Thursday, May 31, 2012

More Choclo

"Can I have a priest shirt?" Choclo asked me.

Priest shirt? 

No, as it turned out, he meant a chasuble, the shirt like, cloak like vestment a priest wears to say Mass.

Well, that's a lot easier on my limited sewing skills!

I just took a piece of fabric, folded it in quarters and cut it into a big oval (an arc along the outer edge of the folded fabric). 

I then cut the folded corner for the hole in the middle.   That was it! 

Except he decided he wanted another color...  and the purple one was too short (but the right size for Oob), so I made another longer one in red.

If they play with them a lot, I'll take the trouble to hem the edges, but if not, the raw edges will be fine.   

Actually, if they really use them, I'll probably sew them back to back so that it will be reversible and I won't have to worry about how to hem the tricky parts. 

This trick may only work if you have heaps of fabric lying around because people give you fabric even though you really can't sew...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Passion Flowers!

I planted this vine at least five and  as many as seven years ago, and it has never flowered before!

It covers an arbor on the side of the carport between Mxyl and Zorg's gardens.  It gets a fair amount of shade from our  silver maple, so I was never sure if it didn't bloom because it wasn't getting enough light, if it took ten years to mature, or for some other reason.

Now I know!

This is the first year that the cold has not killed the vine back to the ground over the winter, so I am presuming it must flower on second year growth.  I think next winter, I will see if I can protect it somehow.

I've always loved passion flowers, both for their alien beauty and for their symbolism, but I had given up on ever getting any to bloom in my yard!

I wonder if I will get any fruit...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Choclo!

He wanted a "Split Face" cake.

This is Split Face.

This is the cake.

One side is chocolate cake with cherry frosting, the other is cherry cake with chocolate frosting.  This turned out to be a terrible idea because when you asked each child which side they wanted, they would answer either chocolate or cherry... which helped not at all!

But it was delicious!

He also wanted a parade for some reason.  It was a muggy 90 degrees, so we all (family and friends) marched around the house singing Happy Birthday before settling down for cake and ice cream.  And chess!

Choclo loves chess, and Mxyl bought him a lovely magnetic chess board with gold and silver colored pieces.

Choclo was a very happy boy!

Happy birthday my sweet seven year old! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day

 In the Emperor's family, they celebrate this holiday old school, in fact, they still call it Decoration Day!

That's probably because they still use this holiday to decorate.  Not their house, of course, but the graves of their loved ones!

So we carefully pick and arrange flowers.  The Emperor's Dad loved to grow roses, so we always include them - some from the bush he planted if at all possible! 

Aunt Toni loved bright colors.  I like to include rosemary in hers because I have such fond memories of her.

Then we travel, first to Fort Lincoln Cemetery, than to Arlington National Cemetery.

The Emperor's Dad and grandparents are in Arlington, not far from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  He was wounded in WWII, and Grandpa Frank served in WWI.  It's a bit strange for me since my own Dad is a Vietnam War vet!

We tidy up the graves, clipping any encroaching grass, washing off any dirt, and placing the flowers.

Then we pray for them, and for the rest of the souls in the cemetery, especially for  those with no one to pray for them.

The we go home, have a big cook out and swap stories about those who have gone before us.  It's a lovely tradition, and one I hope the Zoomlians carry forward.

Let me leave you with one of my favorite memories of Aunt Toni: When I first entered the family, Aunt Toni was the matriarch.  We went to her house for dinner and afterwards I offered to help with the dishes.

Well!  That was that!  She decided I walked on water and that the Emperor should marry me!  I didn't realize it at the time, but once she formed a strong opinion of someone, she kept it.  No matter what stupid things I did, she was always convinced that I had done it right!  God bless her!  She welcomed me into the family with her whole heart, and I've always been grateful that God allowed her to live to celebrate at our wedding (she had been quite ill and died the following year).

One of the really nice things about celebrating those who have gone before, is that the sorrow ebbs away, and you are left with joy.  Sometimes it's a wistful joy ( I really wish I had met the Emperor's Dad), but ultimately, even that is joy because we know we will be with them again.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Come Holy Spirit

I wanted to do something special for Pentecost, especially since Mxyl and Klenda are fairly recently confirmed. 

On the other hand, as you might expect, I didn't feel up to designing and carrying out a major project.

What I wanted was something that would show the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit in a fun way, but also big and obvious enough that I would remember to talk about them.

I printed a list and I cut out a dove.

The kids made construction paper gifts and fruits.  They are all taped at the top so you can lift them up to read which gift or fruit it is!

Fun and easy peasy lemon squeezy! 

I think the lemon is joy.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Random Scholarship

Or:  What I always Dreamed Home Schooling Would be Like."

But this actually happened this week.

"I think I'd like to do a research report on the history of chocolate, "Klenda told me.

Uh, OK.

"I'd just like to know more about it." She explained.

Well, we were going to the library anyway...

Then Mxyl thought he'd like to do one on swords.  And then it was the thing to be done.  Leena wanted dolphins, Zorg wanted to learn about Napoleon.  Napoleon has proved difficult (I know, I know, tell it to Lord Wellington!) so Zorg is now thinking about mummies.

My biggest surprise came when we got to the library:  Choclo came up to me with a stack of elephant books, followed closely by Oob with a stack of shark books!

Ah, the splendid powers of peer pressure.  I want to do The Age of Fighting Sail!  But I think I need to narrow it down a bit.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Grammy found a box turtle on her driveway!  Being the good home schooling grandma that she is, she brought it over to us.

Yes, it's a box turtle in a box.  The Zoomlians named it Boxy.

Boxy was quite beautiful, amazingly patient and not too timid.  Choclo and Oob mostly wanted to touch him.  The rest of us were interested in counting the rings on his scutes (the scale like parts of his shell), and observing his reactions to everything. 

We determined that Boxy was around 15 years old - that's a little older than Mxyl!  Wow!

It was also interesting to see how different Boxy was from the snapping turtles we have found and the painted turtles we've seen.  His shell was much more three dimensional with a beautiful "tortoise shell" pattern.  He also seemed to have a shorter neck (although it may have been retracted) and a mellower disposition.

After a fun (for us) afternoon, we sent Boxy back to wander in Grammy's garden with gifts of lettuce and strawberry.  I may have been tempted to keep a baby turtle for longer, but I felt a mature wild turtle would be quite unhappy in a box, so to speak!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Algebra Pranks

The perfect answer to the inevitable question, "Why do I need algebra?"

If the quote is not enough for them, you can try this:

I posted on the fridge that I would pay each of my children every day in dollars: X squared -19X + 90, when X= (or is greater than)$10.

They asked, "For real?"  Sure!

Then they worked it out.

Using 10 we get: 100 -190 +90= 0

Using 100 we get: 1000 - 1900 +90= -$810 

That's right, if they decide to let X= $100 dollars, they could each pay me $810. Every day.

You need algebra to survive around here!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sad News

The sonogram showed the baby doesn't seem to be developing.  I'm at 8 weeks and the baby is only the size of six weeks.  And we didn't see a heartbeat.

I feel like God was preparing me for this in the last few days, so it's very sad but not shocking to me.  It's very hard on the kids and the Emperor, though.  Please pray for all of us.

The kids have been asking why God would do this.  Why ask us to have a baby and then take it away?

It's an important question and I think there is more than one answer.  My answer is something like this: In the light of eternity (billions of trillions of years and then some) everyone's life is short - by which I mean statistically insignificant- even if you live to 100.  That doesn't mean the life itself is insignificant.

I believe that the soul is eternal.  I believe in the resurrection of the dead (meaning that we will eventually receive our glorified bodies back).  I believe, therefore, that this precious little one is not gone, because nothing is lost with God.  In a real sense, the baby is gone from our sight, but not from our reality.  There is a new person to love and be loved (by God and by us) for all eternity.

Thank you so much for your prayers and kind wishes throughout this pregnancy.  The hope and joy you have given me also does not pass away.  I will always be grateful to you.  Please let me know if I can pray for you.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sonogram Tomorrow

Monday morning 7:30 am and I'm going to have to face it alone (I managed to schedule it for the day of high stakes testing that the Emperor has been preparing his students for all year).  Prayers would be deeply appreciated!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Revenge of the Quick Takes

More with Jen!

1. How You Know Your Kids Watch Too Much Star Trek:

Mxyl (describing why he did not react when a bully tried to get a rise out of him): I just ask myself, "What would Spock do?" WWSD.

Oob (when the Emperor was calling him upstairs for pajama time) I'm coming as fast as I can, Captain!

2. Speaking of pajama time, somehow we ended up using this song with the words "pajama time."  Now we just hum it, and all the kids get ready.

3. This week we watched Arsenic and Old Lace.  Mxyl, Zorg and Klenda declared it the funniest movie they'd ever seen, and Zorg decided that Peter Lorre is his favorite actor.

I hadn't seen it in a while, but wow!  It sure has stood the test of time!

It's available for instant watch on Netflix.

4.  Speaking of old movies, my Biology class discovered the horrible truth: I am a totally deficient Catholic homeschooler.  My kids had never seen the Sound of Music.  Or as they put it, THEY'VE NEVER SEEN THE SOUND OF MUSIC??!!??  Well, not yet.

So, last weekend we sat down and watched the whole thing!  Almost the whole thing.  I fast forwarded through "Climb Every Mountain."

5.  I have now achieved the glorious state of having enough spare camera connection cords that I can find one when I lose the usual one (or two)!

The down side is, I have a drawer that looks like this:

But if I'm willing to fish for it, I can find one!!

6. Face paint!  For Girl's Night this week, we started with face painting, and then Leena asked, "Can we watch another Jane Austin movie?"

As if I would say no to that!

We watched Sense and Sensibility.

7.  And if that isn't highbrow enough for you, I leave you with this:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Name Theme Meme

 I love the idea of themes for naming kids!  Although I guess I wouldn't pick a theme from a movie, The Princess Bride would be tempting.

At one point, my girls (whose names start with A and R) became offended that they don't have a theme (my boys are named for the evangelists).  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband enter the room so I said, "But we do!  We're trying to spell out 'ARCTIC CIRCLE!'"

Poor guy still hasn't recovered...But the next two girls' name really do start with C and T!

In my brother's family, they all have the same initials.  I never asked why, but he and his wife have the same initials, so I guess they just kept it up with the kids.  I think it's cool, but it would really mess up my labeling system!

I tried to convince Angel that she needed to pick a theme for baby names.  I recommended "Early Popes."  You know: Peter, Linus, Clement, Cletus, Sixtus...  Kinda rough if you have all girls, but it's the theme that's important!

I was reading through Butler's Lives of the Saints and came across a bunch of saints who knew each other: St, Egbert, St. Swithbert, St. Wigbert, and St. Cuthbert.  I had to read it aloud to my kids: So Wigbert said to Swithbert and Cuthbert, "Come, let us go find Egbert..."  We were rolling on the floor!  Great moments in Catholic Geekdom.  There's a theme for you!

Anyone else have a good idea for a theme?  It doesn't have to be one you would actually do.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Name Game

A number of my friends and acquaintances are expecting in the near future, and some of them started posting baby name websites.

I love looking at baby names!  This is in no small part because I don't need to choose one.

Believe it or not, we are still working on the list of nine names we came up with more than five years before our first child was born.   "Working on" meaning making the babies to go with the names!

I find it fascinating to see how and why people choose names.

Our basic criteria were:
1. Name of saint or (good) Biblical figure
2. Name of someone in the family (that we wanted the kid to take after!)
3. Name we both like
4. Name that looks good on a job application
5. No objectionable initials
6. Name means something good
7. Name with a good "rhythm" with our last name

We added to that a Biblical theme for the boys - they are named after books of the Bible, but not in order.

You can see why, when got names that fit all the criteria, we didn't change them!

UPDATE:  Twenty years after coming up with the list, the one change I would make would be to add another criterion:
8.  Name must sound very unlike the other names in the family (start with different letters, end with different sounds) so I mix up the names less. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Penguin Amazing

Scientists have figured out where penguins get the air bubbles that show up right before they get out of the water!

Alright, not something I had thought to wonder about either, but it's amazing!

They trap air in their feathers right before they jump in the water.  Then they dive to depths which compress the air (hunting and feeding).
When they are ready to come up, they swim rapidly to the surface and the air expands, slipping through the feathers and creating a "skin" of bubbles which reduces drag and allows them to reach speeds which send them flying out of the water!!

For more details and a great video, check out Wonder Monkey here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Root Beer and Father's Day

This year we swapped Father's Day and Mother's Day.  Some years we do this, and some we don't.  The reason for doing it is that my birthday always falls a little before Mother's Day (both my older brother and I were born on Mother's Day!), and our anniversary always falls a little after Mother's Day.

The reason for not doing it is that it gets complicated.  We are celebrating Father's Day for the Emperor, but Mother's Day for all other mothers in our lives...

The Emperor had a great day!  This year he got a cape, and a crown and a throne!  Plus every time Choclo spoke to the Emperor, he addressed him as "my king."  As in, "I love you so much, my king."

We had a giant feast (Indian food) with friends and extended family and then we had a root beer tasting!

It was a blind taste test with eight kinds of root beer: A&W, Barq's, Stewart's, Mug, IBC, Dominion (made in Virginia), Jones (never heard of it, just saw it on a shelf), and Giant (store brand).

The winner is: Dominion!  Interesting, with a complex and vivid flavor,  it was made with honey rather than (or possibly in addition to)sugar.

More surprising was the very close second place: Mug!  I had always thought that Mug and A&W were interchangeable (relatively cheap and common) root beers.  It was not so!  A&W was in the bottom half, while Mug was the favorite for at least two people.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

But What about Meiosis?

I thought you'd never ask!  Let me say in advance that this is as complicated as we will get in High School Biology.  If you can make it through this, you'll be OK. :)

Meiosis is how we get the sex cells.  The problem here is two fold: How do we get genetic diversity? and  How do we get cells with half the usual number of chromosomes.

The answer is meosis. It's a double cell division!  The first division includes the recombining of the parent's DNA (literally the chromosomes donated by the grandparents recombine with each other). That answers the first problem.  The second division happens without the usual doubling of the chromosomes.  This means that when the cells split apart, each of them have only a half load of DNA (and they are ready to combine with another sex cell to create offspring that have the correct number of chromosomes).  That is the answer to the second problem.

I am not going to go into all the details here, but each round of division has the same phases as mitosis (Interphase 1, Prophase 1....eventually Interphase 2, Prophase 2, Anaphase 2, etc.).

I would like to point out here that in humans, this gives you four sperm cells (if happening in a male), but only one egg cell (if happening in a female).  The reason is that the egg contains all the organelles.  You can't split the cell's organelles four ways and get a functioning egg.  Sperm, OTH, just need the DNA and a way to get it to the egg.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Choclo's Guardian Angel Works Hard

Choclo poked himself in the eye with a fork on Monday night.

Yes, you read that right.  He told two doctors and 8 nurses this yesterday, and in every case the conversation went like this:

Healthcare Professional (HP): So, what happened to you?

Choclo (matter of factly): I poked myself in the eye with a fork.

HP (looking at me in stunned disbelief): He what?

Me (with resignation): He poked himself in the eye with a fork.

HP: When did this happen?

Me: Last night.  (HP looks appalled that I didn't rush him to the ER) But there wasn't any blood, and he calmed down pretty quickly, so I thought I'd wait til today...  And it looks worse today.

HP (to Choclo): Why did you do that?

Choclo: I was shocked. (the HP looks shocked) It was an accident.

There were some side variations like: Plastic or metal? (it was metal), and Did you fall? (he didn't, it happened on the couch).

Eventually  we ended up with the best ophthalmologist in the world (Dr. Robert Hseih, if you live in the area).  He is the Doctor for three generations of our family, including the Emperor now and when he was Choclo's age!

Dr. Hseih took a careful look at Choclo, declared him remarkably lucky and said he would be completely fine by Thursday.    Today, almost all the redness is gone, as you can see above.

The visit to the eye doctor renewed Choclo's interest in becoming an eye doctor.  They have the coolest toys!  He loves all the gadgets and equipment.  When Choclo told this to Dr, Hseih, he replied, "If you still want to when you are a little older, come back and spend the day with me, so you can see what it's like."

Did I mention he's the best?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Playground!

 We have been waiting for this playground to open for months!  It originally had a single metal slide, a bouncy teetertotter type thing and some ancient swings.

It has been... re-imagined!
 It's kind of like a mini theme park.

We highly approve!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Biology Time

We have been having a great time in Biology, but it is just going too fast to blog about all the stuff we are doing!  Right now, we are learning about mitosis, and I am putting up a few helpful animations and an explanation here.

First off, mitosis is the division of a body (somatic) cell into two identical "daughter" cells.  The key point here is that you end up with two exact copies from one cell (if this seems obvious, there is another kind of cell division called meiosis which will get you a different result).

UPDATE:  We are missing class today, and instead looking at mitosis by way of this post.  I went through things with Mxyl, Klenda and Zorg and was reminded how confusing I found all this when it was first explained to me!  This may help: the problem is, how do you get two cells from one cell?  The essential thing is this - you need to end up with two sets of nuclei (nucleuses), each with the total genetic information of the cell.  Everything else (the other organelles) can either make more of itself (mitochondria) or more can be made according to the genetic blueprints in the new nucleus.  The answer is mitosis!  So you can look at all mitosis as, "How do you get two nuclei from one?"

EXTENDED UPDATE:  Some of the confusion is coming from the idea that the cell has chromosomes all the time.  It doesn't!  We often talk about it that way because, when we are analyzing genetics, we are always looking at chromosomes.  It's the best way to get a good look at the DNA, but look at it this way: routine genetic testing is done by using a cotton swab to get some cells from your inner cheek.  One reason is that this is non-invasive, but that's not the main reason.  The big deal is that the skin lining your mouth is replacing itself constantly, so you are always going to find some cells going through mitosis, therefore, some cells with the DNA neatly wrapped up in chromosomes.

You start off in Interphase which is the state most cells are usually in.  It appears that the cell is "resting" but actually, it's replicating its DNA as well as fulfilling its ordinary cell functions.  You can see a distinct nucleus, but not the DNA, because it is not in tightly packed chromosomes..  Instead, it's in a loosely coiled form called chromatin.

Then you have Prophase.  The chromatin condenses into the familiar chromosomes, now visible under a microscope, and the nuclear membrane disappears.  The centrioles get into position and start forming the spindle fibers that will pull the cell into equal parts.

Next comes Metaphase (some inset a prometaphase step here, but I thought this was complicated enough for now!).  The spindle fibers attach to the centers of the chromosomes and align them in the center of the cell.

Then Anaphase: the spindle fibers and centrioles pull apart the sister chromatids.

Telophase sees nuclear membranes reforming around each group of separated chromosomes and the spindle fibers start to disintegrate.

Finally, Cytokinasis is literally the division, or splitting of the cell into the daughter cells.

Here's a handy mnemonic for remembering the order: I Prefer Milk And Tea Caffeinated.

And here you can see it in good 3D animation:

Here is what it actually looks like under a microscope:

This version is a bit more...abstract.  Choclo's guess on the music was that it was "a sheep screaming."  Could be.

And one last one to complement our cell models from back in the day:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happy Birthday, Oob!

 Can you believe that Oob is FIVE?!

He totally can!

He had an incredible birthday, starting with getting awesome presents, going to Mass and getting a special birthday blessing, eating two cakes, and....

 A giant parade.

This was not actually just for his birthday, but I'm not sure he really believes that!

He wore a jeweled crown and carried a flag that proclaimed, "It's my birthday!"

That's Oob in the crown, Klenda with the parasol, Choclo with the US flag, and Leena in the pink holding the banner.

I would like to thank all the people along the parade route who yelled birthday greetings to Oob!

We marched with the homeschool banner, except for Mxyl and Zorg who marched with the scouts.

The big difference being that the scouts actually marched and managed a parade formation that was pretty much beyond our home schooling crowd.

Appalling, but true, the parade announcer remembered to announce the Girl Scouts, but forgot to announce the Boy Scouts!  It was a learning experience of "life is not always fair" variety.

At any rate, after that it was bouncy castle time, then home for "popsticles" time, followed by dinner out with Grammy and Pop, followed by more cake and even  more presents!

We had a very happy five year old Oob!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Great News!

We had excellent levels in the blood test, so things seem to be going well with the little one!  I had been getting progressively more worried when the expected morning sickness was not showing up, but it looks like I am one of the lucky ones that gets less morning sick while on progesterone!

I will be going for a sonogram on Monday, so please keep praying! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Brief Notice From Mxyl

Choclo is now better at building Bionicles and Heroes than the staff at Lego.

However, Choclo said he didn't want a picture of it on the piano.  So why not?  There's always Photoshop.
I believe Mom did tell you we've been going to the arboretum?

And yes, it was also me who gave myself small elf ears and gave Zorg a clawed hand and a monster's mouth.

And Zorg liked it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cool Dudes

Sorry about the light posting - we've been having a crazy busy week!

The new playground in our neighborhood opened, we made another fossil excursion to the bay, Biology rolls along, and preparations are underway for Oob's golden birthday and the parade we will be in on Saturday...

Also Rose is having finals this week!

I am hoping to post more about it soon, but, in the mean time, please pray for me, I should be getting the results back on some blood tests tomorrow on how the baby is doing.