Sunday, August 31, 2014

Poem of the Week

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.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Seven Random Quick Takes

1. Favorite quote of the week.  Choclo: A big hug is even comfier than a comfy chair

2.Tapir babies are cute.  Little brown watermelon's with legs!  And look at that little nose!!  Either you get this, or you don't.

3. Overheard in the back seat, Zorg explaining to Mxyl: I said they didn't have armor, I never said they didn't have food processors! (Random enough for you?)

4. At the Arboretum this week, we found this sign.  I think it means: Don't yell at some one who has a head ache. Always good advice. Any alternate theories?

5. Zorg: If you had to wake up to one TV theme song, what would it be?

 Me: How do you even think of... Oh! Hawaii Five-O. Definitely Hawaii Five-O.

 I've never seen the show, I haven't thought of it in years, but the only possible answer ever is Hawaii Five-O!

6.I've been working out schedules: co-op schedules, home school schedules, field trip schedules, college schedules, Scout schedules and schedules for various lessons and doctors appointments.  My brain is now so full of scheduling, that it is leaking nouns.

Picture from Zazzle
I tried to ask Zorg to bring in the... they weren't laundry hampers, but that was all my brain could offer.  Zorg figured out that I was thinking of the garbage cans.

It's not just not being able to remember the nouns (that happens fairly often), it's that my brain is supplying nouns that are clearly wrong.  Pagoda? No. Pergola? No. It was actually a gazebo, but I had to look it up.

The worst was in the middle of a Calculus lesson with Mxyl.  We had forgotten to take the derivative of the...coadjudicant.

Mxyl gave me a very blank look.

It's the, you know, the number that goes with the X.  In the term 3X, X is the variable and 3 is the... coadjudicant, my brain insisted.  It's not, I was trying for coefficient.

Which my brain, clearly is not.

7. I have at last achieved my life's ambition!  I got out of the library in less than an hour (57 minutes!) with fewer than 50 books (49!).

To make this victory even sweeter, I now have gigantic children who can lug those books for me!! 

Have a great weekend!  More fun with Jen!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy First Day of No School!

 To celebrate, we started off with Mass, then a playground hop.

This great new super hero themed playground opened last month, and this was the first chance we had to try it.

It was, well, super!

We met some home schooling friends there, so we had some company.  Extra fun!!

Klenda really liked the rings!

One odd thing about this playground is it's super secret location.  Google maps directed me to a local school (irony alert!), and told me to walk in a particular direction.

We parked at the school and walked over the river and through the woods, and found the playground...and a large parking lot.

I was able to work out a good set of directions for next time anyway!

We ended up staying there most of the morning, but we squeezed in a  side trip to the Alien Playground on the way back, so we are counting it as a playground hop!

We invited our friends back for lunch, games, and ice cream making, so it was a highly successful First Day of No School!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gigantic Tiny Trees

We are getting back on board with The Big Trip!  I had not forgotten, I had just gotten steam rolled by summer.

When I did our home school interviews (this is me interviewing the Zoomlians about the pleasures, disappointments, hopes and lost regrets of home schooling as we know it), one thing that came up repeatedly was that the kids wanted The Big Trip to be more immersive.

So, picking up where we left off in Japan, we went off to tour Japanese gardens and gigantic tiny trees at the Arboretum today.

This gigantic tiny tree was started in 1625!

This grove was my favorite.
And this one, I think, looks like an Ent.

Can you see it?

Besides the bonsai, the gardens were lovely.  There's really nothing like the tranquility of a Japanese garden.

Choclo was fascinated by the lanterns.

We also visited the Chinese Pavilion with their gigantic tiny trees.

In China, they are called penjing, and they often feature interesting rocks to make miniature landscapes.

And then we went home to make Yakitori Chicken for dinner, and watch a bunch of Star Blazers!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Poems of the Week

suzushisa wa
mizu yori fukashi
aki no sora

Ah, for coolness,
 it rivals the water's depth -
this autumn sky.

Hito wo yume to ya
sumi suteshi,
sono wa kochou no
yadori nite

That man's life is but a dream -
is what we now come to know.

Its house abandoned,
the garden has become home
    to butterflies.
 Poems by Monk Sogi (1401-1452)
 Translation by Steven D. Carter

HT: Classical Japanese 
Photo: The Intertwine 

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Simian Crease Vs. The Hand of Power

There's an even funnier addendum to the story of my birth!

Remember how I got diagnosed with Down's Syndrome because of my simian crease?  This picture of my hands shows this crease.

If you look at the top crease, on my left hand it curves up before it hits my index finger.  That's a normal crease.  On the right hand, it goes straight across.

It's called the simian crease because that's the way monkeys' hands crease (I know, very flattering!).  People with Down's really do have this crease on both hands, so it is sometimes used as an early possible identifier.

When I was working at JHU, everyone in the lab spent long hours running experiments.  It was a favorite past time to chat with your lab mates while you pipetted hundreds (or thousands) of tiny wells, hoping that one would be the clone/antibody/T cell/tumor that would make your experiment a success. These meandering conversations with lab mates from all over the world were one of my favorite parts of the job!

One day, I was pipetting away, chatting with my friend Leon, whose family was from China, and I told him the story about the Down's diagnosis and the simian crease.

Leon: WHAT?!  Let me see your hand!!

Me: Ummmm.... Okay (I take off my gloves and show him).

Leon (shaking his head in shocked disbelief): Don't you dare EVER call that a "simian crease!"  That's the Hand of Power!

Me (totally sure he was joking): The Hand of Power?!

Leon: Yes! The Dowager Empress had that exact pattern on her hand, and it was called the Hand of Power.  It was believed that if she slapped a man with that hand, he would fall dead at her feet. She was the most powerful woman in Chinese history... "Simian crease!"  I can NOT believe you were calling it that!

This didn't occur to me until now: Leon was a double doctor (an MD, PhD), so really he didn't just give me a different perspective, technically, he gave me a different diagnosis.

Which makes the moral of the story: always get a second opinion!

Or, possibly: don't make me slap you!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

More Inspiring Bloggers

I almost forgot!  As part of the award, I'm supposed to nominate the bloggers that inspire me!

Actually, I'm supposed to nominate, the fifteen bloggers that I find most inspiring...

Ummm.  I don't actually follow that many blogs!

But the blogs I do follow, I follow because I find them inspiring.  I only read blogs (regularly anyway) if I feel they make me better in some way. 

So, I would nominate Sue, over at Stories of an Unschooling Family, except of course, she nominated me, and then if she had to write 7 more things and nominate more people, and if she were to nominate me again, well, a small corner of the blogosphere might get bogged down for a very long time.  :)  But I love her... how to put it?  Her love based approach to home schooling.  She's well worth the look, if you aren't reading her stuff already!

I will definitely nominate Queen of Carrots at The Duchy of Burgandy Carrots.  If you haven't been reading her book review mash up and analysis of  intelligence in the characters of Pride and Prejudice, you are missing out!

Other blogs I find inspiring don't read my blog at all, but, if they did, I would say:

The Dominican Student Brothers at Dominicana (inspiring in the literal sense!  Also thought provoking and usually funny)

Ann  at A Holy Experience (truth in advertising: reading her blog usually is a holy experience!)

 Jen at Conversion Diary (true, fun, and funny without being snarky.)

Sr. Mary Martha at Ask Sr. Mary Martha (tough, funny, compassionate answers about the faith).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Seven Things

Sue has nominated me for Very Inspiring Blogger!  Thanks Sue!!

I just have to come up with seven things about me...hmm.

Here are some things you might not know:

1. When I was born, my mother was in Germany and my father was in England.

2. I was born a surprising 6 weeks early.

3. My parents were sure I was going to be a boy.

4. When I was born, I was named Andrea Louise.

5. It was thought I would not live more than a few days.

6. I was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome.

7. I could read at the age of three.

This may be cheating. All seven of these are the same (funny) story!

My parents had been stationed in Germany for a few years by the time I came along .  A little less than two months before I was due, my Dad was sent for 6 weeks of special training at a school in England.  He planned to be back right before I was born.

Except, of course, I showed up the first week of class!

Landstuhl is now a state of the art military hospital, but at the time... not so much, at least in the neo
natal division.  My poor Mom was told that I was not going to make it, so she immediately baptized me: Andrea Louise after her sister Andrea (and St. Andrew) and St. Louis DeMontfort.  This name was because, what with me being a girl and all, she thought the agreed upon name (Anthony) a bad idea.

At this point, the Red Cross (rather presciently, since I was still given only days to live) sent my Dad a telegram that "mother and baby were doing fine."

My Dad immediately wrote my Mom a long letter (which I recently read) filled with joy and excitement, thrilled to have a little girl, hoping that I looked just like her, hoping that she was actually doing fine, and wondering what she thought of the name "Wendy."

Meanwhile, several days passed in the incubator, and I got a bit stronger, so the doctors decided I would make it... but, alas, I had a "simian crease" on one hand. I had Down's Syndrome.

My Mom asked what that was.  Keep in mind, this is 1970, and these doctors are trained more for combat casualties than for pediatrics. The doctor told her I would never be smarter than a 5 year old, or more coordinated than an 8 year old.

And that was it.  There was no second opinion, no Google to explain more.

I recently asked my Mom when she figured out the doctor was wrong.  She told me, "None of the doctors ever mentioned it again, and I was afraid to ask. I turned to prayer, and I took it in the most hopeful way: I thought that he meant you would keep learning until you were 5. When you turned 5 and kept learning, I figured that they were just wrong."

This explains why she taught me to read by the age of three!  This also explains my mom's devotion to Padre Pio: Pray, hope, and don't worry!

It's all pretty funny now...

Oh, yes, my name!

Nearly six weeks after I was born, I came out of the hospital, and my Dad came home. 

He went down to the records department to sign my birth certificate and request that my name be changed to Wendy.

Very Efficient German Lady: Dis is not possible, ze documents haf been typed and filed.

Dad: Very well, let me see the birth certificate.

(Ripping sounds)

Dad: Since you have to type a new one, her name will be Wendy Andrea.

Very Efficient German Lady: (incoherent choking sounds of rage)

You could say: he couldn't have done that now that everything is on computers.  Let me tell you: he couldn't have done it that way.  He still would have done it.  He's my Dad.

And I like Wendy and Andrea, although I've never been crazy about Louise (although I still count St. Louis as a patron, cause being a greedy little grace grabber runs in the family). Interestingly, both Andrea and Anthony got passed down in different forms in the family.

And, of course, 20 years later, I changed my last name, but that's another story!

Monday, August 18, 2014

More Sunflowers! Plus Lobsters and Stuff

 Last week I went up for a visit to my folks with Mxyl and Klenda (who had missed the last visit while in Spain).

As it happened, we were there in sunflower season!

These pictures (and the ones with the poems) were taken less than a mile from my parents house, just up the road at Brodhekers farm.

They've been growing sunflowers (for bird seed) in the field next to the main road.

When the field is in bloom, it's a sight to behold!

All the flowers "follow" the sun by keeping their "faces" turned toward it as it moves across the sky.  In the Middle Ages, this was seen as an analogy for the way we should keep our faces turned toward God at all times.

Also, in practical terms, it means that you can stand on the viewing platform (helpfully supplied by the farm) and see every smiling sunflower at the same time!

We had a great time visiting with Mumpy and Pa!  On the first day we went grocery shopping with them, and Pa asked the kids if they had ever had lobster.

In fact, they had not, so he bought them each a lobster.  Klenda named hers Ruby, because he was red.  Mxyl named his Sapphire, because he wasn't.

Here they are with Klenda draping Ruby across Mxyl's shoulder, while Mumpy is creeping up on her with Sapphire.

Aside from all the shenanigans, they were delicious!

 We spent a lot of time chatting, playing Pig's Knuckles (like Pinochle, but funnier), laughing, helping build a closet, gardening, watching the lake, and going for walks.

I was a little delayed leaving for one walk, but I was so happy to get this shot of my folks walking along, holding hands!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Poem(s) of the Week

If I were a flower..
I would be a sunflower.
To always follow the sun,
Turn my back to darkness,
Stand proud, tall and straight
Even with my head full of seeds.

Author: Pam Stewart

HT: Pam Stewart



Ah! Sun-flower

By William Blake

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done. 

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow: 
Arise from their graves and aspire, 
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

Ah! Sunflower

Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
  Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
  Where the traveller's journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
  And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
  Where my Sunflower wishes to go!
- See more at:!--Sunflower#sthash.IauAsNaP.dpuf

Ah! Sunflower

Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
  Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
  Where the traveller's journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
  And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
  Where my Sunflower wishes to go!
- See more at:!--Sunflower#sthash.IauAsNaP.dpuf

Ah! Sunflower

Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
  Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
  Where the traveller's journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
  And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
  Where my Sunflower wishes to go!
- See more at:!--Sunflower#sthash.IauAsNaP.dpuf

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Poem of the Week

Before Earth saw Him, she had felt and known
The small soft feet that thrust like buds in Spring.
The body of Our Lord was all her own
Once. From the cross her arms received her King.

Think you that she, who bore Him on her breast,
Had not the Word still living in her heart?
Or that, because one voice had called her blest,
Her inmost soul had lost the better part?

Henceforth all generations......Ah, but that
You think was an ancient song she knew!
Millions this night will sing Magnificat,
And bring at least one strange prediction true.

Think you His heaven, that deep transcendent state,
Floats like Murillo's picture in the air?
Or that her life, so heavenly consecrate,
Had no essential habitation there?

Think you He looked upon her dying face,
And, throned above His burning seraphim,
Felt no especial tenderness or grace
For her whose life-blood once had throbbed in Him?

Proof of his filial love, His body on earth
Still lives and breathes, and tells us, night and day,
That earth and heaven were mingled in His birth,
Through her, who kneels beside us when we pray;

Kneels to the Word made flesh; Her living faith
Kneels to Incarnate Love, "not lent but given,"
Assumed to her on earth; and, after death,
Assuming her to His own heart in Heaven.

Alfred Noyes. The Tablet 10/28/50, page 375.

Would you believe that was written by the author of "The Highwayman?"

HT (and many other Assumption poems!): Assumption Poetry 

A lovely meditation on the Assumption (which is on Friday, August 15th) here.

Photo by Peter Vagt 

Ever since my first garden in my first house, I've associated white cosmos with the Assumption.  They really come into full bloom about now, and the blossoms seem to float above the clouds of lacy foliage... 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Choclo's Recipe

First you take a head of garlic and you peel off all of the garlic skin.

Then you heat up some butter and maybe a little olive oil.

Then you dump the garlic into the hot oil and stir it around for 10 seconds.

Don't make it overcooked, just a little brown.

I like to cook it in the microwave when I am making it by myself.

Then you can put some special salt on.

And then you can... EAT IT!!!

It's delicious, trust me!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Random Strangeness

Found on the dining room table before we left for the beach.

And now I can't find the staple remover.

I wonder what happened to it...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Leena's Pictures

 This has been such a packed summer that I forgot to blog about Leena's camp!

She went to a nature photography camp run by the Audubon Society.

It was a day camp, but she stayed overnight with Grammy, so she had extra fun there!

At the end of the camp, the kids each made a poster to show their favorite shots.

It turned out that Grammy doesn't have a color printer, so Leena printed her shots in black and white, then enhanced them with colored pencil.

She also invented a cute little character, "Rae," to introduce and explain her work.

Congratulations, Leena, on a job well done!

Monday, August 4, 2014

At the Beach: Home Again Home Again

 Just a few last vacation memories while we do the mountain of laundry...

Here are Choclo and Oob in the Crow's Nest.  This is the fourth porch (the house is called "Four Porches"), and it is perched on top of the roof!

All the Zoomlians took turns spending the night up there under the stars. 
 A few last sand castles

 And some sand mummies... You knew there had to be mummies, right?

 And it was time to say goodbye to the ocean for another year...

Good bye, ocean.

Hey, look!  It waved at us!