Monday, October 31, 2011


 Before we get to the promised pumpkins, I would just like to say that the spider webs, after a few weeks of wind and rain, just keep getting creepier...

Now, on to the pumpkins!

Half the Zoomlians tried something new. 

This kind of carving just scrapes the surface of the pumpkin.  You swab it with bleach, let it dry, and then paint it with glow in the dark paint.

Nicely creepy!  I had a a hard time getting a picture of the glow, however.

The manga pumpkin is Leena's. Zorg's has giant eyes, and Klenda made the ghost.

The other Zoomlian's took the classic approach.

Aided by some spiffy LED lights, we have Mxyl's Super Pumpkin, Choclo's Punky Pumpkin, and Oob's Freaky Pumpkin With Lot's of Pointy Teeth.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why We Learned to Read

So we can spend large amounts of time sprawled on Mom and Dad's bed, reading comics.

Please note that Mxyl additionally spent a great deal of time (and his own money) getting PJs that clash quite so supremely!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Cupcakes

 Also for Scary Movie Night, we made cupcakes.  After looking at all the great ideas on the web, everyone had a different idea of the ideal Halloween cupcake.

No problem!  Each of the older kids got six cupcakes to decorate.

Here you see Zorg making his "Eyeball Surprise."

Were you surprised?

And here we have Leena's "Brains."

Or maybe, Brrrainz!

 And Klenda's spider webs.  I really like her spiders, cut from licorice.

And last, but not least, Mxyl's graveyards.  The tombstones are Oreos, the ghosts are peeps and the pumpkins are the same kind we use on the number line.

Yum!  Yum!  It's hard to wait for the party!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


 Tonight is Scary Movie Night!  This is an annual event with the scout troop, and this will be the second year it's been held at our house (this year's scary movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark).

This is the first time Mxyl has been a patrol leader (troops are broken down into smaller patrols).  His troop has two patrols, the Bats, and the Biohazards.

Can you tell which patrol Mxyl and Zorg are in?

Can you guess who came up with the idea of having Biohazard patrol?

The third (honorary) Biohazard is Klenda, naturally.

Considering the costume, maybe we should say, "unnaturally..."

At any rate, the costumes were easy peasy and will look great under black light!

They are painters coveralls (less than $10 at Home Depot), randomly splotched with fluorescent green and yellow spray paint.

Oh yes, we did masks and gloves, some of which we had, but that still kept the total (per costume) under $10.

For the biohazard symbol, I had to look it up on the internet.  I traced half of it on piece of paper (held up to the monitor) so that I could make it as large as possible.

Then I laid the half symbol on a folded, larger piece of paper (mine was a store circular done on stiff paper) and cut away the symbol on the folded side.  It opened into a stencil that I used with black spray paint on the kids.

Did I mention that all spraying was done with the kids wearing the costume?  Naturally, since they were wearing painter's coveralls and masks,  they were completely  protected from paint.  I, of course, was not...

Why does this never occur to me until after the fact?

On the plus side, these costumes actually are (except for shoe covers and eye protection) fully functioning biohazard suits for most biological contaminants...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Family Fun Night

We went out to Holy Redeemer's Family Fun Night and were greatly surprised....

All the cool carnival games, face painting and balloon animals were free!

We had a great time, especially with the big bouncy obstacle course and the big clown (on stilts) who made balloon sculptures for the kids.

Mxyl and Zorg were there to support the Scouts by selling popcorn, but they had plenty of time to try all the games, too.

Thank you Holy Redeemer!  In this economy we would have had to ration the fun.  It was really nice to just let the kids do everything they wanted.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Seven Quick Takes: Pumpkins and stuff

1.  The Zoomlians have painted their pumpkins!

Going from left to right are the Zoomlian's pumpkins in order (note the glow-in-the-dark insane asylum picture).  Klenda has a headless horseman asking, "Have you seen my head?"

We actually paint our pumpkins as soon as we get them (to keep them from being stolen by people who think we can spare a few pumpkins), but we will also carve them closer to Halloween.

2.  We have also decorated the house!
We used glow-in-the-dark spider webs, old tree branches and the unforgettable insane asylum sign that I mentioned earlier.

3.  Three of the Zoomlians have been getting piano lessons!  Our friend, Star (who will be staying with us for a few years when she gets her Master's degree), has agreed to give free piano lessons!  Klenda, Zorg and Leena can now play beautifully. No kidding!  Like Bach and Pop Goes the Weasel, and stuff.

4.  We skipped our adventure this week (we were supposed to visit the Museum of Natural History), and will go next week instead.  We actually skipped because other people in our group were sick, but it was nice to have a relaxed day at home, especially since it was cold and rainy..    We puttered around and got lots of little projects done.  Plus I introduced the kids to the Addams Family! (Warning: this clip is an entire show, some 20 minutes long)

5.  We've had a lot of beautiful days and long walks picking up leaves.
What to do with all those leaves?  A leaf tree, of course!

The trunk is a paper bag or construction paper, and the leaves are taped to the wall.  Eventually, we'll tape leaves "falling" from the tree and a "leaf pile" near the floor. 

It's a nice way to do leaf identification, too.

6. We continue our assault on the 75 pounds of apples!  I think we only have 20 apples left.

The score thus far:
Apple Pies: 4, Applesauce: 2 qts, Apple Butter: 10 pts, Apple Dippers: 15 apples, Apple Fritters: 3 large piles, Apples Randomly Eaten: 25, Apples Given Away: 10,

I'll be glad when we can finish the apples so I can start on the 30 lbs of squashes.  Mmmmm.  More pie....

7.  And back to the pumpkins:  On Winblog (a property of Failblog) we found out exactly how creative with pumpkins you could get.  I mean, honestly, who wouldn't want a Doctor Who pumpkin?

Or a pumpkin based on the ring from Tolkien's classic, for that matter?

One based on a cannibal would be less appealing, but nevertheless it it very original.

 See what I mean?

Mxyl, on the other hand, says, "When I get better at pumpkin carving, I so totally want to carve one that looks just like THAT!"

Um... Link from Legend of Zelda?

 And no, none of these are Photoshopped.

NOTE: Failblog and Winblog aren't always G-rated (not even "G-rated Failblog", which is more PG--PG-13) so it's best to do it when you just feel like sitting back and relaxing when all of the kids are in bed.

And thanks to Mxyl, my co-blogger on this post!  More with Conversion Diary!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Didn't We Have Some Short People Around Here?

 It's high time we had a post about them!

Choclo and Oob are having a splendid school year.  Anything either of them can do, the other wants to do (better).  This makes for amazing progress...

Choclo is on the very last of the last (fifth) box of Bob Books.  Hooray, Choclo!  He has also started reading everything he sees.  The other day we were driving on the highway and every time we passed an exit sign, he would announce it with a cheerful, "EggggZIT!"

I had no idea there were that many exits, let alone that each one was marked by two or three signs...

Oob is in the middle of the second box of Bob Books, and has just shifted from sounding the letters individually to saying the sounds slowly together.  Go Oob!

Both boys are adding and subtracting, but with varying degrees of reliability.  I took out the chalk and a bag of mellocreme pumpkins and we headed for the driveway.  The key here is to make a number line with the space between numbers about the size of the kid's stride.

We started with just the number line and I waited while they ran up and down on it, counting forward and backward (it's actually faster to let them get that out of their system and then try your lesson - if they never finish, they weren't ready for your lesson but they still learned). 

Then I showed them my bag of pumkins and asked how many pumpkins they had. 

Zero.  Right!

Then I asked, if I gave them four pumpkins (place four pumpkins, one on each spot on the number line, counting aloud), how many would they have?

Four.  Right! Zero plus four is four!

But if they came along and ate two pumpkins (they each eat one) how many would you have?

Two. Right! Four pumpkins take away two pumpkins is two pumpkins!

Continue until they are sick, you are tired, or both.

Actually, as I did numbers that were larger than I wanted them to eat, I had a "big pumpkin eating monster" gobble up large numbers of pumpkins (I put them in my pocket and belched loudly). 

The big trick is, whether you are picking them up or putting them down, count the pumpkins as you move them, then restate the question conventionally: 11 pumpkins take away 7 pumpkins are 4 pumpkins!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I've been making jam, and lots of it!  I love to make jam this time of year, and I often give it as Christmas presents.

From left to right, we have apple butter, pear ginger, peach mint, wine jelly, and ginger jam (who could that be for?!).

If anyone is interested in recipes, leave a question in the comments. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Off for More Adventures

 Last Wednesday (in my continuing attempt to catch up with my life!), we went off on a quick trip to the World War II Memorial.  This was really lovely, and a great reminder of all the stuff we finished last month.  Best of all, we got to see and thank lots of actual WWII vets.

Suddenly, I realized: when I was a kid, I saw WWI vets, and now they are all gone.  I told the kids to thank the WWII vets now, because, by the time you are grown, they will belong to God and history.

The WWII Memorial was actually a bit of a side trip while waiting to visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  This was a great tour! 

They were printing hundred dollar bills while we were there, so we saw tens of millions of dollars!  This picture (from the web) shows "bricks" of ones.  The bricks we saw were $400,000 each... more than a house!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

US History: the Something 70s

And weren't the 70s something?  I ask you, just take a look at that collar! (DISCLAIMER: I was born in 1970).

Kid: I'm really looking forward to this decade.

Me: Why?

Kid: Disco!

Me: (stunned incomprehension).

So we watched excerpts of Saturday Night Fever on You Tube.  The things I will do for education!!! And, yes, you can thank me for not posting it.

Doing these more recent decades has been interesting.  On the one hand, they aren't in any history books suitable for kids (that I could find).  On the other hand, we have tons of primary sources floating around (and I believe that is the most dignified thing ever to have been said about Saturday Night Fever - it's a primary source!).  I actually found Wikipedia to be the best comprehensive source.

What else besides disco?  More Cold War, of course!  And the energy crisis (which seems to me the beginning of today's environmental movement), the Iranian hostage crisis, more Women's Lib, Sesame Street, a string of bad Disney movies, Skylab, the eradication of smallpox (my brother, a year older than I, was among the last to be vaccinated),  the Walkman, the beginnings of VCRs, personal computers, and microwave ovens (although my family had none of these until the 80s), the rise of women in the workplace, crock pots, latchkey kids, no-fault divorce, and even more societal change!

Oh, and I missed bell bottoms, VW beetles, and plaid shirts.
UPDATED:  I don't mean I MISS these things, just that I forgot to talk about them in the unit, despite the fact that they are among the things I remember the most clearly from that decade...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

US History: the Swinging 60s

Now I'm playing catch up!  We actually finished the 60s a while ago.

Let's see: the Space Race, Civil Rights, Women's Lib, computers, Bay of Pigs, Vietnam War, anti-war protests, the Kennedy Assassination, the moon landing, the first video game, social revolution, the Cold War.

Did I miss anything?

Oh, yes!  Star Trek!

And the hippies and the rise of "free love" and the drug culture. And LOTS of music!!

We listened to everything from the Grateful Dead to the Kinks, but, believe it or not, the kids favorite was the Beach Boys!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Found my Camera!

I had left it at Larriland when we went apple picking!  Here are the lost pictures.

We actually found this little fellow in the front yard.  Praying mantises are Choclo's favorite insects, so he was delighted when it crawled on his pants. 

Eventually, it jumped off and Mxyl picked it up.  It crawled slowly up his hand, which was very cool.  Then it gave a spring and climbed rapidly up his arm towards his neck, which was much less cool!

He (the mantis) flew off into the garden.

Here we have kids picking apples

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Million Roses for the World

I thought this was really cool!  The Family Rosary Crusade of the Phillipines  is sponsoring this thing where they are getting a million people (in the Philippines, but I want to do it, too!) to say the Rosary every day for 200 days, with each day being for a different country with the ultimate goal being world peace.

I heard about it in Zenit and the eLumen (Dominican newsletter), but I had a hard time tracking down which country was which day.  That information (and the website) is here.

To reach the individual countries, click on the region (e.g. they are starting in Africa, so click "Africa" to get the country list - it looks like they are doing everything alphabetically).  I think that the countries go Monday through Saturday and Sundays are set up to pray for your own country and for your family.

I'm thinking this would be a great ongoing Geography lesson.  We could do a little Wikipedia session on each country as well as finding it on the globe.  UPDATE: If you click on the country names, it gives you the flag and a bunch of information about the country (including what problems you may be praying for).

If you aren't Catholic, it would still be great to be united in prayer for peace with that many people.  I'm sure you could just pray for each country on that day.

If you'd like to say the Rosary but are hazy on the details, you can find it here.  The usual would be 5 decades (one set of mysteries - this usually takes about 20 minutes) a day, but you could certainly do more or less.

It is starting October 10th, just after the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and ends May 30th on the feast of Mary, Queen of all Nations.  Wow!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Apple Crazy

The score for Larriland Farms:  Apples,75 lbs, Broccoli, 10 lbs, Beets, 10 lbs, Pumpkins,  100 lbs, Bizarre but Tasty Squashes, 30 lbs, Funny looking Gourds, 2 lbs

 Our Score (thus far): Broccoli Salad: 1, Beet Greens: 1, Apple Pies: 2 (although the pi pie should count as two), Applesauce: 2 qts, Apple Butter: 10 pts, Apple Dippers: 8 apples, Apples Randomly Eaten: 15, Apples Given Away: 10,

Apples to Go: 50