Thursday, February 26, 2009

Olympic Glory

We would like to bid to host this year's Table Setting Olympics at my house on the afternoon of Friday March 20th. If our bid is successful, we will have individual and team events as follows:

Individual Table Setting (possibly divided into classes by age): Who can set the table with the greatest speed while making it still look like someplace you would like to eat? You must be an individual to compete in this sport.

Team Table Setting: Working together as a well oiled machine (with clean hands), increase your speed! You must live in the same house as your team mates (i.e. regularly set the table together). Teams set the number of place settings used in their actual family.
The above events will be judged for speed and accuracy with errors being given a 2 second penalty.

Possible additional event: Advanced Table Setting: whither the extra fork?

Decorative Napkin Folding: Ahhhhh. The Rhythmic Gymnastics of the Table Setting Olympics, a chance to show your style and grace. Paper napkins will be provided, bring your own rings if needed.

Who will take home the coveted gold forks?

Any other bids?

PJ Time, Round 1!

Yes, I have been sewing again! This year, I was busy enough that I had decided to skip making the kids PJs. As it ended up, the kids all needed PJs, I had a pattern, and the Queen Mum volunteered to take the kids shopping for fabric.

Unlike other years, everyone has a different fabric this time around. The unifying theme is the pattern. Since I am using one pattern, I am making them in size order. I finished Zorg's tiger stripe PJs this afternoon and will post his and Leena's... after I do Leena's!

For one thing, I am getting very fast at this pattern- 1 1/2 hours from fabric to PJs!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Lent

Here is our "Walk with Jesus" mural for this year. It follows the Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Week. I don't want to explain what everything is, since the Zoomlians read the blog, but if you look up the Sunday readings, you can figure them out. I have to think of good deserts to go with them... We will be eating Gospel themed desserts on Sundays.

You can also see a little Lenten altar in the living room (as opposed to the ones in the chapel which the older boys set up today). On the right you can also see the Lenten Ark/ calender.

And we set up the vine and branches. We each get a branch and whenever we see someone doing good, we put a leaf or grape cluster on their branch. I really like that this fosters a spirit of looking for the good in others. I'll post another picture later in the season!

We tossed out the last of the cookies and candy today and filled the cookie jar with pretzels.

Leena reminded me (while we were making our PB&J) sandwiches that we were only going to eat unleavened bread. I made the command decision that this loaf didn't count because it had been baked before Lent started...

We also had a good discussion about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, but I'm going to bed now!!!
More Lent Later.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Past the Wall

I hit my Math Wall with Calculus I in college, so I never got to this point. (or maybe, here is where I gave up!) Still, peeking over the Wall, this is hilarious! HT: Testosterhome

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Merry Christmas Surprise!

We had a lovely weekend with my sister and my folks. We finally had Christmas! Mumpy had made us blankets that fold up into pillows, plus some ponchos.

And, to finish off the weekend, we had a surprise birthday party for Klenda, Pa and my sister!
Here is Klenda opening her beloved pocket knife!
(Ten is the age for a pocket knife in our family. You get to pick it out yourself, but first you have to be able to carry your knife holder for a week or two without leaving it around or losing it.)

And here is Pa, teaching her to whittle!

The Wild Wind

It's been blowing a gale here! We've been spending as much time as possible outside with sheets (worn out extras, if you're wondering) and just go crazy!

The older Zoomlians want to race down the hill with the sheets billowing like parachutes, the younger ones do their level best to hitch rides.

Then we all go in for warm chocolate and marshmallows!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good Vs. Good For Me

Last night, a well meaning friend tried to get the Emperor to join a very good group that does very good works. He declined as politely as possible and we ended up talking about it later.

Discernment is so important! What is God asking you to do? What should you be doing? Just because it's good , doesn't mean you should do it! The group was good, but if you try to do every good thing (either for yourself, or your kids) you end up exhausted and missing the joy in your life.

One thing we have noticed is that when we get too busy, our relationship devolves into "co-workers." Don't get me wrong, the Emperor is amiable, creative, and hard working. He makes an excellent co-worker, and that's always an aspect of our relationship. But he's also my best friend and spouse! We need time to talk, to have fun, be silly, be romantic, discuss current events, movies, and big ideas.

I think that if you only have a few kids, you can probably get away with a tighter schedule because you only have young kids for a short period of time. You know you are making a sacrifice for a particular period of time. With a lot of kids, all bets are off! I can't put my relationship on hold while my kids are small... nor can I put off growing as an individual. This is my life!

I think that's something I like about this time in my life. I live much more in the present than I used to. I enjoy the here and now and I like to see what I can do with it. I also have become fairly protective of my time. We have a number of health issues (doctors appointments - currently 8+ hours a week) and solid commitments (Dominicans, DJMs, Scouts, co-op) as well as the main job of home schooling, of course. I also think it's important to have time for the people I love and those who need help.

It's a priority for me to have time for the Queen Mum (my dear MIL). She drops by an afternoon a week to have tea and visit. It's a priority for me to have time and space to lend an ear or a shoulder or some baby sitting for my friends. Do I let it take over so that I can't do stuff with my kids? No, I try to be balanced. Have I got the balance right? NO! Right now, I don't have enough time scheduled in for excercise. But I'm getting better! And a big part of that is not scheduling every moment.

I am curious to see how the balance will shift as my kids get older and more involved.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Seven Quick Takes Friday

The Valentines Edition

1. I met my sweetie at Nolocon, the World Science Fiction Convention in New Orleans. It was the first science fiction convention I had ever been to; he had been going to them prenatally. I didn't believe in love at first sight at the time. Um. Wow! Powerful stuff! Like getting hit by lightning, only nicer.

2. I love being married to someone who, after a very rough night with the kids, wakes exhausted and then makes goofy Haiku about it. My personal favorite from this morning:

As I lay dying,
What carries me off? A Sasquatch.

I smile thinly.

It might help to know that, on rough mornings, we like to have a heavily smoked tea called Lapsang Souchong which we, for incomprehensible reasons, call Sasquatch Feet. Or it might not help.

3. Two dozen balloons is a whole lot of love. That's Leena peeking through!
4: Have you noticed that affixing "of Love" or "of Doom" to things nearly always improves the experience?

Example 1: Come fold laundry! (cricket noises) vs. Come slay the Laundry Monster...of Doom! (hearty chorus of battle cries).

Example 2: Let's have Pink Burping Cows. (What?) vs. Let's have Pink Burping Cows... of Love! (Awwwww!)

Calling things "secret" works well also.

5. Just for you, for Valentines Day: the secret recipe for Pink Burping Cows... of Love.
Out of curiosity, are you thinking, "Who cares what's in it, I must try it?" or have you skipped to the next number?
Actually, it's an ice cream float containing pink things:

Strawberry soda
Stawberry ice cream
Strawberry syrup
Heart sprinkles if you have them

6. My favorite part of Valentines day? Watching the Zoomlians make valentines for each other (in secret, each using their own theme). Second place would be watching The Emperor and the Zoomlians do the treasure hunt.

7. Someone said that to have a child is to forever walk around with your heart outside your body. I think that's true, but I initially only saw that as a negative: you are much more vulnerable. That's true, but you are also much more open to delight. Ben Franklin said it best, "He that raises a large family does, indeed, while he lives to observe them, stand a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too. "

Wild Beaver ATAAAACK!

The wild beavers have visited again! This time they got 6 out of 6 Zoomlians. The only truly dramatic change was to Choclo who went from this:

To this:


When he looked in the mirror he asked, "Where is hair?"

I asked, "Do you like it?" (cleverly avoiding the question!)

He answered, "LIKE it! I LOVE it, Mama!"

The Emperor and I are still getting used to it. We keep wondering who that other kid is...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Choclo was begging for the song over and over, "Please, 'Here Comes the Sand in the Vacuum Cleaner'!"

I'm sure you've figured it out already, but it took me 3 hours. He wanted that infamous cowboy yodelling train tune "Here Comes the Santa Fe."

The vacuum cleaner was just to see if I was paying attention.

My Creepy Valentine

I don't often try for normal and this really shows why.

Such a cute idea: cut out lots of hearts and have the kids make animals out of them. What could go wrong?

Well. The Zoomlians did make animals out of hearts.

Leena made the jellyfish.

Klenda made the heart type person with a really long neck (and, to be fair, a very cute butterfly).

Zorg made what I thought was a starfish. But it wasn't.

And Mxyl made the eight eyed spider in the center.

I did the cute little mouse.
That was Monday.

Tuesday we painted the windows (HT: Crafty Crow)
and made cherry hearts.

These are just cream cheese, cherry flavoring, and powdered sugar made into an edible clay. We formed lots and lots of hearts out of it and then ate half of them!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Egg Noodles

While we were feeling under the weather, we decided to make some home made chicken noodle soup. We made the broth (no, we don't raise our own chickens from scratch) and we made the noodles. If you've never done it, it's easy, fun and reasonably quick.

Take a cup or two of flour, add a little salt (1/4 - 1/2 tsp) and add enough eggs to get it to stick together (2-6). Knead it like crazy, roll it as thin as you can and cut it into crazy shapes. We use pizza wheels to make big crazy noodles which got even bigger when we cooked them. Yum! Yum!.

(broth: leftover chicken and bones, ends of carrots, onions- include the skins!, and celery, spices if you like them. Cover with cold water, then simmer for 2-6 hours)

Oob Update

I must apologize for the lack of Oob updates. I am sure you are desperate to know what he is wearing in his hair. I have been having a USB connection problem with the camera, but I've got it figured out now.

So. Here we have Oob with butter. Oob with applesauce. And who could resist Oob with yogurt?

I actually thought he was starting to put stuff in his hair a little less often this week. But then today it was strawberry syrup, then paint and then more yogurt.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Guest blog by Myxl: The Polar Bear Plunge

Here's a question worth considering: Did you ever jump into the Chesapeake Bay in the middle of winter?

If so, you have probably taken the Polar Bear Plunge. My scout troop and I did it as fundraiser for the Special Olympics.

Warning: If they are not used to the cold, it might put most Earthlings into shock, and their toes would freeze off.

Half of me wanted to go in deeper. Half of me wanted to not have gone at all. That second one was probably the bottom half.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pecans and Random Stuff

And it isn't even Friday!

It never ceases to amaze me how different 6 siblings can be. Six kids, and Oob is the first one to to refuse to say, "bye bye." Instead he yells, "Cheeeeeese!"

Leena is also (apparently) Queen of the non sequitur. We were driving in the big van, deep in a discussion of sublimation (matter going from a solid to a gas without becoming liquid in between). We were wondering how much of the vanishing snow had sublimed and how much had melted when Leena added, "I just love Delaware!"

I was translating Choclo on the phone with a grandparent, and it sure sounded like he said, "The downdraft of the rotor blades." It turned out, that was what he was saying. He was explaining how helicopters are used to spray crops, flying close to the ground so the down draft of the rotor blades made sure the mist didn't blow away. He went on to explain that a helicopter could spray a field in minutes where a tractor would take hours and hours. Yay Tractors and Trucks! And thank you Bill for inserting the tape into a new cassette (a procedure which strikes me as surgical) and saving the day when the old tape broke!

Never underestimate the fun you can have with pecans. We had a bunch still in the shell from Christmas. Oob and Choclo discovered the metal bowl full of them and then we made several new discoveries.
1. They are fun to dump all over the floor.
2. They spin like tops!
3. They make the bowl ring like a bell if you drop them in from high enough.
4. They spin like crazy when you kick them.
5. They are unsurpassed for dropping down the back of people's shirts. Like ice cubes but less mean and more tickley.

I suppose we could have counted them and stuff, but it didn't even occur to me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lent Ideas

I won't do all of these, but these are some of my favorite ideas.

1. Walking with Jesus, explained here. I'll do a new poster with this year's Gospels.
2. Eat pretzels instead of cookies and dried fruit ("God's candy") instead of candy. This was Leena's idea
3. Invite the kids to donate some allowance to Loving Heart Home, a place for dying orphans in China.
4. Eat only bread without yeast (Zorg's idea).
5. Study the capital sins and their opposite virtues, one of each every week.
6. Sacrifice bean jar. (Klenda's idea) One bean for each sacrifice and on Easter they are replaced with jelly beans to show that Jesus' sacrifice makes our sacrifices sweet.
7. The vine and branches poster. Basically it's a 7 foot tall vine cut out of brown paper with branches for each member of the family. We cut out tons of leaves and grapes and put them in a basket. Whenever anyone sees someone doing something good, they put a leaf or fruit on that person's branch. On Easter we decorate the vine with Easter lilies. We often put a picture of Jesus and the "vine and branches" quote on the vine.
8. Lent Calender - like an Advent calender, but shaped liked a 3D Noah's Ark and going through salvation history with pictures, prayers and scripture reflections. I got it here. I also got a 50 day Easter sticker calender from them here. That one is usually $20 and is on sale for $3.
9. A Christian Seder. My dad was Jewish and I went to seders when I was growing up. I was always amazed at how similar it is to the Mass...well..the Mass is the Last Supper and the Last Supper was a seder. You can find lots of free Christian haggadahs (passover booklets) online. We modified one to make it short enough for the little ones to get through.
10. The Lenten Cross. This is made of 40 squares of light purple paper. You do a scripture reading, have a kid draw a representation of the reading on a square, and then tape the square to a wall. By Easter you have a large cross representing Salvation History. We've done this several times and the kids loved it. You can find the readings and more info here.
11. More lists of ideas here, here and here.

My problem is that all these ideas look great, but I've seen over and over that if I try to do too many, I lose focus and stop 20 days in.

So, how do I decide? Pray, see what we are attracted to, look at what my kids needs are, and analyze what each activity would accomplish. The three traditional Lenten activities are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Most important to me is that my kids experience a living encounter with Christ. That, for me, seems to require an immersive, indelible experience of salvation history (so they know who Jesus is) combined with communal and private prayer experiences tailored to their developmental levels. It's also important that they see themselves as part of the Body of Christ, the Church, so we will be doing as many of the beautiful Lenten liturgies as we can.

I'll probably do 2, 3, 4 (those 3 don't take time), a combination of 1 and 7 (if I can make it simple to follow through), 8, and 9 (if I can get Angel to do it with me!) and I need to think about how to provide meaningful prayer experiences.

Mardi Gras Ideas

The Emperor and I met in New Orleans , so, even though it was a Science Fiction convention, not a Mardi Gras, this has always been a special holiday for us.

1. Make King cake.
2. Make begniets.
3. Make masks with lots of glitter and feathers.
4. Dress in purple, green and gold with lots of beads.
5. Eat pancakes and sausage for dinner.
6. Watch parades on You Tube - watch out here, some are family friendly, some are...not.
7. Make a parade!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

St. Valentine's Day Ideas

1. Buy 2 dozen mylar heart balloons at Party City (presuming they go on sale again). There's nothing like a true overabundance of balloons for kids of any age! At least some of them will last for a month and that's about when they will get tired of them. We do use them for science (density, bouyancy, atmosphere, gradients, temperature/pressure), and they play games with them but, mostly, for a month, random family members will go up to other family members with a big bunch of heart balloons and say, "I love you!" And that's worth $15 to me.

2. Make a Valentine treasure hunt. We do this on heart shapes, naturally. The kids remembered that last year's hunt ended in the chapel with a big pile of converstaion heart candies because Jesus is the biggest sweetheart! The conversation hearts get played with a lot too - good reading for some, good eating for others! The kids may do seperate hunts for each other.

3. Make Valentines for family, friends, and the nursing home. Share the love! Surprising someone with a valentine is great fun. Teaching the kids to think about who needs to be shown that they are loved and valued and ways to do that... well that even beats teaching chemistry!

4 Decorations!
  • We'll put up the cards, of course.
  • Usually we make animals and funny people out of hearts.
  • For some reason the big hearts with pleated arms and legs and little heart hands and feet are always a top pick.
  • Heart mobiles are also something we tend to do a lot.
  • Streamers and maybe a big poster from our Big Roll of Paper are possible.
  • The balloons also make things festive.
5. Surprises! I like to have little surprises for people to find. Just little stuff - notes or hearts or little candies.

6. Desserts! My favorite cookie of the year! I put cinnamon oil in the frosting. I also love this idea: cream filled cupcakes. Yum! Yum! Especially if I just do chocolate fudge cake mix for the cupcakes and add cherry flavor to the cream.

7. Worksheets, mazes, printables and craft ideas from my favorite sites:
8 The real St. Valentine.

Various Updates

I am mostly recovered from being clobbered with the stomach bug. Not too bad, it was really only 24 hours and I got to read The Count of Monte Cristo. That was fun enough that I felt slightly guilty for lying about for that long. I also got started thinking about all the planning I needed to do for February.

I am sorry to say that I usually blog my plans as I do them which is fairly useless if you are reading this to get ideas for actual events. In an effort to be more helpful, I am going to blog lists of possibilities I am considering for St. Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, and Lent.

In case you have been missing your daily Oob/fasion/hair tonic report: Saturday it was ramen noodles and I wish I had a picture for you. Oob with curly noodle hair...

Today it was a honey/ketchup/ranch dressing mixture. The Emperor washed Oob's hair immediately and then combed it into shocking respectability. That will teach him! Although I'm not sure what it will teach to whom.