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!