Monday, January 27, 2014

Can We Come "See" You?

Excellent news!  We've come into a heap of imaginary money!  We've decided to use it to take a once in a life time imaginary trip around the world to see all the places we've always wanted to see! (I know it's a lot of exclamation points, but we're, understandably, very excited)

We are going to figure out how and when to travel where we want to go, where to stay, what to see, what to eat, and how much it's all going to cost.  If you live in any of these places, let us know in the comments what is fun to go and do or see, and if we can "stay" with you. If you live in a different country, let us know why we should come visit!

Don't worry, we aren't going to physically show up on your doorstep, you'll just be giving us a virtual tour of fun stuff to do near where you live.  That probably means just telling us in the comments (we'll find pictures online to post about our trip).  If you have a blog, you can post about our imaginary visit, and we can link to you.  Which I guess would make us your imaginary friends.  But just remember,there are eight of us, so it'll be an imaginary party!

Here are our plans so far:
Starting where we live near Washington DC, USA
Hawaii (can we come see you Annabelle? We'd like to see one of the volcanoes, and a beach)
Australia (what do you think, Sue? I'd like to see your gum trees. And blue fairy penguins, although I think they are south of you,and, oh, lots of Aussie stuff!  You live in Leena's favorite country!)
Japan (We'll have Mxyl show us around)
Mongolia (the land of the Great Khan: I still yearn for a yurt)
India (probably in the north, near New Delhi)
Svalbard (hoping to time it to see the polar bear cubs and northern lights)
Iceland (glaciers and hot springs)
Denmark (Choclo wants to see the original Legoland)
Germany (where I was born and Neuschwanstein Castle)
Spain (Tia and Tio!)
Switzerland (to see Angel and her husband and their new baby girl)
Rome, Italy (Vatican City!)
Jerusalem, Israel (Holy Land sites)
Egypt (pyramids, of course!  And we'd like to cruise on the Nile)
Ethiopia (the great stone churches)
Kenya (Safari heaven)
Zimbabwe (Great Zimbabwe)
Antarctica (penguins and southern lights)
Chile (cruise along the Andes, more penguins)
Peru (Machu Picchu and the source of the Amazon)
Brazil (Amazon river and Rio)
Guatemala (Seeing friends and Aztec and Mayan ruins)
Back home to Washington DC! 

Around the world in 80 days?  I think it might take longer...

Naturally, you're invited to join us on our travels by way of the blog!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Poem of the Week


When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

HT: Shakespeare Online

The picture is one I have in my dining room, The Two Crowns by Sir Frank Dicksee

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Happy Birthday, Klenda!

 Klenda turned 15, and celebrated with a Pulchritudinous Purple Planaria Party!

That's Choclo carrying in her purple planarian cake.

We made tons of little purple planaria and stuck them up all over the walls.  Oob commented that they looked curious.  In fact, actual planaria, tiny flatworms with eye spots, always look to me like they are curious, so that was excellent!

What is it about planaria?  Their eye spots really only sense light and dark, but they look curious and cute and slightly cross eyed.  They are shaped like arrows, so they look goofily purposeful.

Of course what planaria are known for is an amazing ability to divide and form new planaria: under the right conditions, every single cell in the body of an adult planarian can grow into a whole new planarian. 

Planaria shaped streamers!
If that isn't amazing enough, some scientists trained planaria to seek food under light (they naturally avoid light).  They then cut the planaria's heads off (not as bad as it sounds since they grow new ones).  The new heads on the trained tails remembered what they had been taught! The old heads (with their new tails) also remembered.  Lends new meaning to "muscle memory," doesn't it?

Fun socks
Anyway, the kids played Pin the Eyespots on the Planaria, Find the Planaria, and Planaria (like Sardines, but flatter), the winners were awarded the traditional prize of socks, and a very fun time was had by all.

A few days later, on her actual birthday, we had the family party.  Grammy and Pop took us out for Chinese food, then we came back and had this cake and opened presents.

That was the cake that convinced me never to do a box cake mix again.  Partly because it was really fantastically tasty, and partly because it took about the same amount of time as a box mix!
 Fifteen Things About Klenda

1. She has nearly every Warriors book ever printed.

2. She has learned how to make a souffle.

3. She is always willing to lend a hand when she sees you need help.

4. She notices when you need help!

5. She has amazing Pin the Eye Spots on the Planaria skills.

5. She's learning to ice skate.

6. She makes a chocolate butter cream pie that is the best pie I've ever eaten!

7. She can walk across the whole slack line.

7. She whittles well.

8. She whistles well, too.

8. She is done with Algebra 2 and starting Pre Calculus!!  At 15!!

9. She devours books of any kind.

10 She has the most expressive eye rolls.

11. She is a deadly punster.

11. She's funny and fast with a quip or joke.

12. She can speak in iambic pentameter. All day long.

12. She loves planaria!

13. She charms the socks off of little kids.  And big kids.  And kids her own age.

14. She loves the Blessed Mother.

14. She can knit!  And she's a wit.  But not at the same time: she's not a knit wit.

15.  She's a delightful daughter!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Praying for Life Today

It's the anniversary of the court case that overturned all the American laws preventing abortions. 

Usually, we'd be at the March for Life, a massive rally in Washington DC that happens every year at this time (there were over 500,000 people there last year).  What?  You didn't hear about it?

That's because of the news black out.  The major news companies have decided that abortion is a "closed issue" in America, and therefore, they refuse to cover our country's largest, longest running peaceful demonstration.  They don't want to encourage us.

This year, because of health problems and extreme cold, we won't be able to go to the March, but we will be united in prayer.

 It's 6 degrees out right now, with a wind chill of -15 (Fahrenheit, that's -21 and -26 Celsius), and tens of thousands of people are risking frostbite to gather on the Mall to say, "Life is not a closed issue."

"Life will not be a closed issue until everyone gets to live."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snow Day!

A few days ago, wishing for snow, we started cutting out paper snowflakes.

We all love paper snowflakes - they are one of the few crafts that everyone likes to do at every age. 

The oldest kids fold and cut their own, middle kids fold some and cut some extra that I have folded, and the very youngest kids draw the design they want me to cut.

We like to do tiny ones to hang from the ceiling, and big ones to tape to the windows.  This year, Klenda asked what would happen if we tried the Big Roll of Paper.

She gave it a try and got a beautiful giant snowflake!  You can make the giant ones really intricate!

 Last night we had a beautiful sunset with lacy clouds blowing in from the west.

And today we have 4 inches of snow and counting!  They say we might get 8 inches, or even 10!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Poem of the Week

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Guest Blog by Leena: Super-Heroes

Hey, there, Earthians! I'm Leena(hence the title)!

Me, Leena
Her, Lena Forte, rock climbing
Now, you may think that I'm average(as Lena Forte, my secret identity), but I'm really(enter drum-roll,please) 

(Sorry it's so short. I'll try to make it longer next time!)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Guest blog by Choclo: Sharky

 It's nice to meet Sharky, I like him a lot!

Sharky's skin was kind of like a whale when you petted him one way, but really rough the other way because of all his teeth.

You could see all the little teeth on his skin with the magnifying glass!

He also had little holes where he could feel electricity.  He could feel a fish's heartbeat with electricity!

 This is what the skin teeth looked like with a microscope. 

I saw his heart.  It was bigger than I thought.  But his liver was really big, and I mean it!  Plus it was oily and stinky.  And it floated in water!

I loved dissecting Sharky so much!  He was my favorite Christmas present!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Portfolio Time

Portfolio review today!

If you're wondering what a portfolio review is, it's the twice a year check up that my state does on my home school.  And I love them!  Maryland actually only requires that I demonstrate that my children have made progress in a range of subjects, not tremendously difficult to prove, actually.

It all starts when I realize  I have a review coming up.  I "realize" this in my inbox.

Reviewer: Courteous e mail reminder.
Me: Aaaaaahhhh!  Really?  So soon? What did we do?  Did we do anything in the past 6 months?

I then go through my blog and records and rediscover all the fun and fabulous things we actually did and I get excited about everything again (plus  a million more ideas of things we could do next).

By the time we get to the interview it goes like this:

Reviewer (very politely - I love my interviewer!): You are actually educating your kids, right?
Me: You're not going to believe all the great stuff we did!!!

And we go on from there and have a big brag fest.  The county now consistently gives me the same kind, supportive interviewer (who does not read this blog, by the way), so I know we'll both have a great time.

This review is covering last June to last December and here are things we did in:

Social Studies

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Aquarium Time

Giant Australian freshwater ray
We are taking our usual break from Adventurers during the plague season months of January and Februaury. 

coming to look at the Zoomlians
We discovered long ago that it does no good to plan events during this time because so many kids get sick this time of year, and we would inevitably pass around the latest stomach bug whenever we did manage to meet.

Freshwater croc looking for a snack
But that doesn't mean we don't go anywhere! 

Right after Christmas break is nearly as good a time to hit the most popular destinations as right after school starts.  This time we went back to the aquarium, and it was as quiet as I've ever seen it.  There were a few school groups, but the chaperones tend to run the kids through the exhibits pretty quickly, so they washed past us early on.

 I hated rushing through things on field trips as a kid!  I see why they have to do it, but we love to linger and see everything and talk with the docents.

The Baltimore Aquarium really intends to be a magical experience, and the and the animals really reward a second look.  Or a third.

The Zoomlians have always had a special interest in all things ocean, and we don't get to the Aquarium very often.  They have sharks!  And puffins!  And sea horses!  Choclo had just dissected a starfish and he got to see one moving around on it's little tube feet.
Yes, the Baltimore Aquarium is expensive, but wonderful in every sense of that word!

That's a moray!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Can you Guess This Flower?

 It surprised me by blooming around New Year's.

Mostly I was surprised because I didn't know this plant bloomed!

That lovely Christmas blossom is the flower of....
Our venus fly trap!

I kept meaning to blog about  getting Aphrodite (does the plant have a name because it's carnivorous, and therefore like an animal?).

At any rate, we bought her over the summer, while on vacation, and I presumed, like all the other venus fly traps we've ever gotten, it would curl up and die.

Maybe the Zoomlians naming her was encouraging!

Incidentally, before I saw an actual venus fly trap, I had read a lot about them, and seen some nature documentaries.  I had somehow reached the conclusion that they were about three times as large as they actually are.  The width of that pot is a little smaller than my index finger.  They must be using really small flies in those documentaries or they are hiding really big plants somewhere!

Of course, I also thought that platypuses (playpi?) were the size of actual wombats, and wombats were nearer the size of actual platypi, so maybe it's a personal problem!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Poem of the Week

I'm thinking of New Years resolutions.

We Are Many

Of the many men whom I am, whom we are,
I cannot settle on a single one.
They are lost to me under the cover of clothing
They have departed for another city.

When everything seems to be set
to show me off as a man of intelligence,
the fool I keep concealed on my person
takes over my talk and occupies my mouth.

On other occasions, I am dozing in the midst
of people of some distinction,
and when I summon my courageous self,
a coward completely unknown to me
swaddles my poor skeleton
in a thousand tiny reservations.

When a stately home bursts into flames,
instead of the fireman I summon,
an arsonist bursts on the scene,
and he is I. There is nothing I can do.
What must I do to distinguish myself?
How can I put myself together?

All the books I read
lionize dazzling hero figures,
brimming with self-assurance.
I die with envy of them;
and, in films where bullets fly on the wind,
I am left in envy of the cowboys,
left admiring even the horses.

But when I call upon my DASHING BEING,
out comes the same OLD LAZY SELF,
and so I never know just WHO I AM,
nor how many I am, nor WHO WE WILL BE BEING.
I would like to be able to touch a bell
and call up my real self, the truly me,
because if I really need my proper self,
I must not allow myself to disappear.

While I am writing, I am far away;
and when I come back, I have already left.
I should like to see if the same thing happens
to other people as it does to me,
to see if as many people are as I am,
and if they seem the same way to themselves.
When this problem has been thoroughly explored,
I am going to school myself so well in things
that, when I try to explain my problems,
I shall speak, not of self, but of geography.

by Pablo Neruda
HT Poem Hunter

Friday, January 10, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Presents

A collection of cool stuff from Christmas! We open presents very slowly: we open one an then enjoy it before we open another. That, combined with the number of presents you end up with when each child wants to buy a present for each person in the family, means we open presents over the entire 12 days of Christmas!

our panel of experts
 1. As a present for our house for it's 50th Christmas, on Christmas Eve, we got solar panels installed!  The entire south facing roof is now covered with the panels, or at least so we believe.  That section of the house is in the back, thirty feet up, and on top of a hill, so we can't actually see any of the panels.

You might think we could tell if they were working except, the system is shut off.  Until the power company installs their two way meter, we would be charged for all the energy our solar system produces.  Um.  Not the entire solar system, just our solar panels.

2. What has been most fun this year, has been to see the amazing variety of interests as the kids get bigger.  Klenda and Leena were both fascinated by the cacao trees at the Botannical gardens, so, they got kits to make their own chocolate!  Very cool! And tasty!!

3. The girls also got some beautiful hair pins - more like hair jewelry. Tres elegante!

 4. Mxyl got the green screen set up he had been pining for, as well as lights, tripods, and lenses so that he can make movies with special effects.

I don't think we'll be seeing him for a while. But it's nice for him to be able to goof around on his own interests after his grueling first semester.

If you can call making and editing your own movies goofing around.

5.  He also got an uber cool leather trench coat. He's now so cool that the room drops several degrees when he walks in!

6. Choclo and Oob got loads of building things.  Everything from these beautiful architectural blocks, to a marble run, to demolition sets where you build and collapse towers and other structures.

Choclo and Oob had found the demolition sets  in catalogs, and had determined  independently that they were the most perfect Christmas presents possible.  They unknowingly bought them for each other.  They were both so sweetly happy for each other that their brother was going to get this great toy!

Now they are upstairs combining all the different building kits and Angry Birds sets for hours at a time.

 7. Choclo did indeed get a full set of dissection specimens!  I wish I could have gotten a picture of the look of sheer delight on his face when he opened it - right next to the look of "ICK!" on Leena's face!  To be fair, she opened a box of spa science experiments next which delighted her and left Choclo baffled.

We have been going through doing one dissection a day, with me doing most of the scalpel work and Choclo helping.  Oob and Leena have been interested onlookers.

It's been great, although I find Choclo's tendency to refer to each specimen by name disconcerting: the worm was Dirty, the crayfish was Cray, the grasshopper was Hoppy and the frog was Frogger. As in, "Can we look in Frogger's stomach?" (We did, he'd eaten a beetle.)  I don't remember what he called the clam and starfish.  We still have the perch to do, and then, the piece de resistance: a 30 inch double injected shark.   

More fun with Jen!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

The Zoomlians give to you the Christmas story.  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

The Zoomlians bring to you a Christmas poem, which also happen to be the lyrics to a favorite carol of mine.  I am not posting it as a carol because there are two musical versions, and I can only find the slow version which I do not care for. The poem itself, however, is lovely!  I had thought it was a medieval carol, but the poem was written by an anonymous New Englander.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive:
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive:
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014