Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Getting Ready for Advent

I love these years where Advent starts more than a week after Thanksgiving!  Having the week to get ready makes everything feel less stressful.  Although I do realize I am getting ready for getting ready for Christmas, which does seem silly...

Actually, I love Advent, but now I find it's nice to ease into it. I've found I need to do 6 Advent things a day so that everyone can do something each day.  Plus stepping up the prayer (daily Mass), fasting (I'll be skipping sweets and minimizing desserts until Christmas proper), and alms giving (Heifer donation Jar, and probably Angel Tree).  Plus doing good deeds to put hay in the manger.  Plus we need to make an Advent wreath.  Plus, to start out, I need to strip all the walls... I love it all, but it's tough to do from a standing start.

Anyway, our 6 daily activities this year are:

1. The Advent House, full of Playmobil nativity figures and candy (6 pieces plus a figure behind each door).  This year I'll have the older kids set it up.

2. The paper Advent calendar.

3. The Jesse Tree.  This is doubling as our Bible time since each day goes through a part of salvation history in both the Old and New Testaments. I need to go through and replace the missing ornaments.

4. The ornament: a new Christmas decoration picked out each day!

5. Lighting (or just blowing out ) the Advent wreath candles.

6.  A kid gets to pick one thing we all can do as a gift to God that day.

Also, we may do the old velcro nativity scene Advent calendar (if we can find enough pieces!), so that may get combined with number 6.

You can see pictures of everything Advent here.

I also love online Advent calendars!  My favorite religious one is on Busted Halo, my favorite secular one is Boola and Kwala.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Easy Beautiful Candle Gifts

Fortunately, none of these are going out to people who read this blog, so I think it's safe to post it!

Basically, they are ordinary pillar candles with beads, sequins, and jewelry supplies pinned to them.

Klenda, Leena and I did these on Girls' Night in an hour or so.

Most of the beads and so forth we had on hand, but we did buy the chains in the jewelry section of a craft store (on sale!).
We picked up the candles on sale at a craft store, but dollar stores are also a good source.

Helpful tips: 
1. We used sequin pins from the craft store because they are short and easy to push in, but any pins work.
2. Sketch out your design first with a pin.
3. Use a thimble!
4. Longer, pearl headed pins also work, and look like beads, but they are harder to put in.  
5. We really liked the combination of sequins topped with seed beads.
6.  Keep the designs a little way down from the top so the candles can be lit without interfering with the design.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Secret Life of Gilwell

 Gilwell is the (stuffed) tiger cub mascot for Choclo's Tiger Cub Scout den.  Each session (they meet every two weeks), a different cub takes Gilwell home to have adventures which are then recorded in Gilwell's journal.

Here are Gilwell's adventures on Zoom:

Alligator wrestling!

A trip to the National Gallery where he saw what Choclo described as "The Biggest Fountain in the World!"  If you've been there, it's the one under the central dome.

We started with the oldest Medieval paintings and made it up through the Italian Renaissance and the museum's Da Vinci portrait before Oob had enough.

We took a picture of Gilwell with the Da Vinci, but it didn't come out well (I wasn't sure if it was ok to use the flash).

 We took Gilwell to Oxon Hill Farm where he went for a ride on one of their horses!

These were not ordinary riding horses, but the big draft animals.  To give you a sense of scale, that's the Emperor whose hands are in the picture.  The top of the fence was about the height of his shoulder.
And, of course, Gilwell had a Thanksgiving adventure in which he tried to eat one of the seven pies.

We made three pumpkin, two chocolate, one sweet potato, and a lemon meringue.  You would think it would be fine for Gilwell to have one, but no, the Emperor saved the pies for Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In Which I Shoot a Turkey

 We had missed Choclo's Tiger Cub visit to Oxon Hill Farm last Sunday, so we decided to go today (the day before Thanksgiving).

The farm has cows, horses, pigs, geese, rabbits, chickens, a cat, and a donkey.  It also plays host to a flock of wild turkeys who like to mooch off the feeding bins!

Yes, I shot my very own turkey with my very own camera on the day before Thanksgiving!  It was thrilling.  For me.

More thrilling for the Zoomlians, they each got to try their hand at milking a (very patient) cow named Minnie.

We took along the Tiger Cubs' mascot, a stuffed tiger named Gilwell.  Each kid gets a turn to take Gilwell home and write his adventures in Gilwell's journal.

We had the whole farm to ourselves, and had a great time poking around in all the outbuildings!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I have been enjoying Catholic Memes for a while now, and I finally came up with one myself!

I've often had to explain to my kids why we can't have a dog: I would be utterly unable to resist naming it this!( that and the dog allergies)

"Anathema sit" is the term used to formally denounce a heresy, and literally means, "Let him be anathema."  It's always proceeded by an "if," as in, "If he says Jesus Christ was not truly God, let him be anathema!"

Unfortunately, the "sit" is pronounced with a long e instead of a short i, but I wouldn't let that stop me!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Just Turkeys

Sometime when Mxyl and Klenda were very small, I had the idea of having them do the same craft every year to see how they changed and how their creativity evolved.  That craft was to make a construction paper turkey with feathers (real or paper) and  googly eyes.

This has sort of taken on a life of it's own.

Here are this year's turkeys.

Leena did a Classic Turkey of the type I always have in mind when I drag out the paper.

Zorg has the Conquering Alien Turkey... of Doom!

 Klenda did The Flirty Turkey.

Mxyl did Turkey.

Highlight the empty space after this text if you can't figure it out.
It's the country.
Oob snuck in under the radar and, unbeknownst to me, made a Baby Turkey snuggled up to our big Thankful Turkey.

Choclo, also on his own, made this Video Game Turkey.  He explained, "When he pushes the square button on his chest, he spits out twenty video games!"

Friday, November 16, 2012

Math Turkeys

These addition turkeys were a great idea I got from Royal Baloo.

Her blog looks like a real gold mine of home schooling ideas, definitely worth a look, although her kids are a bit younger than most of mine.

The turkeys say =10 on them, and each feather is a different way to add up to 10.  Choclo loved this craft and, although he knew the answers, having the pattern feathers in order was something he found delightful.

Oob, on the other hand, needed the Math-U-See blocks to see the the pattern, but he also liked the project a lot.  I need to do more crafts like this with them!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Easy Art Project

 This was a fun and easy project!

I had the kids draw a tree on black paper and then cut it out.

I pointed out that the trees branches get smaller as the split and that they tend to end in points, but otherwise gave no direction.

I think with younger kids, I'd let them draw it, and I'd cut it out for them.

For the second part, we used watercolors on white paper, but you could also do watercolor on tissue paper and put the finished project in the window for a stained glass effect.

We had been looking at some sun rises and sunsets in real life lately, and we talked about using warm colors for sunsets, and cooler, lighter tones for sunrises.

  I'm finding it interesting to see the kids decisions on these projects.  It was important to Leena that her tree be off center.   Mxyl's tree (top left) looks like an oak to me, while Klenda's (bottom left) makes me think of a maple, and Zorg's (top right) is very much like the elm that was in our front yard at the house where he was born.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Zoomlians in the News

I'm not sure I mentioned that we now have three scouts: two Boys and a Cub. 

Generally, the Troop (Boy Scouts) and the Pack (Cub Scouts) don't cross over that much, but occasionally they do.  This past weekend the Cubs and Boys worked together on a project gathering food for the hungry, and they collected nearly half a ton of food!

They made the local news here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Can you guess which Zoomlian this is?

Leave your guess in the comments!

Update: Yes!  It is Choclo!  Amusingly, Choclo himself thought it was Mxyl, then guessed Zorg, then Leena. 

Clearly it was an excellent disguise!

The Emperor was a great guess because he's the only other person with brown eyes!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thankfully Before and After

 Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK?!

Time to get thankful!

So, I made a turkey with the help of Oob.  I had grabbed a roll of builders paper at Home Depot a while ago (near the paint department), and I must say, it's great for craft projects (where you want brown paper), heavy but easy to cut, and super cheap. It's about 3 feet wide and comes in a big roll.

Oob put on the eyes (cross eyed) and gave the turkey buttons.  He also put googly eyes on the wings and a few other random adornments.  He glued a piece of Halloween candy in the turkey's mouth, for example.
Still, this was everyone's turkey, not just Oob's, so I felt the need to scale back the surrealism.

We cut out feathers, and let everyone write things they were thankful for on them.  This was last week, and he is still acquiring feathers now and then.

Voila!  A thankful turkey!

Friday, November 9, 2012

All Souls

Actually, we missed All Souls Day during the big sick, but November is the month of the Holy Souls, so we went ahead with our plans.

Who are the Holy Souls, anyway?  They are the people who have died who haven't been officially declared saints.

The Church canonizes people (declares them to be in heaven) who have lead extraordinary lives of heroic virtue and holds them up as examples of how to be holy.

We start November with the feast of All Saints (All Hallows, the eve of which is Hallowe'en), but the next day, and the rest of the month, are dedicated to the rest of the dead, all leading up to the end of the Church Year: Christ the King, in which we celebrate Jesus' return at the end of time. 

We believe that some souls go directly to heaven (saints), some go to heaven but first need purification (those in purgatory), and of course, some choose to be separated from God forever (the damned).

Unless they choose hell, everyone is part of the Communion of Saints.  Those in heaven are the Church Triumphant, those in purgatory are the Church Suffering (sometimes called Poor Souls, sometimes called Holy Souls), those of us with boots on the ground are the Church Militant.

I like the term Holy Souls, because it covers those who are in heaven (but not canonized) and those in purgatory, in other words, all my dead relatives!  Those in purgatory would be holy (they've definitively chosen heaven), and suffering (they have seen God and can't be with Him).  We can help them get to heaven more quickly with our prayers and sacrifices.

Praying at the graves in 40 degree weather and a stiff breeze felt much more sacrificial than our Memorial Day outing!

There is something special about visiting in November though.  The cemeteries are quieter.  The autumn weather, edging towards winter, brings mortality to mind.  It's a season of loss, and a good time to reflect that nothing is lost in God.

And we have beautiful camellias to decorate the graves with!  This year, scrounging through the November garden, I found one perfect white rose to bring to my father-in-law's grave.  He loved growing roses, and I love to bring him some whenever we visit.  I never got to meet him, but we are connected by a love of gardening.  And by the Communion of Saints!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Choclo Says

"Take a picture of my great battle!"

"It's for the blog."

Yes, dear.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Faith and Trust

I am really happy with the way our first project for the Year of Faith came out!

I've been thinking about what to do next.  Ideally, I'd like to do one small(ish) project a month, with a larger, less intensive project that would stretch over the year. (More on that soon!)

For October, we focused on what we believe, as articulated by the Nicene Creed.  This month, I thought it would be good to look at another meaning of Faith: not faith about what, but faith in whom. 

So, Faith as trust in Jesus.  Which brings me back to my continual question as a parent: how do I help my kids build and nurture their relationship with God.  It's tricky.  God actually does all the heavy lifting, of course, but how can I help?  Because, really, it all comes down to this, doesn't it?

One thing I've seen is that kids are very concrete in their relationship with God, and it really helps them to have an image to help them focus their imagination on Jesus when they pray.

 Fessing up here, it really helps me too!  I have this picture in my kitchen, hung at eye level, and about life sized, and it really helps me to remember that Jesus is with me.

But that's the image that helps me.  I have known several people who couldn't stand this image!

So I've been having the kids look at lots and lots of images, and picking one that speaks to them.  We've used Google images' search for Jesus (which does include some non-Christian images), a Pinterest page on Jesus (which was very good, if heavy on the smiles), and a Spanish page on Jesus (fairly diverse styles).  I'll print out each kid's favorite, and put it up near their bed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mask Making

 On Halloween, we had three recovered, three still recovering from the stomach bug and two waiting for the next round, so the kids were left to their own devices for large swathes of the day.

By this point, they had watched videos for two days while the grown ups were sick, so they were ready to make their own fun.

Klenda started a mask making business in the home school room.

Here she is modelling her pumpkin mask.

And here is Zorg with the Frankenstein mask.

I think Mxyl's extra-large boots add the finishing touch.

Quite creepily well done!

Monday, November 5, 2012


Do you remember in The Princess Bride, in the Pit of Despair: "I've just sucked one week of your life away.  Now tell me, how do you feel?  Be honest."


It's November.  Fifth.  How is that even possible? 

But we are all feeling ok again, and I am very grateful.  I had been stuck in the bemused, "now, what was I doing..." phase over the weekend, alternated with the panicky realization that the holidays are looming, the election is tomorrow, and I have 5 classes left of Chemistry.

What I needed was something amazing to get me going again and this was it:

I don't know that this would hit you the same way if you aren't Catholic and of a certain age (and recovering from a stomach bug), but for me, it was a reminder of everything Papa John Paul told me, the deep spiritual influence he had on me, and the communion of saints.  Just what I needed!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


 We made it!

All kids on deck for All Hallows Eve!

This year, Klenda graduated to candy giver along with Mxyl.  One of the fringe benefits of this is picking out the candy we give. And eating it, of course!

This is our crew of saints and so forth for 2012.

 Klenda was St. Agnes (her lamb is obscuring her authentic Roman pallium).  Leena was St. Cecelia (she's playing her harp).

 Choclo was St. Patrick. A very happy St. Patrick!

Zorg was Moses (Yes!  I knit that beard!)

Oob was St. Michael.   And very serious about it.
Evidently, he believes St. Michael does not smile.

Mxyl was Space Ghost.


UPDATE: Choclo made it through the trick-or-treating, but got hit with the stomach bug later that night.  It's all about the timing!