Monday, April 30, 2012

Frog Hunt

With the beautiful weather, we've been hitting the Arboretum almost every week.

Last week, we actually had a picnic in the lilac maze (best place in the world for hide and seek), but the week before, we went frog hunting at the dogwood garden.

We started out finding this bug, interesting because it's an actual bug in the entomological sense.

I generally call all insects bugs, but I was chided for this by an entomologist at the Natural History museum.  A ladybug is not a bug, it's a beetle.  A stink bug, OTH, is a real bug.

 We found no frogs, but three or four toads in the pool at the bottom of the garden.  I'd love to know what kind they are: they are concrete colored and have strange yellow spots on the backs of their thighs.

The kids caught some, but we found no tadpoles.

Then a helpful arboretum employee passed by and explained that the pond had recently been drained and cleaned and all tadpoles moved to the cypress pond.

Aha!  To the cypress pond!

They had a lot of frogs!  We also saw lots and lots of egg masses, but no tadpoles.  I think they were hanging out under the duckweed.

We'll just have to go back in another week!

UPDATE: The "toads" were actually Gray's Treefrogs!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pity Me!

Or: The Downside to Marrying an English Teacher.  Which would be random speaking in iambic pentameter.  Doesn't sound too bad until you consider iambic pentameter before breakfast.

Confession time: I have what could be delicately described as an impaired sense of rhythm.  I don't dance, I have a hard time with music, and I seldom attempt poetry. I can manage limericks, but I have a really hard time with iambs, dactyls (except pterodactyls), metrical foots (should be meters, dude), and other alien life forms.

So, iambic pentameter before breakfast is hard on me.   The Emperor, OTH, can just speak Shakespearean,
the worst of which was the example, "I ate the head of Megatron, indeed!"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How's This for Real?

A friend dropped by to pick up some stuff and drop off a lovely gift, and stayed for tea.  At some point during a delightful conversation, she asked, "So, what are your kids learning?"

My mind went completely blank.  Up until that moment, I had forgotten that she's the Latin teacher at our local Classical Curriculum school.

All I could think of was, "Oh, you know....stuff."  Which I elegantly refrained from saying (barely)!

I came up with something like, "Uh, Biology.... and everyone is doing Math..."

Doh!  I'm totally blaming this on pregnancy brain.

Eventually, I also came up with the facts that Mxyl and Klenda had just written a book, Zorg that day had finished the last Pre-Algebra lesson, and we had recently finished the world's longest study of US History.

I should have brought up all the art, horseback lessons, ancient history, Spanish, fossil hunting, computer animation, and gardening that we've been doing lately!

Actually, I think it was just a polite question, and for all that I think of myself as "not particularly caring what people think," I processed it as "Are your children actually learning anything?".  The phrasing "what are they learning" threw me for a loop. I know a great deal about what I'm teaching.  What they are learning is inherently more mysterious, particularly since much of what they are learning has little to do with me!

 If I were able to do it over I would just say, "Why don't you ask them?"

The picture of the cute baby groundhogs are a complete ruse.  We found them under a barn while Marching Through Time - there were four, but I only got a picture of two.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Last night, Zorg moved up to Tenderfoot!

Congratulations, Zorg!!!

For the non-scouters, you start out at scout, then comes Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star (Mxyl's rank), Life, and Eagle.

Zorg you are on your way!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Breaking News!

I have great news!  As you may have noticed with the widget, we are expecting another baby!

We are super early (due Jan 1st) but I am telling you now to beg for prayers.  As most of you know, I lost the last three babies in a row.

This time I am on progesterone, and the test was a good strong positive, so we are feeling hopeful (and in need of prayers).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Marching Through Time!

 Mxyl, Klenda and I went marching, anyway.  The Emperor took the rest of the Zoomlians to the BSO.

We saw friends, Romans, and countrymen...

OK, we made new friends, and saw a fair amount of country folk.  And we did see Romans (shown here advancing on a barbarian while beating their shields with their swords).

 We saw Celts!

We saw Charlamagne's encampment!  We saw Charlamagne's living descendents!  No wait, we were Charlamagne's living descendents...

We saw Vikings!  This meant entirely differnt things for Klenda and Mxyl...

 Klenda tried on armor!

Klenda danced!
 Mxyl plotted to take over the world with the Infinity Gauntlet.

Mxyl:"And I plan to rule it with an iron fist".

He got this from the Six Little Ducks:
Six little ducks that I once knew
Fat ones, skinny ones, cute ones, too
But the one little duck
With the feather on his back
He ruled the others with


I'm sure we didn't sing it that way with the first few kids...

 Mxyl also tried out a sword (100 Years War).

And  another sword (War of the Roses).

And a bunch of armor not pictured.

And some swords not shown here, including some really interesting zweihanders at the Renaissance German encampment.

We discussed the finer points of swords and arrows (so to speak).

Klenda went back to dancing.

We were having a wonderful time, but we were starting to get hot and a little tired.  That's when I realized we had been there nearly three hours!

We'd seen barely half the reenactors!  We hadn't even made it to the Americans yet!

We decided to go get lunch and go home while it was still fun!  Maybe tomorrow....

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Down by the Bay With a Microscope Snob

 We made our first trip of the year down to the Chesapeake Bay to look for shark teeth!

We were there about an hour and came back with 107 Miocene fossils!

We had 16 bone fragments from marine mammals, 14 ray plates and 77 shark teeth!

Choclo was very impressed when I explained that the Egyptian mummies are 3000 years old, but the shark teeth are 30,000 times that old!

Plus, we had a lovely day at the beach and a nice picnic!

When we got home, I hauled out our brand new (university surplus) microscope (Thank you Mr. Bill!!!) to look at the sample of Bay water I had inadvertently puddled thoughtfully collected.

I am head over heels in love with this new scope!  Microscopes are like sewing machines.  People who are just starting buy a cheap machine to see if they like it.  The machine balks at every turn, does a terrible job, they get frustrated and decide, no, they don't like it.

A good machine, OTH, is a joy to use.  More to the point, it's easy to use.  A careful 6 year old can spend many happy hours with a good microscope!

What are you looking for in a microscope?  You want something binocular (2 eyepieces) so you don't have to squint, one fairly low objective to make it easy to find what you are looking for, and one or two higher objectives so you can get a closer look.  Cast off university (or laboratory) scopes are ideal.

I paid $40, thanks to Mr. Bill being on the look out!  If this scope were new, it would cost $800- $1000, but it has a lot of extras (an oil objective for example) and it's a heavy duty scope. It's also at least 15 years old and made of metal.  I saw decent basic scopes for $200.  It pays to go surplus!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Things to Look Out For

Last night, Choclo poked himself in the eye.  An hour after he was supposed to be asleep.

As it happened, the Emperor and I were off having a top secret date.  Evidently, the kids had not gotten the memo that we were gone and that Rose was around to handle such things.

So they handled it themselves.  Mxyl and Klenda comforted Choclo, gave him a cold pack and got him settled down.  Perfect!

Flying, Ear Eating Tarantulas!
In the lower bunk, however, Oob was feeling shortchanged and Mxyl texted us the details:  "I hurt, too.  A thing at the beach ate my ear.   It was a tarantula, a LITTLE tarantula, a flying....Thing....A bee stinged me right here and I need  a cold pack.  A little thing like a gnat or something."

Watch out for those!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On Giants' Shoulders: Once Upon A Time

On Giants' Shoulders: Once Upon A Time

We are living in interesting times.

Portfolio Problem

I found this in the younger boys room.

How creative!  I could take a picture and put it in their home school portfolios!

Then I realized all those little things on the top level are heads.

And then I realized the things on the bottom level are skulls!

So, if I put in the portfolio, it would fit under:

1.Evil Genius: Basic Theory and Application

2. Manifestations of Menace 101

3. Art: Creation of Creepiness in Three Dimensions.

Or 4. Creative Anachronisms in Society

For the record I decided to go with English.

Obviously, the guy with the gun looks English.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

And You Thought It Would Never Happen

Ah, yes.  Mxyl was off yesterday afternoon.  He was asked to build Legos for NASA, how could we refuse?

True story.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Last Zoo Trip

Last for a while, anyway!  The last trip we did the African side of the zoo with the traditional zoo animals.  This time we did the Maryland side.  The creatures are less exotic, but they have tons of hands on things.

And Mxyl still managed to get eaten by a lion,  so that was OK.
 And all the kids reminded me that there will come a time when they will leave the nest. SNIFF!!

Then everyone got to pet the goats.  Actually, everyone enjoyed petting them for a surprisingly long time, and I thought, I have them in the nest a little longer!

Hope you are enjoying your Spring!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Guest Blog by Klenda: Poetry in Time of Pollen

OK.  So the other day, I was in a creative mood, so I came up with an... amusing...poem. I told Dad, then Mom. It went something like this...

The Rose Garden.

As I went out into me field,
I spied a bed o' roses.
But I cant smell them; not a bit;
not if you stuffed them up me noses.

I'll just leave you to it, then...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Guest blog by Mxyl: Why I hate orange-kneed tarantulas explained

I got an interesting comment earlier from Grammie Ann about my previous post about how a giant orange-kneed tarantula could not possibly exist because the spiracles of arthropods could not allow it to breath enough to survive at that size.  This is true, and I should give you as much background as possible on the reason without endangering you.

First of all, they are not of this universe and are not true orange-kneed tarantulas (being aliens raised by swamp monsters, mermaids and humans can get you into really weird situations).  If you will imagine that you are in Universe 3 (a universe based on the 3rd dimension), the "tarantulas" are in from-- well, to avoid saying its name, it's sort of like a realm; a "pocket gap" between two universes, only larger.

Although they have the outside appearance of the common orange-kneed tarantula and follow the same basic attack patterns (which I really wish weren't true--it's really freaky when they rear up on you), the interior anatomy of a spytorr is entirely different.

They have lungs, which explains the oxygen problem, and they have ten eyes instead of eight-- the primary two for three-dimensional sight, three for "seeing" life, two that see in infrared, one for seeing color (going perfectly with the primary two, which can only see in black-and-white), and two on the sides of their heads which can "see" sound waves-- that's right, two of a spytorr's eyes can "hear".

And then you may also wonder why the picture looks so much like a photoshop.  The answer to that is: it is one!  I am beastly sorry, but my family and I were a little preoccupied during the battle, so we couldn't take a picture.  However, I tried to recreate the scene as realistically as possible in photoshop afterward.  I hope to show you a real photo later!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Christ has Risen, Alleluia!

 Happy Easter!

The kids came downstairs to find an empty tomb!

Choclo surprised the other kids with an empty tomb for breakfast!

He had seen it when I was cruising around the internet, and asked, "Can we do that?"

Sure! It's a doughnut, cut on one side so it will stand up, with an oreo "stone" rolled away from the empty center of the doughnut.  That's coconut "grass" around the outside, although Choclo initially thought people used cheese shavings.

Oob quickly discovered the change in the sacrifice beans!

Our Easter story cookies came out a bit underdone, although Klenda kindly offered, "Look, parts of it are empty, like the tomb."

I think I rushed the beating and didn't get to true "stiff peaks" on the egg whites.  Still, I think they got the message, and the cookies were truly tasty!


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday



 A lot of today is being dedicated to preparations.

Dyeing eggs, cleaning house, Easter baking, haircuts, and showers.

We're trying to figure out if we can get to one last Confession.
UPDATE: We made it!

We are totaling up the alms and sending off the check to Heifer today.

It's a quiet day.

We were reading the ancient homily for Holy Saturday that is nowadays featured in the Office of Readings for today.  This was written by some anonymous priest or bishop over a thousand years ago, but it still gives me chills!

"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Stations of the Cross for Kids

Found on YouTube - sorry, no embedding, but well worth a click.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Dominican Fun for You!

 Our little chapter of St. Pius V is getting bigger!  In fact, this year, we were large enough to host the regional meeting of Lay Dominicans from Virginia, DC, Maryland and Delaware!

We decided to combine it with our semiannual lecture series.  We had about 45 people at the meeting and 65 at the talk (some of the Dominicans had to leave to make the long trip home, and members of the public came to the talk).
 We had the always delightful (and funny) Fr. John Corbett, O.P. again, this time talking about "Faith and Reason on Same Sex Marriage."  A member of our chapter taped it and put it on You Tube starting at the link in the title.

He did a great job, first discussing Biblical objections, and then highlighting the philosophical objections, all in a humorous but respectful way.
 We also had  Julie Vidmar of the Maryland Marriage Alliance on hand to help collect signatures to put the same sex marriage law on the ballot this November.

We got more than 30 signatures!  Not bad considering that many in the audience were not from Maryland and therefore could not sign.

Incidentally, we also have the last talk he did for us on You Tube: The Problem of Moral Action, as well as Fr. John Baptist Ku, O.P.'s talk on Humanae Vitae.  The Emperor is introducing Fr. Corbett, and I am introducing Fr. Ku. 

In Fr. Corbett's most recent talk, we had microphone troubles at the beginning, which is why everyone is laughing, and he has no introduction!

UPDATE:  It turns out we have one more talk on line:  Doing Good and Wanting To: St Thomas, Natural Law, and Moral Issues by Fr. Elias Henritzey, O.P.