Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

On the Second Day of Christmas

The Zoomlians give to you: a Christmas poem by GK Chesterton!

A Christmas Carol Poem

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from Zoom!

Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!
With love from the Zoomlians
(Photoshop by Mxyl)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Poem for the Fourth Week of Advent

Christmas Bells
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

HT: Journey with Jesus

The poem itself has further verses which refer to the Civil War, ongoing at the time Longfellow wrote the poem, and which can be seen if you follow the link.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Return of the Gingerbread

 This year we decided to host our own gingerbread house contest and party!
3rd Prize Individual and Birthday Girl!

The party was to celebrate the end of the semester for Anatomy and Physiology, Adventurers, and co-op.

3rd Prize Family
 The contest was because we had missed the deadline for the Darnall's Chance contest!

Our super sweet cousin won third prize in the individual division for this charming cottage.  It was her 11th birthday, so she also was awarded the birthday prize of a giant snowflake cookie cutter!

Oob and Mxyl took third prize in the family division with this happy house.  Oob did the house and Mxyl did the intricate design on the roof.

2nd Prize Individual
Choclo won second individual prize for "King Candy's Castle."  He had all sorts of stories about what the different gummy bears were doing all over the castle!
2nd Prize Family

A pair of clever sisters took 2nd prize and the Popular Choice Trophy for this gingerbread village.

1st Prize Individual

Klenda took first prize and won a giant snowflake cookie cutter for her "Winter Gazebo."  If you expand the picture, you can see the inside is decorated with little seats and things - very pretty!

1st Prize Family

Leena and Zorg took first prize in the family division for this amazing and creative sailing ship (look, it has life savers!).  They also won a set of snowflake cookie cutters.

It was really fun running our own contest, we think we'll do it again next year!

I'd also like to mention that the nearness of Christmas seems to have added $6-$8 to the price of each of the cookie cutters.  You might want to try them in January!

You can look through tales of gingerbreads past here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It HAS Been a While

 If you guessed we were busy decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping presents, hosting and attending parties, and doing cards... You'd be wrong.

We haven't even started on the cards yet.

We all also caught a bad cold which made the Emperor very sick indeed, but he's on the mend, and we've enjoyed having him home with us this week.

We did get a nice warm spell, earlier in the month, with which to do the outside decorations.   That's always helpful!

I usually double task and prune the clematis, roses, and other shrubs when we are putting up the Christmas stuff (because otherwise there's no place to put the Christmas stuff!).  This year, one of the Zoomlians looked at the big pile of long straight water sprouts I had taken off the contorted filbert and had the marvelous idea of weaving a stable for our outdoor Nativity!

This was followed by the coldest December cold snap I can remember.

It gave us a very pretty ice storm and time to work on the inside decorations.

We have been putting up one decoration a day, but we also have one day in Advent where we put up general decorations like greenery, bows, and beads.

You can almost see his belly button!
And, of course, there's the tree!

We buy the tree from our local volunteer fire fighters early in December, but then keep it in water outside until we are ready for it.

Some time around Gaudete Sunday, we bring it in and decorate it.  The extra few weeks of cold and water keep the tree green through the Baptism of the Lord!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Poem of the Week: Gaudete!


John Donne (1572-1631)

Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He will wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death's force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son and Brother;
Whom thou conceivst, conceived; yea thou art now
Thy Maker's maker, and thy Father's mother;
Thou hast light in dark, and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.

HT: Journey with Jesus

Friday, December 6, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Punching Heretics

Favorite Catholic Meme EVER.
1. Happy St. Nicholas day!  As we all know, this great saint is known for punching the arch heretic Arius in the face at the Council of Nicaea.  It seems he really couldn't stand to listen to Arius try to convince the council fathers that Jesus wasn't really God.  That council then handed down the Nicene Creed (the one we say each week at Mass) affirming that Jesus is both true God and true man.

No boots, Buddy!
2.  Of course the other thing that St. Nicholas was known for was his kindness to those in need, particularly children.

Our kids follow the tradition of putting out their shoes on the the eve of St. Nicholas, so that they could be filled with candy.  This would include the tradition (in our house) of at least one kid trying to put out boots instead of shoes.  This year, Oob tried not only putting out boots, but boots several times larger than his actual shoes!

He was informed that St. Nicholas disapproves of greed and heresy.

3.  Have you visited the St. Nicholas website yet?  I wonder: how many links to it get published every year around this day? Probably millions.  It certainly merits them!

4. We also love the book The Real St. Nicholas.   It has stories from around the world.  My favorite is the one with the Russian Icon.  A young mother accidentally dropped her baby on the way home from Midnight Mass, and the baby fell into the river.  In winter.  In Russia. 

The entire village prayed together to St. Nicholas, and the child was found, wet but unharmed, in the church, in front of the icon of St. Nicholas!

5. Our last co-op of the semester falls today, so, naturally we are having a St. Nicholas party!  The emphasis is on works of mercy, so we are supposed to bring canned goods which will be used in a "Works of Mercy" game, then donated to our local food pantry. We are also bringing "gold"coins for little treat bags for the kids, and for prizes for the other games.

Blogger insists this is right side up. It's not.
6. Based on the story of St. Nicholas secretly dropping gold into stockings drying by the fire, I came up with the entirely imaginative "stocking toss" game.  You toss golden bean bags and try to land on a stocking. 

I happen to own three stockings with St. Nicholas on them. St. Nicholas did this trick for three poor girls who were otherwise doomed to slavery.  You get three chances with the bean bags.

Hmmm.  Will the kids like this game?

7.Zorg, on the the hand, came up with the "Punch Arius" game.

The punching bag says "I'm Arius: I don't think Jesus is true God and true man!"  The game works like this: you yell something to the contrary from the Nicene Creed (like, "One in being, consubstantial with the Father!" or, perhaps, "Light from light, true God from true God!") and then you get to punch Arius.

And then we give you a gold coin and explain that we don't punch modern heretics, those kind need love, patience and apologetics.

Happy St. Nicholas day!  More fun with Jen.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The weekend before Thanksgiving, I got to go up and see my folks again!  It was a lovely, lovely time. 

I got to spend a lot of time talking with my Dad.  He explained a lot about his work and the things he's done and is still trying to finish.  We tried to put together a time line of his travels based on dozens of passports.  It was funny, fascinating, thrilling, and touching by turns.

I also got to spend some time with my Mom.  She's always around, but she tends to leave me some extra time with Dad. We did go off to Mass together each day, and we went to Confession at St. Joseph's, the parish where I spent my late childhood, and where the Emperor and I married. 

It is such a strikingly beautiful church - old world stained glass, frescoes, and carved marble! It really formed my sense of beauty, both physical and spiritual. I think there is a special grace, also, in returning to the church which nurtured you. It was a very beautiful, comforting experience.

You may have guessed that a mother of six doesn't go off on weekend visits just because she wants to.  My Dad has had Parkinson's for nearly 20 years, and after a long slow decline, things have gotten very difficult, to the point that he can no longer get to Mass.  My brother and sister are flying in to see him in a week or so.  I am hoping to see him again when I go up over the Christmas break.

My Dad has been packing up for a while now.  When I saw him in October, I was impressed by a sense of feverish urgency.  He was pushing hard on many fronts: finish the projects that would save more lives, finish the furniture to leave us something tangible, most of all finish making sure we knew how much he loves us.

I never thought I would outlive my Dad.   I was quite sure he would not survive my childhood,  not because he was sick, or because I was morbid, but because his job, working with bombs was so dangerous.  It wasn't just me, my entire family knew what two soldiers in dress uniform meant. 

My Dad is now 75.  He's been dubbed a National Treasure by the EOD community.  He has awards, and a museum being named after him, but that's not what he's proud of.  He has the unimaginable record of, with all the people he took with him on hundreds of trips, he brought every single one of them home alive.  I asked him once how that was possible, and he told me, "If it looked like it was going to kill some one, I did it."

His motto is  "That others may live."  And they did, those he brought back, and the many, many thousands of others who were saved by his work.  The only surprise has been that he lived, too.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Advent!

 Each Advent we have six daily practices.  Why six?  Six Zoomlians each get to do one Advent thing a day.  We rotate through who does what, of course.

Kid one (Choclo today) opens a door on the Advent House.  Inside is a little Playmobil nativity figure.  And six pieces of candy, which kid one gets to give out.

And, of course, they get to place the figure (a lamb today, the camel just shows up - he doesn't fit in the Advent House).
 Kid two (Oob today), gets the Jesse Tree.  I read a short reading from the Old and New Tesaments about Creation, while Oob looked through the bag to find the "Earth" ornament. 

That's harder than it sounds at the beginning: there are nearly 30 possible ornaments since the length of Advent varies.

Kid three (Mxyl) gets to light and blow out the Advent candles at each meal.

Kid four (Klenda) gets to choose a gift for us to offer Jesus.  Today she suggested we all try to speak kindly and lovingly to each other.

 Child five (Zorg) gets to choose and unwrap an Advent book.  We have... an embarrassment of Advent and Christmas books!  More than 50, at any rate, so I wrap half (making sure to include a lot of favorites), and leave half "free."  It actually makes sure all the books are enjoyed. 

Most of the books are religious, but it's a pretty varied collection.  There are comic books, board books, lift the flaps, picture books, you name it.  Some are seriously beautiful, like Spirit Child, and some are seriously silly, like Santa Cows.  All well loved!

Child six (Leena) gets to pick an ornament.  Today she picked the snow globe you can see near the Advent House.

We've also put up our manger, which the kids are filling with hay as symbols of their prayers and sacrifices making their hearts a soft place for Jesus at Christmas.

I love Advent!  May your Advent be a peaceful and hope filled season, and may Christmas find each of us with soft hearts, ready for the infant King.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Poem of the Week: Advent

Expectans Expectavi
by Anne Ridler
The candid freezing season again:
Candle and cracker, needles of fir and frost;
Carols that through the night air pass, piercing
The glassy husk of heart and heaven;
Children's faces white in the pane, bright in the tree-light.
And the waiting season again,
That begs a crust and suffers joy vicariously:
In bodily starvation now, in the spirit's exile always.
O might the hilarious reign of love begin, let in
Like carols from the cold
The lost who crowd the pane, numb outcasts into welcome.

HT: Advent Poetry Companion - Well worth a look, they have a lovely free printable Advent poetry journal!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Poem of the Week: Thanksgiving

A Grateful Heart
Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, - a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
George Herbert

HT: Linda Ann Nickerson

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cryptologic Museum

model trains and houses showing hobo codes

 This was an amazing museum! And FREE!
Seriously, if you live nearby, go!

The Cryptologic Museum is a museum about codes and ciphers: encoding, decoding, and all manner of secret writing.

It's arranged so that you travel through time, starting with the (relatively) simple ciphers of the Revolutionary War.

Actually, they have a copy of the Rosetta stone in the lobby, so I guess it starts earlier than that!

 They also showed the flag codes, code books and cipher wheels used in the Civil War.  The kids got to write things in all these codes and ciphers.  They even got to use invisible ink made from baking soda and water, revealed with purple grape juice.

A major favorite was the Enigma machines!  We got to encode and decode our names on the two machines for public use.
 They had quite a bit on World War II codes, since they played such a large part in the war.  My favorite was the section on the Navaho Code Talkers. "The most ingenious and successful code in military history."

They actually gave us two tours: one for the older kids, one for the younger.  The younger kids favorite thing was this robot.  It's a little hard to see, but the robot is scanning codes on hundreds of data tapes, removing them, sending them to requested computers, then replacing the tapes.

The kids all agreed that a robot that automatically put everything away exactly where it belonged would be a handy addition to their rooms!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Random Acts of Science

It's not all squashbuckling.  The other day, I noticed that Zorg and Leena were flying peppers down the stairs.

They had worked out a way to make parachutes from paper and pipe cleaners, and were sailing the peppers down in pairs, much to the delight of the audience lining the stairs.

There's quite a bit of random science going on all the time here.  I keep finding strange things in the freezer (and outside now that it's freezing at night).

Recently, Zorg asked if he could see what would happen if he microwaved a partially inflated balloon.  He thought it might expand in volume, but he wasn't sure.

I wasn't sure what would happen, either, because there wouldn't be much water in the air in the balloon, so I agreed to watch and provide technical assistance (my plan: I'd stop the microwave if the balloon seemed to be burning).

At 30 seconds we didn't notice any change, and the balloon didn't seem too warm.  I suggested that we draw a line that we could measure.   This time we tried a full minute and the balloon (still not very warm) had expanded the line from 9 inches to 9.5 inches!

We immediately thought of other possibilities: would a more fully inflated balloon see a greater proportional expansion? Would there be a difference between a balloon inflated with a pump (plain air) and one inflated by mouth (warmer, moister air)? (Me: should I put in a cup of water with the balloon, so I don't damage my microwave?)

I'd show you the balloon, but I cut it up to make a working model of a lung.  More on that later, we're finishing up Anatomy and Physiology this week!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Problem Children

 We've been having a problem at our house with too many squashbucklers.

No really, look how distressed Klenda is!

She looks like she's being pun ished.
And look at that spaghetti squash she's holding.

Sad, really.  No squash left unbuckled.

Ah, well.   I suppose it could be worse.

George Washington does not approve this message.
We could have buck an ears.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Inspiration and Expiration

Literally. :) I great, clear video, and, for bonus points, the narrator is Scottish!  Did I mention that , after watching The Rise of the Continents, Oob wants to grow up to be a Scottish Geologist?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fall at the Arboretum

 Last week we were scheduled to do the Library of Congress, but... no one showed up to go with us, and I was feeling a bit daunted at the prospect of needing to park about a mile away. 

So I took a quick poll of the Zoomlians, and we went off to the Arboretum instead!

We played hide and seek at the Capitol Columns.  The reflecting pool was having an algal bloom, so we took a sample to look at under the microscope.

 Then it was off to the dogwood garden.  This garden doesn't have a lot of flowers, just a lovely sweep of wilderness on one side, and islands of dogwoods on the other.  It's beautiful in a Jane Austen kind of way!

Mxyl and Klenda tried a new way of wearing scarves.  It took me three pictures to get one where they were both smiling.

We walked from that garden through the camellia garden to the Asian garden.
Lovely camellias!!
 The Asian garden was beautiful!

We really hit the leaves at their peak.

It was a lovely relaxing trip!
No, really, everyone loved it!