Thursday, March 31, 2011

Novena to the Holy Spirit

Mxyl will be confirmed on April 8th (He's taking the Confirmation name of Michael)! We are going to do this novena to the Holy Spirit for him starting today, and we'd like to invite you to join us in prayer.

You don't have to say the whole novena, of course, any prayers would be appreciated!

We are saying the following prayer each day:

O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, please grant the same Holy Spirit to us that He may perfect in our souls, the work of Your grace and Your love.

Grant us the Spirit of Wisdom that we may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal,

the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten our minds with the light of Your divine truth,

the Spirit of Counsel that we may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven,

the Spirit of Fortitude that we may bear our cross with You and that we may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose our salvation,

the Spirit of Knowledge that we may know God and know ourselves and grow perfect in the science of the Saints,

the Spirit of Piety that we may find the service of God sweet and amiable,

and the Spirit of Fear that we may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him.

Mark us, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate us in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.

Thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blossoming Adventure

Our adventure this week: the Cherry Blossom Festival!

We hit the blossoms perfectly at peak for the second year in a row!

Last year was 20 degrees warmer, sunny, and very crowded. This year, we dressed warmly, had less blue sky, and had the place to ourselves!

I guess not completely to ourselves, but, really, not crowded at all.

We took the free shuttle from Hains Point (free parking!) to the Jefferson Memorial, and then walked around the Tidal Basin.

The plan had been to go to the FDR Memorial and maybe even the Lincoln if the shuttle went that far. As it was, the shuttle went only as far as the Jefferson.

That worked out fine. We spent more time enjoying the trees and the monuments at a distance. Really beautiful!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gospel Dessert Week 3

This week's Gospel was "the woman at the well."

Easy peasy!

We did blue jello for the water and built a rice crispy treat "well" around the water.

Angel came over for a visit, bearing gifts of chocolate from her recent trip to Switzerland. One bite made very clear why our Swiss friend had no interest in any local chocolate when he was visiting the US...

We used it to decorate our well, of course, and the whole thing came out rather... well!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Am I lthe last person on the planet to have discovered Pingu?

It's a Swedish thing that is right where Choclo is at right now. I like it because Pingu (the boy penguin) is always trying to help, and he takes such great care of Pinga, his little sister. My favorite clip is this one, when he tries to cure Pinga's hiccups:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bathroom Update

Watching things being torn out was fun, but watching them build it back in again has been amazing!

We are using the same construction company that put the top floor on our house, and one of the things that I love most about them is that they are very kid friendly. They don't mind the kids hanging around and asking questions!

Also they do great work on a budget and on time!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Our Toadstool Business is Mushrooming!

At least, that's what Klenda keeps telling me....

Seriously, I think the size doubles every day. Next time I want to measure them and graph it!

We are planning to eat them tonight before we are overrun!

UPDATE: They about doubled from the last picture! We ate them in a stir fry of thin sliced beef, loads of asparagus, and cashews (sauce: soy sauce, honey, grated garlic and ginger, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, water and cornstarch). Yum! Definitely the best mushrooms I've had!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rocking Along

Science Class this week was all about rocks. This was a case where I waaaay overestimated my time. I started out talking about the three main kinds of rock: sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous.

As it happens, on one of our many forays hunting fossils near Calvert Cliffs, we happened upon a recent chunk of fallen cliff that was loaded with the impression of fossil shells. The most interesting thing about it was that the hunk-o-cliff was not actually rock, but compressed sediment. Clearly it was turning into rock, but it could be easily crumpled with your hand.

That's the tan chunk in the middle.

On another trip, we found a chunk-o-something that looks like shells stuck in cement. Except, it's not cement! It's a harder layer of sedimentary rock "under construction!" Interestingly, these shells do not appear to be fossilized, whereas the impressions in the softer "compressed sediment" are completely dissolved away.

We actually have a lot of sedimentary rock in our collection - almost all fossils are in sedimentary rock. Most of the rest of the collection is igneous Oooooh! Pretty crystals!).

This is where I kind of lost the class. I had radically underestimated how long the kids would want to look at the rocks.

This is one of our four containers for small rocks...

Basically, I should have turned them loose with magnifying glasses and the rock collection and left them for half an hour, and then spent the next class explaining what they had seen.

What I actually did, was move on to the rock cycle. This was a great idea I lifted from the internet somewhere..

The kids each choose a crayon. Working in teams of 2 younger kids and one older Zoomlian, the Zoomlian shaved the crayons with a sharp knife onto a sheet of double thick foil.

When they had enough shavings, the kids pinched them together. The shavings stuck together loosely, and you could see the individual shavings, kind of like sedimentary rock.

We folded up the foil and the kids hammered on it. This pressure caused the shavings to really stick together and merge a little, kind of like metamorphic rock.

Then we heated the foil packets a little on the stove (you could also do it over a candle) and then cooled them in the freezer. Of course, the shavings melted together and formed a solid, homogeneous whole like igneous rock!

UPDATE: I found the experiment on this video:

And then we were ten minutes over time....

So, next week we'll set up a ton of crystallization experiments and make our own "pumice."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fun Guys

So, out of the blue, Leena asked me, "Mom, can we grow mushrooms?"

Sure, why not! We found a mushroom kit here.

Our first try didn't work.

I had noticed, when the kit arrived, that the box was a little damp, but I didn't think much about it. As it turned out, something had been amiss with the packaging and our kit got contaminated with mold during transit.

We actually grew a fine carpet of green mold . We decided it was not edible.

I gave the company a call and they sent us a new kit.

Fungi perfecto! This one took off and is growing like crazy!

The top picture shows the primordia (baby mushrooms) just starting to form. The next picture was taken the next day, and the last picture was the third day!

So cool! There's a fungus among us!

We'll keep you posted...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gospel Dessert Week 2

It's the Transfiguration!

This week's glorious mountainous dessert was done entirely by Klenda. It's actually a cake sculpted to look like a mountain and covered with whipped topping!

Yum! Yum!

Let's see, so far this Lent we have had jello for our class, filled cupcakes on St. Patrick's day, cream puffs on St. Joseph's day, and our two Gospel Desserts.

Ummm. We'll start fasting from sweets for Lent really soon now!!

Spring Hike

What is perfect hiking weather in Maryland? A warm day in March - before the ticks come out!

We love Greenbelt Park - it's actually a national park close to our house.

It's got great hiking trails and campsites. We really love it! It's amazing to be so close to a city and have so much wilderness.

It also has so many ticks that each trail head has a bulletin board that asks you to fill out a survey regarding how many ticks you found (on you) and the extent of any illness you have contracted from them.

We only hike there from November to March, unless you count our camping expedition.

But we had a fabulous time on Friday!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Up in Arm

Mxyl put together this fine robot arm from what looked (to me) like a box of appallingly small and random plastic and metal parts.
It works!

The perfect tool for eating popcorn!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Best New Word Ever

Choclo burst into the kitchen as I was making dinner. "Mom! Mom! There are... there are... in the yard, there are... flitterbutters!" He tugged on my hand, urgently.

How important is dinner compared to seeing flitterbutters? I went outside with him and he showed me:

"They're all...buttery."

Hard to argue with that!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Earthquake and Tsunami Class

This is actually the class that was postponed from last week. All I can say is that the events in Japan last Friday certainly altered the context of the class.

We started out reviewing the kinds of faults (slip dip and slip strike) and talked about what happened in Japan. Do you know that the Japan moved eight feet? The tectonic plate moved 59 feet! The axis of the Earth shifted by 4 inches! The tsunami reached 6 miles inland at some points! It's hard to grasp an event of that magnitude.

We talked about the Richter scale, and how logarithmic scales work (a 5 is 10 times larger than a 4, a 6 is ten times larger than the 5, etc.). The Japanese quake was at least an 8.9, and the Japanese geologists are now saying it was a 9.0.

I told the kids that all energy moves in waves. We talked a little about light waves, ocean waves and seismic waves. I had them close their eyes while I jumped on the floor (they were sitting on the floor) so they could feel the waves of energy. Then we went over to my "Spidey-Sense Seismograph."

This was fun! It's just a weighted pencil hanging from a shoebox. I pulled a paper strip through to show a (more or less) straight line. Then I had all the kids pound on the table while I drew it through again. Wow! This worked much better than the trial run when I had only one kid pounding on the table! It looked like a real seismograph printout!

We then took a large non-stick frying pan of water (the dark color helped) and the kids took turns tapping the water and watching the waves move around the pan. Then we put a glass bottle in the center so that they could see the waves separate and break around it. This is how scientists learned the Earth's core is solid. I showed them that an earthquake on the rim of the pan would send out waves to two locations on the other side of the Earth, but not directly across the Earth because the inner core is solid.

The we looked at a process known as soil liquefaction. This happens during earthquakes when the water table is high. We filled a plastic box with dry sand. I put my "building," a glass bottle of water deep into the sand. First they shook the dry sand, and the bottle fell over. Then we moistened the sand and the bottle was locked in place (no amount of shaking dislodged it). Then we added more water. To the kids' surprise, the bottle fell over with only slight shaking! The waterlogged sand acted as a fluid when it was moved.

Then we headed outside. I had several containers of water with wooden blocks. The kids could move blocks under the water to see what happened to the water surface (it mirrors the disruption below the surface exactly as the ocean does when a tsunami is formed).

The favorite outside experiment was the tsunami model. I used a plastic under bed box for this. I put a pile of sand on one end and a board on the other. Then I filled the whole thing half full of water. The kids stuck sticks into the sand to represent houses and then counted down... Mxyl lifted the board on cue and we had a perfect small tsunami!

Then it was back inside for the grand finale.

I had made a very large and fairly deep tray of jello. I put a layer of plastic wrap over it and let the kids pat it to make "earthquakes." The thing about jello is that you can actually see the lines of force, the energy waves, as they move through.

Klenda handed out three sugar cubes to each kid and they all built "houses" on the jello. They counted down and... I patted the jello vigorously! Earthquake!!! This is the "after" shot.

And then we peeled off the plastic and ate the jello, of course!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Pi Day

We made two pies: cherry crumb and blueberry cheesecake swirl. Why those two? I had two cans of pie filling, I wanted to be done by 1:59, and I didn't feel up to lugging the 50 lb bag of pastry flour out of the pantry so I could make a real crust.

But they worked out fine, anyway! We didn't eat them at 1:59, but we did spend that time measuring and calculating! Mxyl and Klenda used decimals and Zorg used fractions (3 1/7 is pretty close to pi).

We figured out the area and circumference of the whole pies, as well as how many square inches the pieces would be if we cut the pie in eights or twelfths.

In case you are curious, a 10" pie cut in eighths will be about 10 square inches per piece!

My plan was to cut one pie in eighths and the other in twelfths to do fractions with Leena, but I never made it that far.

Instead, while we were eating the pies (after dinner) we made pie charts showing how much of each pie was being eaten and what our favorite pies were. I did a bar gragh too, to show how different information can be shown in different forms, but, really, the bar graphs can wait til Easter. Everyone knows that pie charts are for pie, and bar graphs are for chocolate!

Photo Credit: Pixels by Mxyl

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Pi Day!

It's 3/14. At 1:59 pm, it will be 3.14159. Time to eat pi!

I almost missed it! Thank you Diane over at Clickschooling!

If you don't get her stuff, you should because she sends out (by e mail) a different free educational website of note each day - and it's an absolutely free service! Plus she has an amazing archive of everything. Plus a monthly calender of interesting things. Plus, did I mention, it's free?

Anyway, we'll be ditching our afternoon plans in favor of making and eating pie and computing circumferences and areas.

I wonder how many square inches of pie I can eat? I know it's Lent, and all, but this is strictly for educational purposes. Ahem.


One of the great joys of having lots of kids is watching how they play with each other, and one of the joys of home schooling is that the kids have more time to play.

Sometimes the older kids play, sometimes the girls get together, sometimes older ones want to play with younger ones.

I looked out the window yesterday and found Leena trundling Oob about in the lawn cart.

I never found out if they were pretending it was a baby carriage or if she was just giving him a ride.

It was a good reminder to me, when I'm thinking about our schedule: keep some unstructured time!