Sunday, June 30, 2013

Poem of the Week


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What If?

What if your earlier self, say "you" when you were graduating high school, could meet your current self?  What would be the single most surprising thing about you to your younger self?

For a long time, I thought the answer was obvious: I have 6 kids.  At the time I graduated, I wanted to be a nun.  Also, I thought having 6 kids made you crazy.

Now, however, there is something much more shocking going on:  I like math.

Me: You will find the quadratic formula fascinating.
Younger Me: I doubt it!

Me: You will find graphing conic sections amazing.
Younger Me: There's just NO way!

Me: You will thrilled to finally learn spherical trigonometry.
Younger Me: Whoa! In the future they have brain transplants?

So, what would your younger self be most surprised at?   Leave your answer in the comments, or, if you want to turn it into a meme, leave a link to your blog post in the comments.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Popsicle Madness

It started innocently enough.  I found these amazing rocket shaped Popsicle molds at the store.  Then I picked up some more (ordinary ones) at a yard sale.

Then I found a website full of astounding popsicle recipes.. except that's not the site I originally found.  It has almost all the same recipes, except it's missing The Best Popsicles in the World.

Which is fine, because I'll tell you the recipe here.  But, if you are one of my friends who never feeds their kids anything with sugar, I'd like you to skip the next paragraph.

The Best Popsicles in the World:
1. Fill the mold 2/3 of the way with 7-up or Sprite.
2. Fill it the rest of the way with gummy bears.
3. Freeze it.

And if you only feed your kids organic food from farmers you actually know, you might want to skip the next paragraph, too.

We also made chocolate pudding pops (thank you, Bill Cosby).

Ahhh... sweet summer.

I'm planning to make some of the healthy fruit and yogurt based ones soon!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Garden Box

Remember the garden box my kids made me?

It now looks like this:
We have ripe swiss chard, basil, alpine strawberries, chives, cucumbers, and nasturtiums (I eat the flowers in salads).  The radishes, spinach and lettuce are done, and we have squash, tomatoes, carrots, and beets ripening. 

It's how I always dreamed gardening would be!  There is almost no weeding, and I water through a soaker hose, so the "work" is picking things and pulling spent plants.

Which reminds me of the garden I'm not happy with...

And this is the picture after pulling three trash bins of weeds. 

So I've been thinking.  It's taken me two decades of house keeping to figure out how to organize things inside:
  1. only keep what you really need or love
  2. figure out why things get messy in a particular place
  3. figure out what you want the space to do
  4. make it as easy as possible to keep it clean
What if I use those principles in the garden? 

1. I've been trying (with little success) to grow food in this garden for years.  Realistically, there's not enough light for fruiting crops like tomatoes.  But if I can get my food from the garden box, I don't need the big garden as a food garden.

2. It's on the side of the house where I rarely go except to garden.  Once it gets super hot and humid, I don't want to be out side.  It's just too big to continually hand weed the space for annual crops, and it's difficult to water the slope.

3. I want it to be beautiful, just less work. I don't want to turn this space back to lawn.  It was super hard to mow this slope, and it was very very hard to turn into garden in the first place.   There are also things in the garden that are working and I want to keep: the herbs are doing well, and the strawberries, raspberries, and three of the fruit trees.

4. What if I put in perennial shrubs and flowers like I did in the shrubbery?  I could even put in some fruiting shrubs because I know they bear fruit here.  If I planted it densely, I wouldn't have to weed much, and I could use it as a cutting garden

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Garden

 I am just loving (most of) my garden this year! 

After a long cool spring, the summer has been pretty mild so far.  I've actually spent a lot of it inside, painting and reorganizing my house, but I've loved seeing everything flower in my neglected gardens!

This hydrangea by my front door really is coming into it's own, the third year after I planted it.  It has blue, purple and pink flowers, sometimes all on the same cluster!
 This little garden is in it's first year.  The Queen Mum took my garden shopping for my birthday and this is what we found.  There are glads and lilies coming up in the background.

That particular garden is nestled in front of my ever growing shrubbery.  As a neglectful gardener, I've found densely planted shrubs (with perennials tucked around the edges) a very satisfying strategy!

You'll notice I have daisies everywhere.  This is partly because they are fast growing and I keep replanting divisions, but it's mostly because, after our wedding, on the way to our honeymoon, the Emperor stopped in a meadow and picked me some of the wild daisies growing there.

The wild daisies bloom in May, and my "tame" ones bloom in June, but they always remind me of that romantic gesture.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Angry Birds Day

We have a history of hacking the non educational obsession.  We've had a Transformers Day, a Pikmin Day (which I seem to have forgotten to blog about), and several Super Mario Days.

A few weeks back, I found some coloring and activity books with an angry Birds theme.  They were a buck each, and I thought, "Why not?" 

Then I ran across some Angry Birds fruit snacks.  And then some self inking Angry Birds stampers...

So, Angry Birds Day was last Friday!

The younger Zoomlians really enjoy playing the games on flat screens, but they spend far more time building "levels" with toys.

 We did a lot of building on Friday, but we also played Angry Birds, and Angry Birds Star Wars on I pods and Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Space online.

Everyone dressed up as their favorite bird, and they carried hollowed out eggs around to protect them from piggies. In the games, the birds are angry because green pigs have stolen their eggs.

I was the piggy.  I made a little green snout for myself, and I woke them up making piggy noises! Angry Birds, time to fly!

I also copied Angry Birds activities, and gave them packets.  There were the usual word searches and mazes, but my favorite was this "draw yourself as an Angry Bird!"

Mxyl's was immediately recognizable!

I got my activity books at a local craft store, but there are plenty of online printable activities here and a crazy amount of educational Angry Birds stuff here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Poem of the Week

The Destruction of Sennacherib

By Lord Byron (George Gordon)
   The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

   Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

   For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

   And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

   And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

   And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Painting Rounds 3 and 4

So, a week ago Tuesday, I had my portfolio review and it went very well.  For me this marks the "end" of the school year and the "start" of summer (which makes no sense because we do stuff year round and it's not like we're going to just stop learning now).

But, in my head, there must be some kind of distinction because the very next day, I kicked back and relaxed.

Ha, ha! NO!  I launched another massive household reorganization.
Of course, it started small.

Zorg and Choclo were sharing a room that was clearly too small for them.  For months I had been trying to figure out a way to better organize things, but the fact is, it would take far greater organizational skills than I possess to fit two boys, assorted toys and clothes, and 857,096 legos into that space.  And, I think there was a bunk bed in there, too. 

The obvious answer was to put them in the nursery/store room/extra bedroom upstairs.  Except that would mean removing all the junk stuff which had been multiplying into disorganized heaps of random bizarreness accumulating there.

Since this was clearly too minor a project, I also realized that, if we were indeed welcoming a graduate student next semester, I needed to move my office from the main guest room into the new store room/former too small bedroom.  Hmmm.

I took quite a few before and after pictures, all of which are stuck on my phone, which has decided it is no longer on speaking terms with my computer.

 Since, however, you have insomnia are dying to know the details, this is how it went:

Day 1: Removed all the stuff from the nursery into the library. Painted the room green, then took Choclo and Zorg to pick curtains.

Day 2: Moved all of Zorg and Choclo's stuff into their new room.  Also did the annual Girls' Shopping Excursion for summer clothes with Klenda and Leena!

Day 3: Removed and sorted everything in the library (those 7 words do not seem epic enough, but I will spare you the details). Bought another desk and a new bookcase for the new office, on the theory that a graduate student probably will need the old (larger) desk, and bookcase.

Day 4: Realized I could not "live with" the gold walls, and discovered that I had one more full paint gallon from painting the nursery 10 years ago.

Glad I still like the color!

The Emperor's sister miraculously showed up with an amazingly useful old bookcase originally designed to hold LPs.

Assembled the new store room and office.

Discovered that I can still fit my favorite microscope on the new and smaller desk!

 Day 5: Father's Day!  Another post.

Day 6-8: Klenda woke up with a triple ear infection.  Bet you didn't know she had that many ears!  Two outer and one middle ear infections.  And we have been in a frenzy of doctor visits since.  She is just starting to do a bit better today.

Also, between medical visits, the rest of the Zoomlians managed to rearrange the back basement to accommodate the stuff that wouldn't fit in the store room, and I cleared my stuff from the guest room.

I know what I missed: on the Girls' Shopping Excursion, we found the perfect carpet and pillows to complete the living room ensemble.

Whew.  Just recounting it makes me tired!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Poem for My Dad

This week's poem is for my Dad.  I know that Dad in that sentence isn't usually capitalized, but, if you knew my Dad, even the Grammar Commando would let it slide. I simply can't think of my Dad without capital letters.

My Dad was the man who taught me to love poetry.  When I was a little girl, he would tuck me in at night with a prayer, a kiss, and a poem. 

If that seems idyllic, it was.  If it seems saccharine, it wasn't. 

He read me the poems he loved: The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Wreck of the Hesperus, The Ballad of East and West, The Highwayman, Gunga Din, and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. A Child's Garden of Verse it was not, but I loved it!

The best part was this: he didn't just show me the vast treasure trove of poetry, he invited me to haul away as much loot as I could carry!  I could keep any poem I wanted, forever and always, as comfort, strength, and vision wherever I went. 

My Dad traveled all over the world with his rich store of poetry held where it could neither be stolen nor lost.  In many a strange place: starry desert, steamy jungle, craggy mountain, his last waking thought was, "Ah! Sleep it is a gentle thing, beloved from pole to pole."

So, for this Father's Day, my favorite poem from our favorite poet, the poem that invariably makes me think of my Dad:


By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Portfolio Round Up

I'm having my end of year portfolio review today, so these are just links to the things we've done this semester.








Monday, June 10, 2013

Showing Them the Money

Choclo and Oob and I have spent a lot of time over the past few months playing with money. 

We started out with a large jar of unsorted change, and have progressed to a cash box with bills!

The basic format is this: we each bring random things and place them out for "sale."  The banker gives everyone a random amount of money to start, and then the wheeling and dealing begins.

This is a game that can continue indefinitely because a kid can always go off and find a random object to sell to the store, so they can keep replenishing their funds.

In terms of math skills, this covers counting, skip counting (5s, 10s, 20s, and 25s), adding, subtracting, decimals, and making change.  But it also teaches saving, spending, and valuing money.

If you don't have a pile of cash, there are some great internet games that do similar things here, here,  and (more advanced) here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Poem of the Week

“i thank You God for most this amazing” 
by e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

HT: The Poetry Place

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hamlet and Then Some


Hamlet (1990) PosterNothing like a portfolio review coming up to remind you that you need to blog about home schooling stuff... Did we remember to educate the children this semester?  Oh, yeah, we just finished a high tide with Hamlet! Nothing says "We're serious about education" like Shakespeare!

We watched three different versions: the 1990 Mad Max Mel Gibson version set in medieval times.  This had our favorite queen - seriously, Glenn Close was amazing, it was the most convincing explanation of the situation I've ever seen!  We also liked Gibson's Hamlet a lot.  He made it believable that Hamlet was likeable, but flawed, a combination that is clear in the play, but hard to pull off.

Hamlet (1996) PosterNext up was the 1996 scene chewing extravaganza Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet. We really liked their Horatio, and their Claudius. This was our least favorite Hamlet, partly because he was so unlikeable. This also had my favorite scenery set in the late 18th century: very lush and opulent, if a bit chewed around the edges.

The Zoomlians commented that this version "jumped the shark" at several points, notably in the ghost scene where the ghost's command to swear secrecy is accompanied by earthquakes.  Seriously. But it also had the best ever grave diggers scene (with Billy Crystal) and a jaw droppingly awesome Charleton Heston as the leader of the players.

Fun to watch, but a prime example of why the director, producer, and star should be at least two different people.

Hamlet (2009) PosterThen we had the 2009 Dr. Who/Star Trek crossover David Tennant Hamlet with Sir Patrick Stewart as Claudius. This was set in modern times with clever use of security cameras and "found footage" for the soliloquies.  This was very well done.  My favorite Claudius, an excellent Polonius, Laertes, and Horatio, and our best and worst Ophelia.  As a sane Ophelia, we found her utterly unconvincing, but as crazy Ophelia... Wow!

We liked Tennant as Hamlet very much.  He was believable, and he brought out the black humor of the part.  He does "conflicted" very well also, and that's a key part of the role.

So, what's left?  Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.  This is a weird film from back in 1990 which follows two very minor characters from Hamlet through the play, sort of at right angles to it, while asking existential questions.  Naturally, it's a comedy.

It also includes The World's Most Annoying Game, which your children will want to play all the time, so allow them to watch it (below) at your peril. Also there is at least one inappropriate scene in the movie (with the players) which we fast forwarded for the Zoomlians.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Guest Blog by Mxyl

I don't believe we've mentioned that the Zoomlians have started composing music.  While Klenda and I have made minor melodies, Leena in particular has finished an extraordinary piece of music: Cthra, a Zoomlian word that translates to "Storm."

Here, composed and performed by Leena: Storm!

A few words from the composer:

"I am very proud to have made up this 'Cthra' by myself.  My favorite part is at the 1:07 mark.  I hope you enjoyed it!"

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Painting Round 2

 Unlike the Zoomlians, who redo their rooms frequently, we haven't painted our room in a decade.  It was time for a change!

So, armed with anniversary money from Mumpy and Pa, the Emperor and I set out to find a bedspread that we both loved.

We've noticed that when we pick things out together, it takes 3 times as long, but we end up with something we like 10 times as much.

We found this chocolate, cream and dusky turquoise bed in a bag at Anna's.  We picked out matching curtains while we were at it, and a paint that was a slightly lighter shade of the turquoise .

It was very nice...but we both felt something was missing. How about a stenciled border that matched the vining flowers on the bed spread?

That was great!  Although Blogger is still stretching the photos.  And I can't find a way to get actual help past their FAQs.

But I wanted to do something special above the bed. The Emperor has a morbid fear of things hanging over him at night just because of that thing that happened that time when I said it wouldn't prefers not to have anything hanging over the bed.

 What about a painted headboard?  We looked through a few pages of ideas, and found that we were both drawn to the tree motifs.

Trees, I can do!  I freehand painted the trees, then added leaves, flowers, and birds from the stencil kit (just using a bit here and there).

We love it!

I'm thinking of painting a nest with six eggs in one of the trees.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Secret Day

We're having a Secret Day. 

I have a cold and I can't talk very loud, so I am whispering to the Zoomlians. Inevitably, they whisper back.  Naturally, this means everything is secret. 

"It's a secret: It's time for breakfast, pass it on."  Everyone lines up at the table, smiling.

"We're having secret packets, better get yours quietly." The Zoomlians quickly plow through their packets.

"Let's go to our secret playground. The secret is that the mulberries are ripe there!"

Oob: You want to know the biggest secret?  It's where my shoes are.

Me: Where?

Oob: I don't know!

One of the nicest things about the Zoomlians is that any indication that I am under the weather launches them into care taking mode. I have had more offers to make me tea or to do something for me than I can count!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Painting Round 1

 Yesterday we moved all the furniture and painted the living room, dining room, front hall and stairs.  And changed the curtains. And put everything back!

And today we are tired.

You can see a before picture here.  I had thought we had last painted a year and a half to two years ago, so I was surprised to see the peach walls three years ago.

 But we are surrounded by clean fresh walls in a pale blue-green that feels summery.

To which the Emperor cautiously replied with the question: Does this mean you're going to do this all over again in September?

Of course not!  It's still hot here in September.

 I'm thinking October.

How did we do it all in one day?  The Zoomlians did a great deal of the work: moving, cleaning, taping, and  painting, including this Art Deco flourish going down the stairs.

 By the way, does anyone know why blogger is suddenly stretching all the vertical pictures into a horizontal format?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Wise Child

Choclo and the Emperor were talking about seasons and the Emperor was explaining that "equinox" means "equal night," referring to the fact that the lengths of day and night are equal on the equinoxes.

Choclo: Isn't there a character in Batman, the Brave and the Bold named Equinox?

The Emperor: That's right.

Choclo:  Isn't he half good and half bad? 

The Emperor: Well, supposedly.

Choclo: Yeah, supposedly, he wants everything to be equally good and bad, but that doesn't make any sense.  You know why?  If you mix together a cup of water and a cup of mud, you know what you get? Mud!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Poem of the Week

The Vacation

By Wendell Berry
Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.