Friday, December 31, 2010

Wrapping Up 2010

Top 10 memorable things about 2010:
10. Snowpocolypse: we finally get serious about winter.
9. Snowmaggedon: we get way too serious about winter.
Klenda: "How can I play in this much snow?"
The Emperor: "Tunnel."
8. The US History mega unit.
7.The trip to the beach.
6. The trip to NYC!
5.Discovering and fixing the void under the basement floor; ending up with a brand new and improved family room.
4. My sister making her final profession and the trip out to see it.
3.Our 20th wedding anniversary and the trip back to where we met!
2.Choclo becoming a Big Guy - now we have five Big Guys and only one little Guy!
1. Mxyl becoming a teenager!

Good Morning

Oob is very particular in the morning. Ordinarily, no one but the Emperor himself may attend him. This morning, however, he wanted me.

Me: Good morning, Ooby! Would you like a song?

Oob: Yes!

Me: Twinkle, twinkle, little nose,
How I love you, I suppose.
Up upon my belly round,
Hope you won't fall on the ground.
Twinkle, twinkle, little nose,
How I love you, I suppose.

Oob: ... Maybe I'll try Daddy.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Merry Christmas!

We finally did clear that virus - on the third day of Christmas- but it was a wonderful Christmas all the same!

My folks risked the fever to come visit us. Going to Mass on Christmas with my parents and my kids and my sweetie is just the best ever!

Baby Jesus had a nice soft crib despite the thieving birds...

We had a fabulous Christmas on Boxing Day with my much adored in-laws. I left my camera there, so no pictures until my favorite MIL comes for tea (hint! hint!)

We are still opening presents. We open a present and then play with it, so we generally take a week or so to get to everything. It's been a nice quiet, happy week!

The Emperor and I have been spending time doing little projects in a relaxed way. Plus I've started getting together our stuff for the home school portfolio review on Monday.

More details and some pictures later.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mostly Better

The score is:
Mxyl, Klenda and Zorg have cleared the fever! They all are in various stages of voice lost, but I'll take "Silent Night" over "Random Fever Bizarreness."

Leena and Choclo still have the fever, but are happy with ibuprofen and a blessedly long Busytown Mysteries DVD.

Oob... I just can't tell. I can't get an accurate reading on the thermometer, possibly because he finds the instruction "put it under your tongue" quite hilarious.

He seems chipper enough. On the other hand, he felt warm to me this morning.

I told him, "I think you have a fever."

He looked at me, then at himself and answered quizzically, "I don't see any fevers on me!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Baking Bonanza

I have been having a great time doing holiday baking. We usually start in November and do one kind of cookie a week, storing them in the freezer. Whenever we have a Christmas event or friend drop by, I just open the freezer and assemble a cookie plate!

Lets see what's on this year's plate:

1. Mxyl chose chocolate cherry cookies. These are easy: make chocolate chip cookies, but add 1/2 c. cocoa after you cream the sugar. We also add cherry extract at that point, but you could skip it if you can find cherry chips at Target. We did extract and red cherry chips and white chips and chocolate chips, but then, we're not really into understated.

2. Klenda chose candy cane cookies. We added peppermint oil instead of almond extract. This is one of my favorites from childhood - I remember shaping them with my sister! As it turned out, however, they weren't what Klenda wanted.

3. Klenda actually meant the chocolate chip cookies where you crush candy canes and put them in the batter when you add the chips. Since I now can make chocolate chip cookies in ten minutes, in my sleep, with one apron tied behind my back, that was an easy yes.

4. Leena chose chocolate chocolate chip mint with candy canes (are you detecting a theme, here?) These are chocolate chip cookies, but you add 1/2 cup of cocoa after you cream the butter and then add peppermint oil. The finished cookies are frosted with buttercream frosting (we added more peppermint) and topped with crushed candy canes. Very pretty.

I wonder if my kids are super into candy canes or do they just like baking projects that involve smashing things with hammers...

5. Zorg chose meringues. I love meringues... We have to make another batch...

6. I chose these lovely caramel oat bars. I drizzle them with chocolate and cut them into diamonds. So pretty! So tasty! Probably a billion calories a piece!

7. We made some Jello spritz cookies, but not a lot made it into the freezer. If cookies using a hammer are popular, cookies using a "gun" cause stampedes. We made raspberry ones. I used some cream cheese for part of the butter with the idea it would be like raspberry cheesecake, but I used a touch too much and they were a little too tart. Still very yummy, and a good looking one for the plate.

8. I also made eggnog cookies for the Emperor. Not flashy, but one of his favorites. I used eggnog extract to boost the flavor.

9. OK, this is getting silly, but a dear friend told me her favorite was shortbread...

10. And then I made fruitcake... I tried it last year because it turned out that my Mom likes it. I never liked it, but have discovered that what I don't like about fruitcake is the corn syrupy glaceed fruit. Made with dried fruit and home made orange peel candy, it is really quite nice.

And I think that's it! You know except for cinnamon rolls and that kind of stuff...

Monday, December 20, 2010

What We've Been Up To, Part 3

We've been plugging away with the schooling. We've been holding the course with Math. That seems to be the one thing you never want to take a break from. It seems like everything is built on everything and the information seems to leak out their ears if you go too long without accessing it.

Leena and Zorg are enjoying their copy work. Leena is nearing the end of her story about a squirrel and a dolphin. Zorg has just killed a dragon and discovered a mysterious jewel in his story. I make the stories up as we go along and write them in their notebooks. When they were little, they traced my printing. Now they write it over themselves. It's an easy way to teach handwriting, grammar, punctuation, spelling and capitalization.

Mxyl and Klenda are still going on "Trials of Furno." I'll try to post more of it later. This is something they beg to do in their spare time! The Emperor is signing on as editor. It's amazingly convenient to have a professional writer (and English teacher!) on staff!!

We are taking a break on our US History mega unit. Science has been mostly revolving around weather and the relationship of heat/energy to density. Lots of interesting conversations and guesses about why things do what they do. Questions like, "Why does hot air rise?"

And then we got around to haircuts! The girls were especially pleased with their results. The boys were fine with whatever was going on atop of their heads. It's not that they don't appreciate a haircut, it's that they don't get excited about it. Girls are kind of fun that way.

The older four were easy. Oob is hard, but doable. I think I will have to go back and even some things out.

Choclo, however, well, the last time I had tried the "big boy haircut" I really had not liked the results...for about three months. I felt so clueless about what to do with his hair, that I finally broke down and sent him to a barber(with the Emperor).

First time any of my kids have had their hair professionally cut! It looks great! Plus, I looked at what the pro did, and I think I can do it next time.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What We've Been Up To, Part 2

We've been decorating everything that isn't nailed down, and some things that are.

Here you see our Jesse Tree, the manger, and Courage and Love stealing hay from Baby Jesus.

We got the tree early on, but only put it up this weekend. It's been so cold that when we hauled the tree out of the water we had been keeping it in on the deck, it came out in a block of ice...

No permanent damage, though.

We've also been decorating kids.

I'm not sure we're doing it right.

Zorg is doing a very fine Grinch, I think.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What We've Been Up To, Part 1

Sorry for the long silence. Most recently, we performed the hitherto unguessable feat of all six Zoomlians getting sick on the same day. Fortunately, that day was last Friday, and three have recovered so far, so I think we've missed having a Green Christmas, this year.

Will they all be well and the house decontaminated for a visit from my folks on Thursday?

I think we can. I think we can. I think we can. I think we can.

The good news is that it is not a stomach bug, just a fever.

Klenda has fully recovered from her sprain. She was even well enough to do her horseback riding lesson the Saturday after her spill.

Of course, she missed this week because of the fever...

The riding lessons are her Christmas present from Grammy. When Grammy asked her if she wanted lessons even if it meant she wouldn't get many other presents, she answered that they would be better than a million other presents!

She's one happy horse loving girl!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Lame Excuse

for not posting! Klenda sprained her ankle last Sunday.

Unbelievably, she is off crutches as of today! We'll keep the splint on a while longer.

The doctor had said she would likely be running around as if nothing had happened by the end of the week. Looking at her then, I found that assessment... questionable. But it looks like he was spot on. Thanks be to God!

Monday, December 6, 2010

St. Nicholas Day and the Virtue of Hope

Did you put your shoes out last night?

The Zoomlians did. Hope springs eternal. Abundant hope, in this case.

The idea is that you put out your shoes on St. Nicholas Eve and you find them filled with candy in the morning. A visit from St. Nicholas, indeed!

In some cultures the kids leave hay in their shoes for the good bishop's horse. I'm sweeping up enough hay from our manger as it is, so we skip that part...

We don't "do " Santa, but we love St. Nicholas, as we explained here.

Why would a fourth century bishop want to stuff shoes full of candy? When he was on Earth, he did a lot of "Secret Santa" stuff like that, especially for children. You can find that story and many more (as well as fun activities) here!

And, in honor of the day, here is a little gift for you. Hold out your shoe:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Botannical Garden

Last week we went off with friends to see the Botannical Garden's holiday display. This is the one where they make scale models of landmarks from natural materials.

These are pictures of the US Capitol building an the Lincoln Memorial, but the main display had various wonders of the world: the Great Pyramid, Petra, the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, and, my favorite, the Hagia Sophia!

Having done this sort of thing with gingerbread gives a new appreciation for the difficulty of the task!

They also have a marvelous model train set up, as well as their usual three story jungle space - tons of fun!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Seven Quick takes Advent

Happy Advent! It's not that I'm doing a ton of stuff for Advent, it's that all six kids are now old enough (or young enough ) to want to do something each day of Advent, so we do the first 6 things each day in rotation.

The Advent House. Each door has 6 pieces of candy and a piece of the Playmobil Nativity. Each year, we lose more pieces of the set, so I usually buy a new set every other year. This year I couldn't find it!

This morning, Choclo opened door 3 and was surprised to find 6 lemon drops and a wooden dog from a puzzle. Ummm. A sheepdog, that's it, the shepherds could have brought a dog...

2. A paper Advent calendar. This one has doors that start before December 1st and goes through the Baptism of the Lord. I like that. I also like that each door has matching scripture and the images go with the saint of the day. It even has the O antiphons. It's also very cool that it's 3 D and you can put a light inside. But I can't fully recommend it.

I do not like that it has Rosa Parks on December 1st. Why? Dorothy Day on December 4th I can kinda see, but Rosa Parks for Advent? I'm all for Rosa Parks, but it's an odd choice. These are the only two like that in the whole calendar, but they are both in the first week. I also feel one of the less noticeable images over one of the doors is kinda immodest. My kids haven't noticed it, but why put it in? That being said, I got it from LTP.

3. The Jesse Tree. Every year I want to give my friend a hug (you know who you are!). It was she who organized the Jesse tree swap. She found 28 people and we each made 28 of one kind of ornament. Then we all got together and, you know, swapped! She even made a little booklet of all the scripture passages for each day.

If you haven't heard of it, the Jesse Tree goes through Salvation History one ornament at a time. We start with a little salt dough Earth and read the Creation story. Then we had a play-doh apple for the fall of man. Today we had a fabric camel to symbolize the covenant with Abraham. This may be my favorite Advent activity.

4. The velcro calendar. I'm afraid I should have gotten a new one this year, ours is looking a bit shabby! I got this one cheaply at Oriental Trading 3 years ago. I think it's time to invest in an upgrade.

5. Choose a decoration. We have all our Christmas decorations in a big heap on the guest room bed and #5 gets to choose one each day.

This actually is a nice, low stress way to decorate. I also like the gradual build up better than the *poof* now it's Christmas approach, although I can see why some people prefer the latter.

If the house were all decorated I would feel like the presents all ought to be wrapped (or at least bought). For me, that way lies madness!

6.Zorg and I built our Advent wreath last weekend. We've found having the glass pillar candles solves a lot of the problems with little kids and Advent candles (no picking apart the wax, the flames are less accessible, etc.)

It didn't occur to me that it looked less like a wreath until Choclo explained to (non-Catholic) guests, "This is our Advent nest."

Now, every time I look at it, I think, "Nest." Not a bad image for Advent, actually, I guess. # 6 gets to light and/or blow out the Advent wreath/nest.

7. The hay in the manger. This isn't rotating. We try to do good deeds, make small sacrifices, or spend extra time praying to prepare our hearts for Christmas. Each time, we put a little hay in the manger to make Baby Jesus' bed (and our hearts) a little softer when He comes.

OK, this has to be my favorite! We have a very beautiful statue that we put in the manger at Christmas and it is always the first thing the kids look for on Christmas morning.

My all time favorite Christmas memory was the year the Mxyl was 4, Klenda was 3, and Zorg was 1. They were completely focused on Christmas as Jesus coming. They had filled the manger with cotton balls (instead of hay). They had made presents for other people as a way of giving presents to Jesus. It hadn't occurred to them that they would get any presents themselves. The pure joy on their face that morning when they saw the Baby Jesus in the manger is something I will always treasure. They were fully and completely happy with Jesus. The presents later were just nice extras.

Happy Advent!!

More with Jen!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Leena's Gingerbread

After the big rush to get the other houses out in time for the contest, it was very nice to do a "relaxed" house.

Leena's idea was an apartment building with a Christmas tree. I think it came out rather well!

Here's how to do it the easy way:

1. We used a box as a base pattern (we actually laid the box on the gingerbread and cut around it).

2.We made the royal icing very thick (whip 4 egg whites and keep adding powdered sugar) so that it's a toothpaste texture.

When it's that thick, it holds the walls and roof on very well and dries quickly. It also holds candy on a vertical surface.

If you are careful (i.e. an adult) you can keep the surface of the house very clean for "professional" results. If you are a kid, you can build and decorate by yourself. You can always thin it later (with lemon juice) if you want to do fancy icing.

Somewhere along the line, we lost the roof on Leena's house, so she improvised with pretzel logs and frosting. We actually like this roof better, especially with the candy canes!

The only downside is that now Choclo wants to know when we will do his gingerbread house...

I also wanted to note that I use the gingerbread houses as a major home schooling art project as well as an opportunity to teach project planning for the older kids.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

New York

We have had a whirlwind week! We went up to visit my folks in NJ. We had a lovely time and a little Thanksgiving feast with them.

We then went into The City (when I was growing up, The City always meant The Big Apple). We visited the Statue of Liberty, a long cherished dream of the older Zoomlians.

Oob and Choclo loved the ferry ride, so it was a success all around!

We then went through Time Square on our way to meet Grammy and see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular!

We had a great time and drove all the way home that night.

We took a day to do laundry and than spent Wednesday volunteering at a research trial for REACH. We got home at 6 PM and made pies... Lots of pies!

The rule seems to be: When you can't decide which pie to make, make them all!

So, Mxyl made pumpkin pies. Then Zorg made chocolate pies. Then Klenda made lemon meringue pies. A grand total of ate, I mean eight pies. Which we ate today. Oh, yes, I'm pretty sure we also had turkey and some other stuff. It's all a bit of a blur...

It was a really nice Thanksgiving. It wasn't just the 8 of us sitting around eating pies. It was actually the 25 of us. One of the things I'm most thankful for is that I really enjoy the company of my extended family, so holidays are really fun. And I'm not just saying that because my BIL makes the BEST deep fried turkey, although he does.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Gingerbread Houses!

(Guest blog by the Emperor) It's time for Prince George's County's Annual Gingerbread House Competition! Once a year, Darnall's Chance museum gets decorated to look like a giant gingerbread house itself, and then welcomes gingerbread houses from participants throughout the county. You can see our previous entries here.

There were three entries from the Zoomlian galaxy this year. First was Zorg, who created "Sandy Claus":

That pyramid is completely filled with candy.

Hmm... something odd about that camel's nose...

Here's Klenda's entry, "When It's Christmas Day in Hawaii." That's from the song Merry Hula. I don't know if you can see it, but the roof is thatched with palm leaves made from spearmint gum.

St. Nick's catchin' some good surf, here.

Finally, we have Mxyl's entry, a huge book called "The Gingerbread Man."

The Gingerbread Man is actually running completely out of the book here. I've put in a better picture so you can see it better.

Great cooking, Zoomlians!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trials of Furno Part 6

Chapter 2

Stormer couldn’t believe his eyes when I brought in Meltdown on the palm of my hand.

He was lashing his not-so-nuclear tentacles at Stormer at 1st sight of him.

FURNO!!!! I can’t believe this! Meltdown the mighty and merciless… in

Hero Factory Headquarters… at this size????!!!! Roam HQ, Furno… In the meantime, I’ll decide what to do with you.”

I decided to go where I always went—1st to Mark, then we went over to Nat’s quarters.

Then, we did what we usually did. We snuck out Natalie’s window, heaved in some large rocks, and blasted them to smithereens! Oh yeah, and I also told them what happened. They were very, very exited- so exited they were making an even more terrible mess!

LUCK-Y!” shouted Nat. “I’m not going to dare tell you the things Jim’s ‘teaching’ me!”

Totally tubular,” Mark agreed, decimating a boulder in one blast from his lightning shield. “That guy’s, like, No.3½ or something on Stormer’s most wanted list.” All of us rookies know NEVER to use Stormer’s 1st name, Preston, so we always call him “Sir” or “Stormer.”

All this time we were blasting rocks all over the place. Of course, we do keep something like a broom in the corner so we could sweep it all up into Stormer’s office.

Ah, yes, happy days, happy wounds, unhappy Stormer and even unhappier us.

I snapped back to reality as Natalie and Mark were finishing a conversation. “Woah, and I thought Will had it tough with Stormer! are you saying that he actually calls you ‘honey’ now?”

Yeah. This time he’s already up to ‘fighting and dating at the same time,’” she sighed, “With him being the one I date. If I knew where his quarters were--”

Then I, with my way with electronics, could pick the lock…and Mr. Hero-of-the-the-day,” he gestured at me, “Will do the rest! What do you say, Will? Up for your greatest-and awesomest- challenge yet?” I looked at the hopeful look on Nat’s face.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Trials of Furno Part 5

Just then, one of Meltdown’s huge tentacles slammed into me. I flew headfirst into a tree… but didn’t die. Weren’t his tentacles filled with nuclear energy?

Just then I got it. the thing I was holding gave his tentacles nuclear power! I charged back toward Meltdown, more than ready for a rematch.

Meltdown was looking for me. It appeared-despite looking for me- he was not to pleased to see me. Maybe it was that I was alive? “YOU!!! I THOUGHT I’D ONLY HAVE TO KILL YOU ONCE!!! I WILL MAKE IT MORE PAINFUL THIS TIME!!! YOU


I decided I couldn’t run anymore, so I had to fight.

Of course, I had better things to do that night than dying, but if he insisted…

Flip “HEY!” BOOM! I might as well make it fun. I thought I had him when he shot a deadly ball of poison out of a weapon in his hand. It was coming too fast to dodge. I knew I had only one chance.

I shielded myself with the nuclear generator which I was still holding on. Poison

ball met nuclear generator and then… BOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!! The generator exploded; and meltdown was soaked in his own radiation. “WHAT? IMPOSSIBLE!

I HAD IT ALL PLANNED! I WAS BEATEN… BY A ROOKIE! LOOK what you’ve done! Rookie! Before I disappear from evil fame completely! help meee…. I stood, towering over a 1- hurr (1 hurr, on my planet, is 2 earth inches)-tall

mighty and merciless Meltdown.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Trials of Furno Part 4

I knew I would have to think fast and move even faster. I pretended to be frightened (which was pretty easy, given the situation) then made a seemingly desperate lunge for my weapon.

Meltdown saw me and, just as I had predicted, he started to mock me and threw the blaster away just before I could reach it. Then, just as I hadn’t calculated, he threw ME

along with it!!!!

He stomped toward me, his purpose obvious, his tentacles glowing

with nuclear energy and desire to kill. He took up my two-sided blaster, obviously

thinking it would be amusing to kill me with my own weapon. I knew there was only one way out … or else it was curtains for me--and whoever was playing on that court.

“COME ON OUT, LITTLE ROOKIE! NO HERO LIVES FOREVER! AND EVEN LESS LIVE ONCE THEY MEET…MELTDOWN, THE MIGHTY AND MERCICESS!!!!” “Say that seven times fast,” I muttered under my breath(Heroes have breath?)


MAKES ME LESS THAN NOBODY!” I grabbed my weapon and yanked sharply.

I was hoping that something would give—something being his tentacles. The good news is:

they did give. The kind-of-bad news: not exactly in the way I had hoped. The great news: It was a lot better than that! You see, I had accidentally pulled off a

funny-looking thing that looked like the world’s smallest nuclear power plant.

What could that be? I wondered.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kid of the Week

Klenda is this week's Kid of the Week! This honor has been dispensed on a rotating basis for the last year or so.

The Kid of the Week gets to plan almost all of the meals (I choose Sunday dinners), choose the week's cookies and be sous chef for the week.

Certain rules apply.

1. You can't choose a dinner that we had last week. This keeps us from eating nothing but hot dogs, pizza and macaroni and cheese.

2. Tuesdays and Fridays are meatless. Meatless Fridays are an ancient way of remembering Christ's sacrifice on the cross. We also offer up eating meat on Tuesdays for an end to abortion.

3. There needs to be one soup.

4. There needs to be at least one new recipe. The picture shows Klenda looking through Cook's Country for a new recipe this week. She picked Chicken Lo Mein.

5. Then there are the ordinary rules: always have a veggie, a starch, and a protein; don't have the same starch or meat twice in a row; plan easy meals on complicated days and so on.

The benefits to this system are several. 1. I don't have to plan all the meals. 2. Everyone gets their favorite foods from time to time. 3. No one complains about foods that aren't their favorite because they know someone else really liked it. 4. The kids are learning how to cook and plan (I actually find planning harder than cooking). 5. The Emperor and I each occasionally take a week so we get out favorite foods, too!

The one down side has been my own fault. I do have the kids plan each week, but I often am in a rush and don't have them cook with me as much as I should.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dino Fun

This week we've started a dinosaur mini unit. Dinosaurs are great for unit studies because there is so much material available! We actually started when the Adventurers saw the dinosaurs a section of the Natural History Museum.

One thing we did was draw a life sized head of a young Tyrannosaur. We put it at the top of the stairs because that's about where his head would be if he were standing at the bottom.

Would you dare turn on the light?

We've been using "fun sheets" and printables from Learning Page. If you haven't seen this site, it's amazing! Plus, it's free! For the subject of dinosaurs alone, they have about 60 worksheets per grade divided into math, language arts, and science. That's not even looking at their "fact files," teaching tips, and murals. The only down side is that they only go from kindergarten to grade 3.

All my kids have enjoyed their stuff, but Choclo went crazy for the kindergarten sheets. He kept begging me to print more! He probably did 20 of them before we ran out of time.

We also did a mural. Mxyl did the background and everyone colored and cut out dinosaurs from a coloring book I had on hand. This was fun because the kids all had stories about what each dinosaur was doing and how it died...

We had our biggest dino day on Friday. We had some friends over and did a ton of dino stuff.

We looked at examples of fossil impressions and casts, then made our own with play dough and plaster of paris. If I had to do it again, after they make the impression in the dough, I would have sprayed it with cooking spray. As it was, the dough absorbed some of the water from the plaster and got sticky and hard to wipe off. The casts still came out well. The one in the picture is a trilobite cast.

We also looked at how fossils are formed by cutting out bone shaped sponges and soaking them in super salty water. As they dry, the holes in the sponge fill up with salt crystals and turn the "bone" hard. In real fossils, of course, the holes are smaller and they fill with other minerals, but these have the advantage of being done in a few days!

The favorite activity, however, was chipping bones out of plaster "rocks" that I had prepared. The idea was to chip them out carefully with a screwdriver chisel and a hammer, but, really, is there anything more satisfying to a 5 year old boy than pounding plaster to dust with a hammer?

We've also been watching the "Walking with Dinosaurs" series. This has been really interesting. Some of it is obviously guesswork (the allosaurs showing maturity by getting red eye crests), but most of it is based on the fossil record.

My favorite part has really been the way it shows which dinosaurs lived together and what their world was like at the time. The "prequel" Walking with Monsters was especially good, as it showed how the atmosphere and temperature of the Earth changed and allowed different kinds of animals to exist.

For example, because the plants made it to land before the animals, the oxygen levels rose far above current levels, allowing the development of giant insects. Because insects don't have lungs (they have holes called spiracles that allow oxygen to diffuse directly into their circulatory system) those giant dragonflies would suffocate in today's atmosphere. There simply wouldn't be enough oxygen to support a three foot insect (and I can't say I'm sad about that).

The down side to the series is that it's a bit gory. This hasn't bothered the kids at all. But I had to wonder when the allosaurs brought down the diplodicus and Klenda helpfully urged them, "Rip open its soft underbelly!"

We also took our first trip to Dinosaur Park! It's a very rich fossil dig that's open to the public twice a month. The bad news: any fossils you find belong to the state. The good news: they don't care about lignite (tree fossils the stage before coal). We didn't actually find anything but lignite, but we found several nice large pieces of it that we were allowed to take home. We only stayed about an hour because our hands were turning blue, but I think we'll do it again in warmer weather!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy All Hallows Eve!

Oob was St. George. Ahhh, an easy costume taken entirely from the dress up bin. I knew that someday, somehow, somewhere we would do a super easy costume.
Choclo was an "Angel of God." If you aren't Catholic, that's how the Guardian Angel Prayer starts. He loved being an angel. I had intended to have Oob be an angel and Choclo St. George, but they both loved the other costume. LOL! Sometimes it all works out! This was a white robe and wings from from the dress up bin and a strand of yarn. Easy peasy!

Leena was St. Helen. She was a queen, an empress, actually. She was the mother of Emperor Constantine, the one who legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. She also found the cross Jesus died on.

Another easy costume! Mumpy found the dress, we had the cross, and I made the crown out of aluminum foil. I took a long strip and folded it to give 8 layers, then cut points, being careful to leave the tip of the points connecting so it would all stay stiff. I then crimped the back so it would fit her head.

Zorg was his much loved St. Joseph. This was the one costume I knew I would need to sew. I had a long medium brown tunic. I had a second, darker brown tunic that I thought I'd cut down the center to get an outer mantle with sleeves. This is actually the costume you see here (along with face paint and a big stick).

However, since everything was going too smoothly, I decided the two browns were too close. I looked through my stash and found a nice light brown that I thought would do well for the mantle. Two extra bonus points if you can see where this is going. I didn't until I had finished the mantle and he had put it on.

Yes! I had made the perfect Jedi Master costume! Who would look at it and see St. Joseph??? I went back to plan A. I'll put a Jedi picture at the bottom.

Klenda was St. Lucy. She was an early Roman martyr who, in Klenda's words, "loved Christ so much that when told to say she wasn't a Christian or they'd put her eyes out, refused to renounce Christ."

Traditionally, St. Lucy is pictured with her eyes on a plate. She is usually pictured with eyes in her head as well, but I could not convince Klenda that this was a workable plan. She closed her eyes for all the pictures. I also think she isn't traditionally shown telling people not to touch her "eye pad."

This was a fairly easy costume. The dress is close to the actual outfit a Roman girl would have worn, she's wearing a shirt and pants instead of a tunica, but the stola is quite accurate - a left over from our Plutarch party. Since she did the plate and eyes herself, this was an easy one for me!

This is Mxyl's last year dressing up and he went with St. Michael.

A very buff St. Michael!

We got the tunic at the thrift store, ripped out the arms and stuffed a turtleneck to give him big muscles. The belt was his. The wings and sword were from the dress up bin.

Our angels together!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Adventurers and Lil Adventurers Part 2

Last week it was the Washington Monument. I had never been there, and it was really neat. Well worth getting tickets. The tickets are free, but there's a $1 a ticket charge to get them online instead of getting in line for them at 8 am. Well worth it, IMHO! We also went on to a brief visit at the WWII Memorial. This was a new monument to me and all I can say is that it was amazing in a way that the pictures don't capture. I thought it would be nice, but it was fabulous. Also, Choclo thought the fountains were a birthday cake.

This week it was the Archives. I knew from last year that this would not be a great place for Choclo and Oob: dimly lit documents are not their thing! They have so much stuff for older kids, though, the other Adventurers loved it! They got a mini course in geneaology and how to research primary documents. Looking at it, that doesn't sound fun, but every kid was riveted. You can access a lot of it at their Digital Vaults.

I knew better than to take Choclo and Oob to the Archives, so how did this work? My Shotgun Buddy took the Adventurers and I took the Lil Adventurers. Specifically, I took them to stomp in puddles on the National Mall. It was a day of intermittent torrential rain. I had enough foresight to put the Lil guys in rain gear and to wear my big Wellies.

The National Mall is grass surrounded by coarse sand paths, and the the big sandy puddles made quite a fascinating sensory experience.

The Lil guys got wetter than fish (and some odd looks), but had a wonderful time!

We also took a detour through the sculpture gardens and stopped to smell the flowers.

Providence was kind enough to have it not rain the entire two hours we were there. About the time we all met back at Blue Streak, the first drops were falling again, and it very shortly became a downpour fierce enough that you couldn't hear anything except the rain pounding on the car. A perfect day!