Thursday, July 29, 2010


In fact, the wrongest thing we've ever seen involving cows. HT: My friend Bill.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We had a great vacation! Every morning at the crack of dawn, Oob would wake us up and get us out of bed.

Off we would go to the beach (a block and a half walk).

We spent a lot of time chasing waves, looking for shells and digging.

This was the first year we had three confident swimmers, and they had a marvelous time!

Choclo loved to play in the waves.

Oob preferred digging in the big sand box, but he liked the water if the Emperor played with him!

Leena and Klenda were mermaids.

We found lots of shells and a very strong jetty. (Why so strong? It was covered with mussels...)

We also had a great time at the beach house.

We had brought the Eyeclops (a portable microscope that plugs into a TV), and we looked at all the shells and sand and other things we found at the beach.

We did a few experiments, mostly looking at sand and shells reacting to vinegar. We determined that most of the sand was composed of rock.

I had hoped to do a bunch of stuff with seaweed (we had found 5 kinds of seaweed at this beach last year), but we couldn't find any!

I had wanted to see if we could find plankton, but we never got the Eyeclops and the seawater together while it was fresh.

I did bring back some sea water to do density and salinity experiments, but I haven't gotten to it yet...

Thursday, we visited this very cool shipwreck museum on Fenwick Island and ended up talking to the owner, Dale Clifton. As it turned out, he was the one who had actually collected all the stuff we were looking at!

He let us hold a fork he'd recovered from the Titanic and a gold chain made for the Queen of Spain in the early 1600s. After we had all held it, he casually mentioned that the chain was worth three quarters of a million dollars. Wow!

The museum is a fantastic set up that really shows the history and the science behind the treasure seeking. I loved this quote describing his first find (from his website) "I picked up the small, blackened disc from the sand and gently rubbed at its surface. There looking back at me was the image of King George III of England. I had found my first treasure - the stuff dreams are made of! To actually hold in my hand one of these legendary coins and know that the last person to touch it had died over 195 years ago, on a stormy night on September 1, 1785, was an extraordinary feeling. This was truly a gift from the sea."

We also got some new shells for our museum while we were there (the museum is on the top floor of Sea Shell City), as well as a nice big (dried) porcupine fish.

We did a few other nice things: we visited a Japanese steak house.

And we built (and demolished) a gingerbread house!

Mostly we relaxed. We spent a lot of time comfortably doing nothing in particular. We enjoyed our Grammy and each other.

It was the perfect vacation!

Monday, July 26, 2010


We got a ton of books and videos from the library. I highly recommend Oceans for Every Kid. In fact, I want to look into that series. We also were looking at these websites:
games and activities , more games, more activities, and short videos.

We took out the Big Roll of Paper and made a vertical mural showing the zones of the ocean and a horizontal one showing food webs. I think that last one could be summarized as, "Everyone finds small squid tasty."

Researching the zones we discovered these interesting facts. There are 5 basic zones: sunlit (surface to 200 meters), twilight (200 to 1500 meters), midnight (1500 to 4000 meters), abyss (4000 to 6000 meters) and hadral or trench (6000 to 11000 meters). Some people roll the bottom 3 together and just call it midnight because there isn't any light from the sun there.

Here's the neat part: 90% of the water in the ocean is in those bottom 3 zones (1500 to 11000 meters) BUT plants can only survive in the sunlit zone, so 90% of the life in the sea is in those top 200 meters! If you take a look, that's 90% of the life in something less than 2% of the water! If this poster were to scale, the trench zone (shown as a dark line on the bottom) would be on the basement floor.

A submarine became necessary. We just cut it out of cardboard and spray painted it.

We also made fish balloons and hung them from the ceiling. My favorite was the angler fish (which deflated before I got a picture), but the squid attacking the eel was a close second.

Happy Birthday, Mxyl! Part 3

First he had a party with family. He ended up with a lot of new robots!

And then he had a Lego/robot party with friends.


He had a great birthday!

I have to say, I thought I was ready for him to be a teenager. I am, mostly. But then I realize that in five years, he'll be 18. And then he needs new shoes. And his shoe size is just half a size smaller than the Emperor's. And he's taller than two of his aunts. Wow!

The childhood of my first child is done: he's an adolescent now. It's poignant. Mostly I feel very blessed. Mxyl was such a sweet baby and such a great kid, I enjoyed his childhood so much! And he's such a neat kid now, and I see him turning into such an interesting adult - someone I would be glad to know.

When people warned me about having teenagers, mostly I thought they were talking about bad behavior - growing pains. I presume that's mostly ahead, to whatever degree it will be. This, they don't talk about as much.

I have been, all this time, trying to live in the present and enjoy my kids as they are now, yet looking ahead to what I want for them as adults. I want him to be who God created him to be: holy, kind, strong, faithful, brave, thoughtful... The Scout Law, sums it up well, actually! I want him to be able to do whatever God calls him to. I want him to be capable of strong and loving relationships with God and others.

Now, as he turns 13, I can see all that in him. He's on the path that God has given him, and I am both grateful and a little amazed that God used me to help make Mxyl.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mxyl! Part 2

The second day of the trip was spent at the National Aviary. You would think this would be anticlimactic after the robot museum. It wasn't.

Here we have Mxyl feeding a seagull a meatball on a stick. Did you know that gulls are raptors?

Here he is feeding a Lorrie, possibly the cutest bird to feed. It knocks the nectar out of the cup with it's beak and then licks the droplets off your arm. It tickles.

Here's Mxyl in the penguin exhibit.

And here he is playing with a penguin. For a fee, you can be part of a small group (not more than 6 people counting your parent or guardian) who plays with a penguin. It's like Dances With Wolves, but better: Plays With Penguins.

Evidently they behave surprisingly like cats.

And then, of course, they came home and we had a birthday party!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mxyl! Part 1

We have a teenager!

In what we hope will be a tradition, we used the milestone to take a special parent and child trip.

Mxyl picked... Pittsburgh!

Why Pittsburgh? It has the second largest robot museum in the world (the biggest is in Japan, a bit over budget)!

It was very cool!

He got picked to demonstrate stuff.

Plus he got to jump on a giant trampoline! That's a safety harness that he's strapped into.

Did I mention it was cool?
And that was just day one!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sarcastic Fringeheads

We are doing an ocean themed mini unit right now. Pictures and details later, but for now, enjoy this:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Annual Post Mortem

I actually haven't done much with US History besides collect great books from the library. The fact is, my brain stuck in relax mode. I think I kinda maxed out last year with too many evening commitments.

Everything was good and important: teaching CCD, Dominicans, DJM, another DJM group, Scouts/Girls' Nights, and working every co-op Wednesday. The thing is, I'm an introvert and it was all energy being expended. Add to that some family health crises and I overloaded the system a bit. As in, gee, we have TWO free evenings this month, isn't that great?

I did some great stuff with the kids last year, but I didn't have the energy and creativity I wanted to have. And I had very little social life!

We also went more places and did more stuff than we ever have (field trips and stuff) and I think that was great. There have been a lot of years where I wasn't able to do that because of pregnancy or tiny ones, so I think it was the right year for that.


I've cut back a bit: cut out teaching CCD, cut back on co-op (only 20 weeks this year), cut back on DJM, cut back on teaching Dominican Novitiate, and my term as moderator of my Dominican chapter ends this year. And no one in my entire family will have any health crises. (Hope that works!) And I'm going to vegetate this summer and not feel guilty.

So far this summer, we haven't done too much relaxing. The first two weeks were the obligatory doctor and dentist appointments plus the camping extravaganza and the retreat and house guest.

I noticed that when that was over, I did not spring into action and clean the back basement. Or teach the kids Spanish. Or whip myself into shape with a fabulous exercise routine. In fact, I wasn't really in the mood to do anything I had planned to get done this summer.

I took it to prayer and felt God was telling me to rest and recover. It was like He took me back through the year. I suddenly remembered that last Fall, I thought my Dad wouldn't be here for Christmas. I saw all the meetings and teachings and all the great stuff that came out of that. I saw all the medical stuff with my kids, and all the trips we took and things we did. All the birthdays and anniversaries. All the swim lessons (we got a membership to an indoor pool and did 3 sets of swim lessons back to back September through March) and the oldest three finally swimming independently.

You know, it's a lot. It's enough. I think the back basement will still be there in September when I am ready for action again.

This summer I'm going to focus on resting in the Lord and enjoying my family.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Note to Self

Next time you redesign the blog, do it without the 3 and 5 year olds.

Zoom's Got Talent

We ended up doing one of our rare fast food meals this week. We splurged on Wendy's (I actually think their bacon and Blue cheese burger tastes like food). The kid's meals came with toys based on America's Got Talent, not something I would usually be a big fan of. The cool thing was, they were giving the kids props and suggesting they put on their own talent show!

Well, the Zoomlians need very little encouragement...

Marty the Moustache Man wowed the crowd with his saxazoo !

Glasses Gal kept us in stitches with her jokes!

Ms. Amazo performed daring feats of skill and strength!

And everyone appeared from the Magic Box!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Camping, Round 2

I knew beyond any shadow of doubt what the girls' reaction was going to be when I told them that Daddy and both of the older boys were going camping for the weekend, so I decided to head it off with the announcement that I would be taking the girls camping when the boys got home.

There were only four small problems with this strategy.
1. I've never been camping and I'm a bit hazy on the details.
2. We were incredibly busy that week.
3. The campground was infested with Lyme disease bearing ticks (as in, we knew two people who had gotten Lyme here).
4. It was 98 degrees.

The solution to #1 was to be my usual foolhardy and overconfident self (how hard could it be?).
The solution to #2 was to set up the tent in the afternoon, come back home to do Grammy's birthday party and then return to camp in the evening.
The solution to #3 was to spray our clothes and tent with permethrin and apply DEET at high concentration over the rest of us. We also hiked along the paved roads instead of the woods. We also prayed! We got this strategy here. It worked! Even though we saw three ticks while setting up the tent, we didn't get any on us!
As to #4, we got hot and sweaty, but it cooled off some overnight.

We actually had a very nice time. Keeping it to one overnight was key (unless I can learn to build a better fire). But we hiked, talked, played games, sang, cooked, roasted marshmallows and ate S'Mores. I think that was the extent of our "Things to Do While Camping" checklist, so we were all quite satisfied.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Camping, Round 1

Round 1 was the Boy Scout Camp and Fish and Hike and Do Cool Stuff Extravaganza. This was Zorg and the Emperor's first time doing the scout camping thing. I should be clear that this was all over one weekend, the actual week long camp will be in August!

I should also point out that I didn't go, so my commentary is second hand (or perhaps third rate!).

They camped out by the fish ponds and boated and fished.
Despite their best efforts, no one fell in!

They then cleaned, cooked and ate their catch.

They also did quite a bit of fun hiking - scrambling over rocks and stuff. They found this interesting plant. We looked it up and discovered that it is Indian Pipe (AKA Corpse Plant!). This is amazing (Biology Geek Alert)! It has no clorophyll! It's a parasite on a particular fungus and tree symbiote!

They also found this recently used turtle nest. Those white scraps near the hole are the egg shells. It's a bit weird to call them shells when they are more leathery, but there you are.

They also made a side trip to an Amish farm. The Amish boy in the picture was raising an abandoned fawn and let Mxyl and Zorg pet it. How fun is that?