Monday, September 30, 2013

American History

We started off Adventurers with two weeks at the American History Museum!  

We ended up seeing only two of the three floors, in part because some new exhibits had opened up.

There was a very large exhibit on the history of commercial sailing.  I love model ships!

The space dovetailed with their (even larger) transportation exhibit. 

The exhibits are designed to be interactive, so Leena is listening to this statue (in a train station) talk about life as a traveling salesman. You press buttons to hear him talk about different subjects.  There are also lots of boxes and containers to peek into as you see what was being transported when.

Then you get to climb on an MTA subway.  It gives a very good imitation of moving along in the late 1950s/early 60s, while one wall is a movie of riders getting on and off and chatting amongst themselves about various issues.

The exhibit goes from the earliest trains to modern container ships, and includes a 1970s traffic jam!

On the way out, we stopped in on the exhibit showing early forms of generators - very steam punk!

The other week we looked at the Star Spangled Banner, and the military history exhibit which takes up almost the entire top floor.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Poem of the Week

The Apple Tree

It's the fall, the unfallen apples
hold their brightness
a little longer into the blue air, hold the idea
that they can be brighter.

by Galway Kinnell

HT: Scholarworks (where you can read the whole poem)

We are going apple picking later this week, and that always reminds me of this poem!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Garden, Ahoy!


About that mulch pile...  Back in June I had mentioned that I needed to renovate my big garden.

I have been working on it in my mind this summer, and this month I finally started actually working on it.

8 bins of weeds, 3 yards of mulch, 300 bulbs, dozens of new and transplanted shrubs, trees, and plants, and countless hours later...

I'm mostly done!

I still need to work on the path in the center, and I will prune the fruit trees over the winter, but the hard work is done, and at the best time of year for the garden to get a good start.

It's a mixed shade garden with lots of flowering shrubs, grasses, ferns, flowers, herbs, and hostas, as well as a few trees for height.

My gardens always surprise me with what works (and doesn't!), but I'm reasonably confident that this garden will be really beautiful this spring, and grow more beautiful each year.

Planting a garden is always an act of hope!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Talking Like Pirates

 Arrrr!  We did talk like pirates, matey!

Here we have Klenda threatening a nervous Leena.

Leena actually made a pretty winsome damsel in distress!

We had a good time doing map work and other piratey printouts in our Talk Like a Pirate Packets.

I think the favorite was the Pirate Mad Libs.
 Klenda helped with costuming.  She made hats and eye patches, as well as face paint scars.  The scars were realistic enough to alarm some adults!

But, of course, the favorite part of the day was the treasure hunt!

This time they really had to dig for it - in the mulch pile! 

I had buried it very shallowly, but I hadn't counted on the people on the pile shifting the mulch so much.  They actually had to dig quite a bit.  But it was worth it - licorice whips filled with sour candy- mmmm!

It was so much fun that the Zoomlians set up a second treasure hunt for their friends in the Anatomy class!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Conversation with Oob

We are driving to a 2:00 appointment

Oob (cheerily): It's 2:00!

Me (Panic!  Look at the clock!): No, it's only 1:45, honey.

Oob (undaunted): It's 2:00!  It says so on my invisible watch.
(shows me his wrist on which no watch is visible)

Me (long pause): If it's invisible, how can you see what time it is?

Oob (wiggling his eyebrows): X-Ray Vision!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Poem of the Week

Prayer for a Marriage
By Steve Scafidi
When we are old one night and the moon
arcs over the house like an antique
China saucer and the teacup sun

follows somewhere far behind
I hope the stars deepen to a shine
so bright you could read by it

if you liked and the sadness
we will have known go away
for awhile – in this hour or two

before sleep – and that we kiss
standing in the kitchen not fighting
gravity so much as embodying

its sweet force, and I hope we kiss
like we do today knowing so much
good is said in this primitive tongue

from the wild first surprising ones
to the lower dizzy ten thousand
infinitely slower ones—and I hope

while we stand there in the kitchen
making tea and kissing, the whistle
of the teapot wakes the neighbors.

HT:  Uniquely Tea

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Adventurers Schedule

This is our fifth year of weekly field trip adventures, and we are still finding new places to go!  This year we are skewing a bit older (we tend to alternate older and younger years). 

If you're curious, my advice for field trips in the DC area is here.

Fall Schedule:
9/9 American History (transportation, immigration, Star Spangled Banner)
9/16 American History (US memorabilia, military history)
9/23 Natural History (Ocean Hall, Minerals)
10/2 Wednesday Apple and Pumpkin picking at Larriland ($? you pay for what you pick)
10/7 * National Archives (see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution) or White House and Monuments
10/16 Wednesday Maryland Science Center ($2 a person for their home school days, usually $16!  You can also get a 45 minute class for an extra $3.50, but you'll need to sign up now to get in.)
10/21 Library of Congress (I may bail and let my older kids tour while I take my younger kids out to the Botanical gardens and the duck pond.)
10/28 National Arboretum (fall foliage)
11/4 * Capitol Building (besides needing tickets, there is an airport-level security screening to enter the building, but it's a really neat tour!)
11/11 American Indian
11/18 * Cryptologic Museum (up near Fort Meade)
Thanksgiving Break
12/2 Botanical Gardens (They will have the holiday trains and fairy houses!)
12/9 Christmas/Immaculate Conception Party  (Bring cookies!)

Spring Schedule: (These are tentative and weather-dependent; I'm just putting it out there to give you an idea of my plans)
2/24 Bureau of Printing and Engraving (this is where they print money - last time we went they were printing $100 bills, so we saw over a million dollars cash!)
3/3 The Walters Art Gallery
3/10 Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (first full week of Lent)
3/17 Baltimore Museum of Art
3/24 National Arboretum (Magnolia blossoms)
3/31 Cherry Blossoms ($1 a person to ride the tram)
4/7 Franciscan Monastery 
Holy Week/Easter Break
4/28 National Arboretum (Azalea Walk)
5/5 Shark Tooth Expedition
5/12 DC Monuments walk: FDR, MLK, and maybe Lincoln Memorial
5/19 or 5/21 Wednesday Shark Tooth Hunt

Friday, September 20, 2013

Two Weeks Later

How we feel about the surgery

Thought you'd like an update:

Oob is pretty well recovered from his hernia surgery (as in we don't have to worry about the incision or keep him out of playgrounds).

It looks like everything went perfectly.

Thanks for all the prayers!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

College Daze

One reason that I'm backed up on the blogs (not just mine, I haven't had time to read blogs!) is the adjustment to our "full load" schedule.

When Mxyl turned 16, he became not only  eligible to drive, but also to take college classes at out local community college.  So he did!

Continuing his interest in computer animation, he is taking a computer graphics course and an art history course.  This means he's off at college twice a week for 5 hours a shot!  He's having a great time and learning a lot (foremost how to juggle time, homework, and deadlines).

He's also taking Japanese in a separate, online course.  And all the rest of the high school stuff.

Did I mention he just got elected Senior Patrol Leader for his scout troop? And he's doing art lessons. And Youth Group. Plus, he's teaching himself how to play guitar.

And he, along with the rest of the Zoomlians, are doing the co-op, Anatomy and Physiology, and Adventurers with us.

Amongst other Zoomlians, Klenda is learning Spanish in preparation for a trip to Spain next summer, and she's doing art and piano lessons, and Junior Ladies of Charity and the rest of her stuff.

Zorg is beginning preparations for Confirmation next year!  And he's doing Spanish (for an eventual trip to see Tia and Tio), Art, Geometry, and his regular stuff.  And he's been elected Patrol Leader of his patrol of his scout troop!

Leena is doing Art, Piano, Spanish, Junior Ladies of Charity, and the rest of her stuff, all while keeping up her sunny smile and social whirl.

Choclo is doing Wolf Scouts, and Oob will soon be starting Tiger Scouts.

I am working through Anatomy and Physiology, and not reading many blogs!

It reminds me of when I had many kids under five: it's like drinking from a fire hose.  It's all great, fun stuff, but there sure is a lot of it!

It should settle down as we find our rhythm, but it's kind of wild right now.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Aquarium Fun

 Grammy had offered to take Klenda and Zorg on an outing and wanted to know where they wanted to go. 

The Aquarium!

The kids had so much fun that she decided to spring for a family membership - wow!

Off we went in early September.  My plan was to miss both the summer tourists and the school groups, and it worked - it was the least crowded I've ever seen the Aquarium.

A kind docent took a picture of all of us in the Australia exhibit. 

We spent quite a lot of time, virtually by ourselves in this exhibit.  Leena has always been fascinated by Australia, and they have an amazing collection of birds and fish.

We really liked the archer fish, the crocodiles, and the giant freshwater rays.  Klenda was particularly interested in a blue cray fish looking animal since we had just dissected a crayfish.  My favorite were the large triops.  Zorg and Choclo liked the collection of lizards.

 In the rest of the aquarium there were sea horses, sharks, and coral reefs - all favorite animals!

We also got to see the trainers working with the dolphins.  They've stopped doing "shows," but I rather preferred seeing the dolphins and trainers working together.
 There's something beautiful and peaceful about the aquarium.

I find I always come away refreshed and filled with wonder.

This time they had a new centerpiece exhibit featuring black tip reef sharks, and my shark loving kids were over the moon!

You can see them from the top and the bottom.

There are about 20 sharks as well as any number of other interesting fish.

They had a docent showing the different shark teeth- very exciting for us since we know the shapes from all the fossil teeth we collect!

Certainly to my eye, I could not see the difference between my 30 million year old fossil sand tiger tooth and the modern ones the docent had.  Well, mine are fossilized and dark, and his were still white and clearly tooth material!

Another very fun day!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Catching Up

 It's a good thing I take pictures, otherwise I'd forget half the stuff we do!

Way back when we were celebrating our First Day of No School, I had wanted to do our usual thing of going to The Big Enormous Playground With the Teeny Tiny Zoo.

Ah, but this time I remembered

I finally remembered that the carousel and train are closed on Mondays, so this year I went on Wednesday. 

And this year they closed the carousel and train a week early. :O(

But the playground was as marvelous as ever, and, when we ambled over to the Teeny Tiny Zoo/Farm, we discovered that they were having hay rides!

Well, all right then!

If you've never been on a hay ride, it's a ride in a tractor drawn wagon, usually seated on bales of straw.  

Yes, technically, that makes it a straw ride, but that doesn't sound as nice!

We had a marvelous time on the ride and a great time touring the farm.

Mxyl was quite taken with the peacocks, and Klenda found a particularly beautiful chicken that looked like it was wearing a black lace shawl over a russet gown.

I think our favorite animals were the twin 3 month old goats who were playing and frolicking and running into each other like, well, kids!

 On the way back we followed a new trail marked with an owl. 

We didn't see any owls, but Leena found a toad, and Zorg found a praying mantis, and I found Blue Streak!

Much to my surprise and delight, the trail came out exactly where we had parked!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Poem of the Week

The Horses

From the window I saw the horses.

I was in Berlin, in winter. The light
was without light, the sky without sky.

The air white like wet bread.

And from my window, a vacant arena,
bitten by the teeth of winter.

Suddenly, led by a man,
ten horses, stepped out into the mist.

Hardly had they surged forth, like flame,
than to my eyes they filled the whole world,
empty till then. Perfect, ablaze,
they were like ten gods with wide pure hoofs,
with manes like a dream of salt.

Their rumps were worlds and oranges.

Their colour was honey , amber, fire.

Their necks were towers
cut from the stone of pride,
And behind their transparent eyes
energy raged, like a prisoner.

And there, in the silence, in the middle
Of the day, of the dark, slovenly winter,
The intense horses were blood
And rhythm, the animating treasure of life.

I looked, I looked and was reborn: without knowing it,
There, was the fountain, the dance of gold, the sky,
The fire that revived in beauty.

I have forgotten that dark Berlin winter.

I will not forget the light of the horses.

Pablo Neruda. Translated from Spanish by Stephen Mitchell. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Muscle Contraction Videos

This is for my A & P students (Hi!).  We were discussing muscle contractions last week and I wanted them to see some animations.  The actual contraction of a muscle really is amazingly complex!

Here's one that shows the anatomy very well:

And the continuation that shows the actual actin-myosin interaction:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dissection Day

 Thursdays are our lab days: dissections!

So far we have dissected a worm, a crayfish (pictured), and a grasshopper.  I have been prepping for the dissections by reading  about them, and watching the You Tube videos.

Today we are working a double dissection: clam and starfish!

The progression has been really interesting.  We started with segmented animals, increasing in complexity, and now we are starting on non-segmented animals.

If anything it's more fun than I thought it would be because the kids are fascinated by the process and have all sorts of questions and insights.

The biggest surprise has been that the younger Zoomlians really want to do dissections.  I don't think that Choclo, for example, has the dexterity to safely use a scalpel, so I am thinking about getting an extra set of specimens and doing it for them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wolf Scout!

 Choclo is a wolf scout! 

He loves it! 

He loves going out and doing things.

He loves the friends he has in his den. 

He loves earning the ranks and badges - he loves the whole scout "thing."  Fun!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Zorg!

 Happy teenagerhood, Zorg!

Yes, it's true, Zorg is 13!

Of course we had to celebrate with an extended family cook out and party.

Half my kids are now teenagers.  How did that happen?

Despite all the dire warnings, teenagers are a lot of fun!

13 Great Things About Zorg

1. He likes to play games.
2. He's a First Class Scout!
3. He's honest and fair.
4. He likes to build interesting stuff.
4. He's an awesome older brother!
5. He's an awesome younger brother!
5.  He's got a ready wit.
6.  He is half way through Geometry!
7. He doesn't take himself too seriously.
7.  He's cool headed in a crisis.
8. He's a reverent altar server.
9.  He's a very fast laundry folder!
10. He likes exotic food.
11. He's a fun person to talk to.
11. He's quick to help anyone who needs it.
12. He's interested in all kinds of history, science, and technology.
13.  He's adventurous!

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's Science!

In our continuing efforts to bring you fun, free, and fascinating science experiments you can do at home, Mxyl has uploaded the following video on his blog. 

WARNING: you'll want to click over for a more detailed explanation before you try this at home!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Poem of the Week

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.


HT: Poetry: Boys to Men

Friday, September 6, 2013

Thanks for the Prayers

Oob is back and everything went well!!

He has to lay low for a few days, which we have interpreted as "watch movies and play computer games," much to Oob's satisfaction.

Thanks again!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Prayers Please!

Oob is having surgery tomorrow (Friday) to repair an inguinal hernia.  It should be a relatively minor, standard procedure, starting at 2:30 eastern time, and we should all be home by evening.

I'm asking for prayers that it works out as a minor, standard procedure! 

I'm not expecting any complications aside from not allowing Oob to eat for the whole day...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oob Says

Oob (hopping around while the Emperor and I talk): Ooooh! Ooooooooooh! Pick me! Pick me!

Me: Yes, Oob?

Oob (long pause): Oh, maaaaan.  I lost my mind.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Poem of the Week

The Lamb

By William Blake
Little Lamb who made thee
         Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life and bid thee feed. 
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice! 
         Little Lamb who made thee 
         Dost thou know who made thee 

         Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
         Little Lamb I'll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb: 
He is meek and he is mild, 
He became a little child: 
I a child and thou a lamb, 
We are called by his name.
         Little Lamb God bless thee. 
         Little Lamb God bless thee.
HT: Poetry Foundation 

This poem is a favorite because it sustained me after Oob was born.  The doctor didn't sufficiently suction his mouth, so Oob aspirated some mucus.  It went into his lungs and it took him 5 days in the NICU to get it out.

I was so tired I could barely think, but I would sit, rocking Oob in the hospital while telling him this poem, and it would soothe both my baby and my spirit.