Monday, February 24, 2014

Lent Plans

Unbelievably, this year, I am planning for Lent (and even blogging about it!) so early as to be conceivably useful to you!

Which just shows what can happen if you start Lent late enough in March...

I first brain stormed with the Zoomlians as to what they would like to do for Lent:

Me: Do we want to do the scripture cross this year?

Leena: We should do the Vine and Branches.

Zorg: How about the foot poster?

Mxyl: Well, no candy or cookies is almost a requirement. We could put pretzels in the cookie jar.

Me: OK, how about the Sunday Gospel desserts?(general agreement)

Klenda:We could try to focus on a different virtue every day. Then on Good Friday, we do them all! :)

Me: Do we want to do the bean jar?

Choclo: We should pray more and be nice to each other.

Oob: We should do dessert every day! (silence) For Lent!!!!

(Very loud crickets)

More (good) Lent ideas here.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Poem of the Week

For Valentine's Day, the Emperor got us tickets to today's performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's Yeoman of the Guard. 

Which puts me in mind of this delightful bit of nonsense, helpfully annotated by Wikipedia!

I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General
I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;a
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news, (bothered for a rhyme)
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
I'm very good at integral and differential calculus;
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
I know our mythic history, King Arthur's and Sir Caradoc's;
I answer hard acrostics, I've a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes!
Then I can hum a fugue of which I've heard the music's din afore, (bothered for a rhyme)b
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.
Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
And tell you ev'ry detail of Caractacus's uniform:c
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin",
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a Javelin,d
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I'm more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by "commissariat",
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery
In short, when I've a smattering of elemental strategy – (bothered for a rhyme)
You'll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.e
For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
By W.S. Gilbert
HT: Wikipedia

Just in case you now need to hear it:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Confirmation Retreat

Zorg is off today on a retreat to help him prepare for his Confirmation (coming up in May). 

Prayers for him and for the rest of the kids on the retreat would be appreciated!

Friday, February 21, 2014

A True Story With a Happy Ending

 A long, long, long time ago- way back in 2008- Mxyl and Klenda painted the fishy bathroom.

It was great!  I had painted the room pale blue, with a translucent blue overlay that suggested water on the bottom half.

They put up little wallpaper cut outs of fish.

They painted seaweed and fish.

 All kinds of fish... and squid!

Doing all kinds of things...

I loved it!

Alas, over time (and with the aid of many small picky fingers), most of that paint fell off.

We were left with crumbly bits of paint clinging to the banged up walls.  Clearly, it was time to repaint the bathroom.

So I waited five more years. 

I simply could not bring myself to do it.  I would like to say that I could not bring myself to deface my children's art, but, in truth, I simply thought it was going to be a huge job.

Well, have you ever had a job you dreaded doing, and then, when you actually did it, it wasn't that bad?

This was not like that.

I ended up soaking all the walls in wallpaper remover, scraping them with a putty knife, scrubbing them with a scrub brush, scrubbing them again with TSP, and then scrubbing them again with water to get the TSP off.

TSP (tri sodium phosphate) is an industrial detergent that is so strong that it can be used to take the gloss off of paint. My Dad, mishearing me in the throes of this project, asked, "You used TNT?"(tri nitro toluene, the stuff in dynamite). 

No. But I will definitely consider it for next time.

Now for the happy ending:

After all the prep work, patching, sanding, and repainting  was easy peasy lemon squeezy!

I even decided to paint the cabinets white and spring for new bath mats.  It looks great!!!

And this time I got wall sticker fish that are easily removable!!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Speaking of Winter

 A whole lot of what has been keeping me busy has been weather.

We had ice. 

And then about 8 inches of snow.

The Emperor had off school since snow in even small amounts tends to have a paralyzing effect in the DC area.
 This is partly because the people who plow the roads haven't had a lot of experience with snow, and partly because the people who use the roads haven't had a lot of experience with snow.

 At any rate, the plow drivers didn't realize that they needed to plow the corners of the intersections to prevent the intersections from becoming slushy narrow passages.

And then we got a cold snap which turned the slush to rock solid ice.

And then we got another 4 or 5 inches of heavy wet snow.

This hasn't been a problem for us, per se (unless you count the cycle of finding/recovering/drying hats, coats, scarves, gloves, boots, socks, pants, and snow pants each time the kids go outside).

We haven't really needed to go places because all the schools were shut down.  We also knew the storms were coming so we stocked up at the library.  Some people grab milk and toilet paper, but we go for the important stuff!

Generally snow, even large amounts of snow, disappears within three days, but the cold continued for a week, and we are only melting off now.

Alas, our plowers inadvertently dammed up the storm drains, so we are getting a lot of flooding on the roads, which of course, turns to ice each night.  I am thinking that all snow plowers should be required to intern in Minnesota.

I do love snow, but even I am starting to yearn for some green!  It's nice, actually, I think I will appreciate spring much more this year than I did after the past two mild winters.

And I'm really ready for it to be Lent!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday: Winter Hike

 At 60 degrees, it seemed like the perfect time to stretch our legs at our favorite hiking park.  I hadn't realized the paths would still be snowy, but it was beautiful!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Joint Blog: More Visiting

The Prime Minister of the Zoomlian Empire: blue text
Mxyl: red text.

 Still catching up:  two week ends ago, Mxyl and I went up to visit my folks for my Dad's birthday.  

It was super fun!  Mxyl started highway driving on this trip since it takes us on some less populated highways. Highway driving was indeed fun, and talking with the Prime Minister about crashing into an oil truck and the fantastic oil explosions that would result helped (dare I say encouraged) me to stay relatively on-track throughout the driving.  Overall, we had an absolutely smashing time! That said, I do hope that'll be my last crash course on driving... 

When we got there, there were twelve inches of snow on the ground and the lake was frozen.  And it was 3 degrees.  I discovered that Maryland winters had made me a weather wimp.  I spent most of my time inside with my folks and the nice, warm coal stove!  

I was either more adventurous, more foolhardy or just more of a fool; take your pick (hint: my Japanese catchphrase/motto is "Zenzen kangaemasen").  I went to the backyard, opened the door (which opened halfway due to a layer of ice on the snow as you can see in my picture), take pictures and put my skating lessons on ice!  Only trouble was, I'd never taken any skating lessons.  Anyway, I was happy to know that I could walk around, at least attempt a British accent when filming and get my phone batteries run down within five minutes of recording (a.k.a. 23 minutes on pause). 

I had a great time helping my Dad sort through his photo albums and his awards and decorations.  The first newsletter came out for the bomb disposal museum being named in his honor (!) and he is sorting through things to send them.  The museum is opening in May 2015!

Using my experience with computers, I helped Mumpy install PhotoShop CS6 instructions from a CD when it wasn't in the CD's programming!* Overall, we had a great time inside, outside and just talking to each other as well. 

*For Windows: if a "What do you want to do?" message pops up, click "Open Folder to View Files."  If it doesn't show up, go to My Computer and right-click the CD disk.  Click "Open" instead of run; some older computers will call this option "explore."  From there, you can just copy-paste anything you want.  

Pa had a great birthday and we had a great time!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Day!

Better late than never!

 We were quite busy with Valentine's Day last week.  Even my bread turned out shaped like hearts. 

I really hope to find my bread pans soon, because this was not planned, it was just a coincidence.  An uncannily accurate coincidence, as Klenda pointed out!

Actually, knowing that she learned enough anatomy to diagram a loaf of bread does my heart good!

In other news of the missing, I can't find my normal heart cookie cutters.  I had one that was rather large, so I decided to go ahead and make my favorite cookies, just not as the usual sandwich cookies.

Problem? What problem?
I hadn't factored in the fact that the dough would expand... and we ended up with cookies the size of Oob's head!  He did not find this a problem, however...

As you can see in the background, we also got 2 dozen heart balloons which are still floating around the house, being used for fun, games, and neutral bouyancy experiments.  

I also found a package of adhesive mustaches!

Not all Zoomlians loved this idea, but the Zoomlians that loved it, really loved it!!

And of course there were valentines! 

Lots and lots of valentines!

Our friend, Amie,who is living with us, made gorgeous, intricate valentines of the various favorite animals (that bottom one is a tapir!) which the Zoomlians are using as puppets!

And, naturally, there were valentine sweets: the older Zoomlians set up a treasure hunt for the younger Zoomlians, and then the younger Zoomlians set up a treasure hunt for the older Zoomlians.  The treasures were conversation hearts and heart shaped gobstoppers (called, alarmingly, "heartstoppers!").

And we had a jello heart (which got mostly eaten before I remembered to get a picture), and a big pink strawberry rice crispy heart (which got all the way eaten before I got the camera).

And, of course, Pink Burping Cows...of Love!

We are kind of crazy about Valentine's Day, and I think I've figured out why: it's a holiday that celebrates love, and that's what we do.  We love people. 

Not perfectly, of course, but that's really what our family is about: God gives us people (including each other) to love, and we do.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Poem of the Week

And I do plan to return to actual posting this week! It's just been crazy busy!

Kubla Khan

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
   The shadow of the dome of pleasure
   Floated midway on the waves;
   Where was heard the mingled measure
   From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

   A damsel with a dulcimer
   In a vision once I saw:
   It was an Abyssinian maid
   And on her dulcimer she played,
   Singing of Mount Abora.
   Could I revive within me
   Her symphony and song,
   To such a deep delight ’twould win me, 
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Poem of the Week


Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872) `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe. 
HT: Jabberwocky

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Are You Done Yet?

I used to get that question a lot when all 6 of mine were little.  I think people were just a little awed/terrified/amused at seeing me in the store with the baby in a sling, toddler in the cart seat and two kids hanging on  each side of the cart.

 I still get that question from time to time.

My answer to, "Are you done yet/ do you want more?" has always been, "Yes, we'd love another baby, but you don't get babies just by wishing."  Meaning, I don't know if we'll be able to have another.  Which is true and it refocuses the discussion with the view that each child is not only valuable, but rare in the sense that you you may or may not be able to have even one. 

It also turns out to be a kind answer when the person asking isn't able to have kids.  About half the time the person who asked the question then shares that they weren't able to have children, and many others reveal that they couldn't have as many as they wanted.

And then we lost the 4 babies after our number 6, so I've been really glad that has been my answer!

I know there are a lot of more clever replies out there, and they're fun to read, but I'm not sure they really help anyone, especially since so many people asking are coming from a place of pain. 

I'll admit, my answer to, "Are they all yours?" was, "Just the cute, well behaved ones." Which, I (and the cashier who had asked) thought was funny.

And once, when quite harried at the grocery store, I was asked if I were babysitting and I told them that I was NOT crazy enough to take 6 EXTRA kids to the grocery store.

But I have never gotten a mean question about my kids, unlike many friends with large families, and my response to a rude comment would be different.  It amazes me how some moms get targeted in front of their children with mean/rude comments (like "don't you know what causes that/were any of them accidents/don't you have a TV?").  It's not a matter of bad kid behavior attracting those kinds of comments, either.  My friend that gets the most mean spirited comments has the best publicly behaved kids I know.

I think it's a matter of diffidence versus confidence.

I do not look like an easy target for mean people. Oh, I'm (hopefully) pleasant enough, but I don't look like a person who would be "too nice" to respond to a snarky comment. My friend looks (and really is) too nice to respond in kind.  I once did get a person who was about to make a rude remark, and I just looked at her, waiting.  She changed her mind and turned away.

But I did once get reported (anonymously, of course) as having an unlicensed daycare! :D

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Valentines Coming

Last Saturday we started making our valentine holders, and now they're all over the house!

We'll make about a valentine a day, and secretly stuff each other's holders.

Then, on Valentine's Day, we'll take turns reading the valentines.

In a way, the holders reflect each person's personal style. 

Can you guess which one is mine?

Oob's is more traditional.

Mxyl's is less traditional, which is sort of traditional for him!

It says, "It all started when someone said, 'Deer, I love you with all my hart.'"

Monday, February 3, 2014

Icy, I See

Very round, like an air filled balloon
Yes, it has been very cold here! We don't usually see temperatures in the single digits here, but, this winter, we've had two stretches in the single digits as well as weeks where it doesn't get above freezing.

I have high hopes that this will kill off a lot of bugs.

The cold weather has been fun for many reasons, not the least of which has been having snow on the ground for weeks! Usually, even when it does snow, the snow is gone within three days.

When you have something unusual, see what you can do that you can't usually do.

I used to have to try to think this way, but the Zoomlians come by it naturally.

the white spot on top was an air bubble
Zorg wanted to try freezing a water balloon.  It was interesting: it looked like it was filled with air - it didn't flatten out the way water balloons do in summer.

We put it outside at around 12 degrees F in the afternoon, and left it overnight at 6 F (-14C).  It was out about 18 hours.

It seemed solid enough, so we tried popping it.  That was harder than it looked.

 The balloon had frozen to the ice and was hard to peel off.

Once we had it started, we saw this beautiful crystal sphere, streaked with bubbles.  Suddenly, the center started pulsing rhythmically, like a heart!

The balloon had been lying on snow, and the snow from below and the ice forming above had insulated a large pocket of water and kept it from freezing.  It was gushing out of a hole in the balloon, pausing as a vacuum formed within, then gushing out again.

The sunlight on the balloon lit up the movement of the water in a way that was both eerie and beautiful.
The water seeped into the balloon shaped depression

Once the water had drained away, Zorg picked up the hemisphere of ice.

What a beautiful and fascinating experiment!

We want to repeat this when we need a bowl of ice for candles or a really cool party dish!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Poem of the Week: Candlemas/Groundhog Day

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be twa (two) winters in the year.


If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter's gone at Yule.

Because, of course, February 2, Groundhog Day is, not coincidentally, Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation.  It's another one of those cross quarter days, minor holidays that fall in the exact middle between solstices and equinoxes.

The others are Halloween/All Saints Day, Midsummer's Eve/Feast of the Assumption, and May Day/ Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.  Notice a pattern?

Yes, they are all ancient (pre-Christian) Feasts that were "baptized" and turned into Christian feasts while retaining a party element.  That's interesting historically, even interesting now in the sense of, "what can we adapt from our culture to present the Gospel."

Something else I find interesting is that these cross quarter days land on when the seasons are at their peak.  I know winter started December 21st, but it didn't feel like winter then (55 degrees F).  It feels like winter now (8 degrees F).  Late January and early February are our coldest time of the year.  When the vernal equinox hits in March, it's almost certain to be cold and muddy, but May 1st is likely to be as warm and flowery.  It's interesting to me that people from earliest times celebrated both the astronomical beginnings of the seasons as well as the peaks of  the seasons.

Candlemas, by the way, was always the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, 40 days after Christmas, but it evolved into the day people brought their newly made candles to Mass to be blessed.  Candle making was a winter occupation, and was connected to Christ as the true light, revealed in the Temple to Anna and Simeon by the light of Faith.

HT: Groundhog Day