genii back.

They've been asking for some time for a Super Mario Day, and today was The Day!

In the picture below, Zorg is Mario, Klenda is Rosalinda, Mxyl is Luigi, and Leena is Princess Peach.

We started out with Mad Libs. These are really easy to make up yourself to suit any occasion. Ours went like this:

One day, Mario and Luigi were at work fixing (pl noun) mushrooms. Suddenly, Bowser appeared and began to (v) spin and say (silly noise), " Wha-aaa!" He was holding the (adj) fat Princess (fruit) watermelon in his (body part) nose.

Perhaps that is as much as you need to read...

We went on to Spelling Bee Mario (there is a part in the game where Mario turns into a bee) using game related words like galaxy, princess, pound, etc adjusted to the level of each Zoomlian.

Math problems were easy to come up with for all 4 operations since the game uses coins as well as "star bits" that you feed to hungry star creatures called Lumas. An example for Mxyl would be: You find 5 Lumas that need 213 star bits each. How many star bits do you need to collect? I also let the kids come up with questions to ask me.

I was going to write a collective story, but we ran out of time.

Science was a must because the Super Mario Galaxy game actually uses galaxy to mean system. Adding insult to injury, some of their "galaxies" are planets orbiting very close to black holes... So we did some true false science with the kids correcting the mistakes of the game.

Last but not least, I found an excellent Super Mario activity book on line here, so I selected the best activities and pictures and printed out copies for each kid. I did have to put them through my photo program to clean them up (put the contrast to 100% or you will use a lot of ink!).

I suppose the actual last thing is the kids all cooperatively playing the game for the rest of the afternoon while I blog!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Airplane Week

Or at least half a week of airplanes!

We dropped off the Emperor at BWI on Tuesday and then hung around at the observation deck watching the planes take off and land.

If you live near BWI and haven't been there, go just for the observation deck! They have a mini museum with (among other things) a real cut apart plane and cool climbing toys for younger kids.

We continued the theme with library books, the Bill Nye and Brain Pop videos on flight and a visit to the fabulous College Park Aviator Museum. Tons of hands on exhibits with a heavy dose of fun (aviator jackets, caps, goggles, and scarves!). Plenty of crafts and a goody bag to take home. This is a nearly ideal museum, one that will amuse and inform from 2 to adult and only $2 for kids!

After we got home we played with gliders paper airplanes and bubbles (air pressure), and discussed Bernoulli.

Mowing the Lawn, Living in Reality, Stacking the Deck

I mowed the lawn this morning. For a long time I didn't like to mow the lawn. Maybe "I resented mowing the lawn" is more accurate. It was a half unconscious annoyance.

Eventually I followed that nagging discontent back to it's source and found, as is often the case, a nasty little lie in a dark hole. Dragged out into the light, it went like this: I do most of the cooking and cleaning, ergo the Emperor should do the yard work.

Really? Even if he has grass allergies? Even if he hates to do it? Even if he does other, more important stuff around the house like take the kids so I can blog? Even if I actually kind of like to mow the lawn? Even if it provides me with some much needed exercise, fresh air and a task that stays completed for up to a week and makes me feel really good to have it done and it lets me think without interruption for nearly an hour? The lie evaporated and now I just mow the lawn. It's Living in Reality instead of the irritating misery of stewing about How Things Should Be.

One advantage to letting go of How Things Should Be, is that you can do a lot more of what you actually want or need to do. Here's a good example: I hit the point (on the scale) where I knew I needed to exercise. So far I have found very few ways to exercise that I actually want to do, and most of those, conveniently, are things I don't have access to: ice skating on a lake, for example or fencing, or swimming, or horseback riding. Well, I still needed to exercise, but, of course I didn't have time. More importantly, I needed to increase my prayer life, but, of course, I didn't have time for that either and the time I did have was maddeningly inconsistent from day to day. How Things Should Be: I should be able to exercise (and pray) every day at the same time doing exercises I enjoy. I can't, therefore I can't exercise, I'm off the hook! No heart disease for me, it's not my fault! Ditto for prayer!

It turns out, there is a way of Living in Reality that solves these problems: I stack the deck. I schedule exercise and prayer times throughout the day (3 times each) at times that might work. Do I ever hit them all? Not in the 2 or 3 months that I have been doing it. All it takes is a kid to get up early, someone to get sick or something "special" to be going on to knock out any individual prayer or exercise time. But, it also hasn't yet happened that every time was knocked out! Even if I hit a day where I can't do any of them, I will know that I did my best, and that was what God asked me to do. How's that for Living in Reality? God never asks you for something and leaves you no way to do it.

If you are curious, the 3 exercises I actually, regularly, do are 1. walking/running/chasing the kids on bikes on the way to Mass in the morning, 2. the Core program, and 3. Wii fit (I like to think of it as Wii fit into our jeans again sometime real soon now). And mowing the lawn!

Down in the Nest

Our Choclo did rest!

At the beach house he did not want to sleep in a bed and he wiggled out of the pack-n-play, but the big round chair thingy made a perfect nest!

This left us free to do jigsaw puzzles, games, and movies in the evening.

Have I mentioned we like movies? We are on a Thin Man run at present, but Netflix just brought in the latest from our favorite living director, Majid Majidi's Willow Tree.

If you have never seen any of his movies try Children of Heaven. Yeah, it's subtitled, but if you look into the eyes of the children, the language barrier will vanish. It's a movie which shows the beauty and gift of children and love in a way that could not be shown in any other medium. This and his Color of Paradise are the two movies which have most influenced our parenting.

Monday, June 23, 2008

We're Back!

Did you miss us? I had intended to post that we were leaving for a beach vacation. Alas, the logistics of planning an extended vacation for nine (Grammy was the ninth) and packing up Blue Streak took an astounding amount of time.

On the plus side, by the time we got there, I really needed a vacation!

We had a lovely time! We hit the beach in the early morning. The sun was just up and dancing a golden path on the water. Dolphins played a little way off from the nearly empty beach. The shimmering sand was festooned with garlands of shells.

Oob ate quantities of sand and then splashed his toes in the chilly, tickley surf.

Choclo wallowed in the world's largest sandbox (OK, technically that would be the Sahara, But the beach looked that big, so don't tell him!). What could be better? Well, if they had a bunch of skid steers every morning to push the sand around... Sand and construction equipment? He was in heaven!

Leena and I built sandcastles and watched the waves fill the moats then devour the castles.

We all collected tons of those little iridescent shells called jingles (we are hoping to make wind chimes from them).

The older Zoomlians made up an entirely original game which involved chasing the waves and then running like crazy and getting soaked whenever you misjudged.

And they all turned a delicious golden brown like fresh chocolate chip cookies.

I love the beach. There is a deep beauty in the wind and waves and vastness of the deep that sings to my heart about the love of God. Sharing that joy with my dear ones made this particular vacation a season of delight.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I Don't Re-meme-ber

Oh, yes I do, I was blogging a meme before being so rudely interrupted by life and filing my annual home school portfolios!

What are five of your bad habits?

Hmm... how to narrow the field?
1. Painful irregularity in blogging.
Putting off filing my home school papers for "just another week."
3. Setting things down in the home school room instead of putting them away.
Chewing on pencils (yes, I know, there's no point to it).
5. Punning.

What are five places where you have lived?
1. Landstuhl, Germany
2. Picitinny Arsenal
3. Newton, NJ
4. Santa Monica, CA
5. Baltimore, MD

What are five jobs you’ve had?
1. I started out working in a Hardware Store- this, combined with my parent's "do it yourself" spirit, has been no end of useful!
2. I was a housekeeper for my room in College, but, out of ignorance, not a very good one. It's been retrospectively useful, but it's the one job I have regrets about. I wish I could have been more help.
3. I tutored for food and gas money through College. That was a blast and, since I was teaching the classes I was taking, I am sure I got much more out of my education than I would have!
4. I tested HIV vaccines in human clinical trials. I got this job right after I had watched the 5 year old daughter of a friend die of AIDS. It was such a gift to be able to "do something" to help in her memory.
5. I worked on a prostate cancer vaccine in humans. This job also involved developing vaccines to prime the immune system after bone marrow transplants to prevent cancer recurrence. I loved this job, too! This is the one I left when Mxyl was born.

I will tag...
1-3. Queen of Carrots if she feels up to it. Maybe she could do 2 of everything?
4. Lissa in the Bonny Glen.
5. Minnesota Mom.

Maybe one of the bad habits should be inability to count?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hula Girl and the Sharks

So, I thought, why not? We could actually mount a shark tooth hunting expedition to the Chesapeake Bay today and Leena could then do a hula in her Japanese dress on the beach on the first of June.

If you are thinking the dress does not look Japanese, I must admit she changed her mind at the last minute from the rainbow tie dyed fleece jumper to the peach terrycloth cover up. What? You don't think a rainbow fleece jumper looks Japanese either? No pleasing some people. She was quite certain both were Japanese. Next you'll be saying her hula looks like "walking like an Egyptian."

At any rate, we had a fabulous time! We found lots of big teeth, probably because of recent storms. I love living in a place where you can go pick up fossils!

These are from the Miocene era - about 30 million years ago when the Chesapeake extended all the way to Washington DC, and the warm shallow sea was a calving ground for whales and a favorite spot for sharks. The shark bones were made of cartilage, of course, so they have long since vanished, but the teeth of sharks and dental plates of rays are in the soil around us. Over time they have been washing into the Bay and can be picked up by anyone!

The storms also had an interesting effect on the water. The near part of the bay was bath tub warm and tea colored. Past the sand bar it was chilly and blue. We took large samples of both areas and plan to do some experiments. I think the water was brown for the same reason tea is brown: decaying leaves giving off tannic acid which was washed into the bay by the storms. I am curious if the "tea" water will have a lower pH. I also want to see if there are any differences in weight and salinity (salty water is denser than fresh water, although I am not sure I can detect the difference with my balance). I had brought containers to get water mostly to look at it with the microscope, so I am most interested to see what things may be living in either water. Any other ideas for experiments, please leave them in the comments. I have a quart of each sample.

Just in case the day was not perfect enough, Angel discovered a boat which a kind man lent us. I think it actually gave the outing a Polynesian flair.

Meme- ories

The rules:
1. Post the rules of the game at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

I was tagged by Kate in NJ and I am going to split this meme because I am a little tired out from our trip today. More tomorrow!

What were you doing five years ago?

Five years ago the top had been removed from my house and we were waiting for the third floor to be put on. And we were happy it had stopped raining. There's nothing like seeing water running from a lit ceiling lamp! I have a vivid memory of Mxyl (then 5) running in circles and yelling, "The house is out of control!" over and over. Wow, we only had 4 kids then!

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

1. Mass.

2. Call my Mom.

3. Set up for and go on a shark tooth hunting expedition so that Leena can wear her Japanese dress while doing the hula on the beach on the first of June.

4. Sort out all the printouts into packets for the kids and make sure i have my home school ducks in a row for this week.

5. Copy the music for "This Day God Sends Me (Morning has Broken)" so I can play it on my violin again. Free blank sheet music here.

What are five snacks you enjoy?

First let me say I want to go snack with Kate in NJ!

1. Pappadam (it's an Indian fried lentil cracker - addictive!)

2. Dark chocolate

3. Salt and vinegar potato chips

4. Fresh sugar snap peas (they never make it into the house!)

5 Any ripe home grown fruit, but cherries, figs and raspberries are my favorites.

What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?

1. Tithe
2. Buy my parents 2 dependable cars.
3. Expand my home school science lab. Nothing fancy, just the basic stuff for genetic engineering, tissue culture and robotics. Oooh! And liquid nitrogen!
4. Home school field trip - to Europe! Then Africa, then Australia and New Zealand, then...
5. Get horses for Klenda!