Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Epic Thanksgiving Part 2

 We had a great Thanksgiving dinner with smoked turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries, salad and... soda!

Soda is a fairly rare treat for the Zoomlians (maybe once or twice a month), but I was still surprised when I found these pictures on the camera.

 Klenda built a domino house, then amused herself (and Leena) by seeing what she could remove.
 Actually, she could remove quite a bit while leaving the structure standing.
 But not that much!
Here's my Dad, looking like he's wondering if someone did something to the soda...

In the back ground, you can see the Emperor reading with Mxyl.  He (and the oldest 3) finished Return of the King, thereby concluding the Tolkien run which began over a year ago with the reading of the Hobbit!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest blog by Mxyl: The... Neat-o '90s...?

A lot of stuff happened during this decade.  This was kind of the grand age of the non sequiter.

First of all, then the World Wide Web was winvented invented.  When the Prime Minister first heard of this, she thought it was virtually useless given the number of websites (or lack thereof). Obviously, a blog was by that point inconceivable.  Now, what should I do next?  So far, I have to choose from:
  • Dolly the sheep
  • The Kobe quake
  • The World Trade center got bombed
  • The stock market skyrocketed,
  • The Zoomlian Empire was first founded, and
  • Klenda and I were born!

And then there was also the Hubble Space Telescope and the beginning of the ISS.

Part of why this post is smaller then the others is probably because it was a relatively peaceful and "normal" time.  The Cold War was over, no one was really afraid of terrorists (save the World Trade Center) and the economy was also doing well.

Oh yeah, and something that no one who grew up in the '90s or late '80s could forget were "the video game wars", as I like to call it, also known to people in their 20s or 30s as Nintendo Vs. Sega, Super NES Vs. Sega Genesis or Mario Vs. Sonic.  PUN WARNING: Thanks to intense competition--particularly Sony's arrival and PS2--Nintendo virtually won by a landslide.

Note: It is obviously a coincidence that I did a whole paragraph about video gaming and less then one sentence about the Hubble Space telescope.

And we've been going on a roll with music from the selected time period, so here are two.
First, Smells like Teen Spirit, by NirvanaI'd recommend you only watch 20 seconds or generally enough of to get the idea (Guy who says his life stinks, although you can't tell a word he's saying, obviously courtesy of heavy drugs).

Second,  Smells Like Nirvana, by Weird Al.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Epic Thanksgiving Part 1

 We went up to visit my folks for Thanksgiving, and we all had a great time!

As you may know, my parents live on a lake.  What you may not know is that the lake is artificial: really, it's a stream that was dammed up sometime in the 50s or 60s.

Surprise!  They are doing major work on the dam and they drained the lake!

Now my parents live on the mud flats!


The dam now looks like this (looking down from the road that goes over the dam).  Why the sidewalk looking thing perpendicular to the dam?  I have no idea!

Incidentally, if you're worried about the fish, they scooped them out in buckets.  I wonder if they found the giant snapping turtle I was always afraid would bite my toes off.  We saw it once, it's ragged shell the diameter of a man hole cover.
 The heavy construction equipment was admired by all, as you can imagine.

Besides walking down to the dam, the kids clambered along the rocks on the shore line and returned with heaps of 6 and 7 inch clam shells, some still inhabited.

Giant freshwater clams in Clearview Lake?  Who knew!  And I was worried about the turtle!

At any rate, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to walk out in the middle of the lake and see the stream for myself.

I put on my Dad's rubber boots (3 sizes too large) and came up with a plan: there were large swathes of rocky terrain in the mud flats, and I thought they might be drier, or at least more manageable, than the flat muddy places.  The Emperor solemnly promised that if I fell down, he'd laugh really hard throw me a log, so off I went.

Believe it or not, the "rocky path" idea worked. I sank in to below my ankles, but that was manageable, even with the oversized boots.  I made it to the middle (actually 2/3rds across) and saw the stream.  It was about 3 feet deep and running fast.  I didn't get too close because I saw the tracks of a small duck imprinted about 3 inches into the mud there, and I figured a larger duck would sink more...

I picked up 2 flat rocks (one for my brother, one for my sister) of the kind we used to try to skip out there, and turned back.  A few yards from shore, I saw the big branch my Mom had wanted out of the lake, so I thought I'd take a detour... through the smooth mud...

One boot sank in to mid calf and stuck fast.  One foot stuck, when you're walking in deep mud actually turns out to mean BELLY FLOP!

Naturally, The Emperor on dry land became frantic with worry... about finding the camera.

While I was there, I did get the junk out of the muck, and eventually, me out of the muck, too.

If you're curious, the jacket and jeans survived, the white sweater did not.

After I got cleaned up, we picked up sticks and burned them for a marshmallow and hot dog roast.  Yum!  Yum! 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

This year I was talking to a Swiss friend and I was mildly surprised that they do not have an equivalent holiday. 

After talking to another friend from Guatemala, I think I understand more why this is such an American holiday.

The original feast was in thanksgiving for a good harvest, but it was also in thanksgiving for the native people who had saved their lives in a peaceful cultural exchange. 

Has America always lived up to that hopeful encounter? No!  But the American dream is that people from all over the world can come here and that the peaceful exchange of knowledge in an atmosphere of good will can enrich us all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Gingerbread

 Choclo finished (and ate) his gingerbread house!

He wanted a "tower house" which I took to mean a sky scraper.

As you can see it did not last long...

Amusingly, he actually bit it, just like this.  

After a few tries he went with the more ordinary way: breaking and eating, and he invited everyone else to join in.  Yum!

And Star finished this darling little Irish cottage to take home to her family for Thanksgiving.

It's modeled after a music box her family has.

A very sweet idea!

I think that just leaves making a house for Oob, but that will wait until after Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011


 Long time readers of this blog know that blog silence in mid-November (as opposed to all the other random blog silences the rest of the year) can only mean one thing: gingerbread

Indeed, this year we have Klenda and Leena entering the Darnall's Chance Gingerbread Contest.  We also have some others in the works that are not for the contest, more on them later.
UPDATE: Klenda won second prize!

First off, we have Klenda's excellent "Cajun Christmas." (Fr. Mark, this is for you!)

She put an amazing amount of detail in this one: swamp grass, gators, cypress knees, squirrels and Christmas lights, even algae on the water!  This has to be the most challenging  house she has ever done.

The idea of doing a tree house is always appealing, but doing a weight bearing tree out of edible materials is incredibly difficult.

She came up with the idea of a laminate tree: layers of gingerbread glued with royal icing, then coated with royal icing.  Amazingly, it works! The tree is bomb proof!  Great job, Klenda!

This was Leena's first gingerbread for the contest and I think she should get a prize for best first entry!

She named hers, "Have a Huffy Puffy Christmas!"

After a few years of doing this, I think the best  gingerbreads are the ones that capture a moment, and this one is great!

I love the cobble stone path and the wolf's red nose!

For fun, she put little Swedish fish in the pond watching the wolf. 

Doesn't the house look scared?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why the Zoomlians Like Being Home Schooled

Because their teacher considers Weird Al to be a critical part of American cultural development from the 80s forward.  Also, of somewhat lesser importance, but a part of our  Futures Past segment of US History, Star Wars.  So, on a relaxed Wednesday morning, we find ourselves watching this:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Choclo and the Tooth Chicken

There are good things and bad things about being the fifth kid.

On the one hand, your worn down broken in highly experienced parents may forget to tell you that your baby teeth will fall out.

On the other hand, by the time you get your first wiggly tooth, The Tale of the Tooth Chicken has grown to epic proportions.

Some explanations were necessary, and we are very grateful that there were a good three weeks between, "Why is my tooth moving?" and, "My tooth came out!"

And the Tooth Chicken came through in a blinding flash of rainbow feathers.  This time he left a glittery ball and a light up top, both inexplicably green.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

US History: the Totally Awesome 80s (Dude)

You know you're a dedicated home schooler when you use your high school yearbooks to define "big hair".

Since I have not given birth to you, I will refrain from showing you my yearbook and instead give you a picture of Morgan Fairchild because I wanted my hair to look like hers.

Do I even need to say it didn't?

Actually, my hair was very short all through the 80s, so I missed out on the big hair thing, but I could dream...

What else was there in the 80s?

Why, yes, we were still doing the Cold War!  In fact, we reached new heights of anxiety, or at least I did.  In the beginning of the decade, I  was absolutely convinced we would have a nuclear war before 1990. At least until Gorbechev came into power in the USSR. Watching The Day After in 1983 did not help.

Mt. St. Helen's erupted, covering  a great deal of my extended family with an inch or two of ash.

I remember they sent us some. Evidently everyone sent out of state relatives envelopes of ash, many of which broke open and gummed up the postal machines.
My grandma cleverly sent ours in a plastic tub in a bag in a box.

I also remember visiting the site ten years later and seeing the curved ash embedded trees jutting out of the mountain like fossilized ribs.  In between were drifts of pink wild flowers.

The 1980 election was the first one where I understood what was going on.  Our school held mock elections and Reagan won by a landslide.  This was about a week before the real election in which Reagan won by a landslide. I remember being weirded out that he had been an actor.

The Challenger exploded.  Chernobyl melted down. Reagan, Lennon, Pope John Paul II were all shot.

It was the age of "Just Say No" to drugs, red ribbons (AIDS awareness) and MADD.

It was the decade when we got a microwave, an Atari, and a Commodore 64.  This computer was so primitive that instead of a disk drive, it used cassette tapes....

This is also the decade that gave us boom boxes, cordless phones (slightly smaller than a shoe box but slightly more clunky) and VCRs. 

The 80s were a wild time: The colors were black and neon anything!  I learned to drive!  Gas was 99 cents a gallon! Rubic's cubes!  Pac-man! Members Only jackets! Sunglasses (at night!)!

I graduated High School, went to College, and, somewhere in between, met the Emperor!  He rocked my world enough that I don't remember much else after that.

But if you really want to know about American culture in the 80s, you can't go wrong with a look at Michael Jackson!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest blog by Mxyl

Today we went to the US History Museum to wrap up our war section on our US History mega unit!

1st, we went to the Revolutionary War section.

 Here Choclo and Oob are watching a short Revolutionary War video and then--I think--looking into barrels to smell the kind of food that they had in that time(you know, the kind that molds fast--I decided to skip that section).

Next, we did the Civil War (not to be mistaken for a civilized war) in which we learned (painfully) how long setting up for a picture could take, which explained why there were very few pictures had people smiling in them.
Then, the Prime Minister decided
we should do a less, shall we say,
somber picture.  Please observe.
Well.  Moving on.

We had a fabulous time with the WWI/WWII (our Grammie Ann was a WAVe in WWII--and she reads this blog; go Grammie!) and Cold War sections (no pictures, though...) and then did the War of Vietnam!  This was what we'd been looking forward to, having our grandfather as a Vietnam Vet and all, and we learned that the Vietnam War was noted as a "TV War" (though I have no idea what so many cameramen were doing in the middle of a full-fledged war) and
even got a photo or two of us next to a helicopter from the V. War.
And then we finished it all off with seeing the real star-spangled banner!

And we are up to the 21st century on our history unit!  We'll post the '80s, '90s, and '00s in later posts!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Driveway Math

 With the nice weather, we've been spending afternoons outside.

All that nice blacktop makes me think of hopping on the driveway math!

I did a space theme.  There is an ordinary number line on the left, but on the right, we go from 2 to 20 counting by twos, each on a different space thingy.

Trust me, I'm a scientist, space thingy is the correct terminology, the way I draw them!  (Did I mention my field is immunology?)

At any rate, I was quite pleased that I could come up with 10 space thingys to draw, and particularly pleased with 12 which started out as the sun and turned into a supernova (but actually looks like a chrysanthemum in this picture).

Naturally when I got to the end, Choclo and Oob had conflicting opinions on the final number and drawing...

I ended up going up from 20 to 100 by tens, although you have to loop around a bit to hop on them all in order!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Choclo: Dinosaur Hunter

 We've been watching Planet Dinosaur , (not to be confused with Dinosaur Planet, although their website is fantastic!) and this seems to have reignited Choclo's fascination with all things dinosaur.

We have also been taking advantage of mild weather and the peak of the leaf season to go on frequent rambling walks.  Choclo uses these walks to hunt for dinosaur fossils!

Among his recent finds, we have (from left to right): a tooth from a small T-rex , two neck bones from a rockasaurus, a tail bone from an armored dinosaur, and the club of an ankylosaur.

I know this, because he told me....

In case you aren't up on your dinosaurs, here is an ankylosaur, swinging his club at a T-rex.

As for the rockasaurus, well, I guess only professional dino hunters know about them.....

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Math Snacks

Every so often, I run across a truly sublime bit of cross-curricular educational fantasticness.  Many of the Math Snacks videos hit close, but Bad Date is pretty much the apex of perfection. 

In three and a half minutes, it teaches math, rudimentary social skills, advanced social skills, nutrition, and why you should never admit that you listen to country music backwards.

Friday, November 4, 2011

All Souls

For All Souls Day, we went to Mass and then to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the graves of the Emperor's dad and grandparents.

While there, we were privileged to see a funeral procession with a large band and two flag draped coffins, one caisson pulled by black horses, and one by white. 

There was also a riderless horse, which I think means one of them was a commander of some sort. They were followed by, literally a "bus full" of mourners (walking). I have no idea who were being laid to rest, of course, but we prayed for them.

I thought of what my Dad says: the price of freedom has to be paid by each generation. 

The generations we were visiting were in a quiet part of the cemetery.  Dad was a WWII vet and Grandpa a WWI vet.  I never met Dad (he died when the Emperor was 13) but I've heard enough to really wish I had.

He loved roses, in fact, he planted a rose that still  blooms for me, so we always bring him roses when we visit.  We had little bouquets for the three graves of our loved ones, but I also brought a few dozen camellias and gave them to the kids.  They could pick any grave to put a flower on and pray for that person.

It was a lovely, peaceful, prayerful visit.  I love All Souls Day.  It's a beautiful reminder, in this dying season, that nothing is lost in God, and that, in death, our bonds of love are changed, but never broken.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

All Saints

We had a great All Saints Day!  We made it to Mass and then went home to feast on Halloween candy.

In the morning we did Fun Blocks in honor of the feast  and in the afternoon, we played a saint game.

It went like this:  I wrote out ten male saints and ten female saints, cut them into slips and put them in separate bowls. The kids pulled names and head ten minutes to come up with a costume.

Why, yes, we do have a lot of dress up material in the house!  Part of the deal, however, was that you did not need to dress up as the saint.  Your costume could be a symbol of the saint, or something the saint was the patron of, or something else associated with the saint.

I so wish I had taken pictures!

Mxyl picked St. Florian and dressed as a firefighter (yellow slicker, fire hat, ax - patron of fire fighters).

Klenda picked St. Helen and made a crown and grabbed a cross (empress and finder of the True Cross).

Zorg picked St. John Bosco and dressed as... a boy!  (spent his life helping boys)

Leena picked.... hmmm.... I can't remember!  I'll ask her and update it later!

After that, we had a relaxed day.  My dear MIL came over and we tea - a perfect feast day!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


 Here we have Klenda as St. Dorothy, an early martyr.  On the way to her execution, someone laughed at her for saying she was going to heaven's garden, and wanted her to send him some fruit.

After her execution, an angel showed up at his door with 3 golden apples and three golden roses!

 Leena was St. Mary Magdalene...  She's traditionally depicted with a cross and a skull because she is contemplating Jesus' sacrifice and the shortness of our lives.

Usually the skull is not so creepy, however.

Also, she kept losing it, and we were constantly looking for Leena's skull.

 This was Mxyl's first year on the other side of the door - he liked giving out the candy and seeing all the kids in costumes.

He himself is dressed as a more modern looking St. Michael. 

Why have St. Michael always dressed like a Roman soldier?

The only down side was that one young trick or treater thought he was dressed as "a dead soldier..."  Ummmm. NO!

 Choclo wanted to be St. George, so, of course, Oob wanted to be St.  George. 

Fourteen years and four boys later, we probably own enough knightly garb to have all six kids be St. George, so this was not a problem!

Plus they could whack each other while waiting for everyone else to get ready.

Zorg went as Daniel, complete with pet lion.

We had just finished reading the book of Daniel, so Zorg was very authentic. 

He began every statement to me with, "O Mom, live forever!"