Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gospel Desserts: Week 5 and Palm Sunday

The fifth Sunday of Lent had the Gospel where Jesus says, "unless the grain of wheat dies, it can not bear fruit."  I was still thinking about this, but then we got the call to go to the hospital and I left the dessert in Klenda's capable hands.

She made a marbled pound cake using wheat flour!

Plus she made a wheat design on top...

And then, for Palm Sunday, she made a Tiramisu cake, decorated with a palm.

Since Tiramisu means "pick me up" that works for the donkey carrying Jesus, too!

Plus it has to be the most delicious cake I've ever had.  If I had realized it was going to be that good, I'd have had her save it for Easter!

I'll try to type up the recipe later, but it was actually a (box) yellow cake made with coffee, infused with a coffee vanilla syrup and layered with cream cheese frosting.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Looking back through my posts, I haven't done any home schooling posts in nearly a month!

But we have been busy with learning the whole time.  One thing I've learned is that all the learning doesn't flow through me - and a good thing, too!

Klenda has been working on a novel.  Leena continues on her audio book.  Lumptons keep doing Algebra.  Choclo has been reading all he can about snakes.  Mxyl continues to amaze us with computer animation and calculus.  Oob is figuring out how to do complicated addition in his head.
Zorg is developing concept art for unknown schemes.

One fun thing was this fun and easy art project that actually turned out to be fun and easy, unlike last time.  Who knew?

Mxyl       Klenda       Zorg
 In case it's not obvious, I picked up some clay pots on clearance and let the Zoomlians paint faces on them.

We put in some potting soil and grass seed, and here we are!

It really was fun, it really was easy.

No popsicle sticks needed.
Leena           Choclo              Oob

Oob has already started delivering hair cuts to his.

Leena's got knocked over, so her "hair" is a bit sparse.  I think it works well with the face she painted.  I've been feeling like that lately, myself.

And there's always something lovely about seeds sprouting in the spring, even if it's just grass. 

I have some bean seeds to start so that we can look at root development and so forth.  One advantage to the grass is it's  a monocot (one seed leaf), whereas the beans are dicots (two seed leaves), so those are the two main kinds of seeds to observe.

I'm almost up for planting seeds outside, things need to dry out just a bit more.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Poem of the Week

George MacDonald (1824–1905)
A Prayer for the Past

ALL sights and sounds of day and year,
All groups and forms, each leaf and gem,
Are thine, O God, nor will I fear
To talk to Thee of them.

Too great Thy heart is to despise,
Whose day girds centuries about;
From things which we name small, Thine eyes
See great things looking out.

Therefore the prayerful song I sing
May come to Thee in ordered words:
Though lowly born, it needs not cling
In terror to its chords.

I think that nothing made is lost;
That not a moon has ever shone,
That not a cloud my eyes hath crossed
But to my soul is gone.

That all the lost years garnered lie
In this Thy casket, my dim soul;
And Thou wilt, once, the key apply,
And show the shining whole.

But were they dead in me, they live
In Thee, Whose Parable is—Time,
And Worlds, and Forms—all things that give
Me thoughts, and this my rime.

Father, in joy our knees we bow:
This earth is not a place of tombs:
We are but in the nursery now;
They in the upper rooms.

For are we not at home in Thee,
And all this world a visioned show;
That, knowing what Abroad is, we
What Home is too may know?

HT: Journey With Jesus

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Final Update and a Thank You

I am sad to say that "barring any new infections" did not last long.

When you are that fragile, any small infection turns large very quickly.

My much beloved mother-in-law passed peacefully to Eternal Life yesterday evening, surrounded by the loving presence and prayers of her husband and children (including children-in-law).

Thank you so much to all of you who prayed for her!  She accepted Baptism less than an hour before her passing.  Truly, she passed from love to Love.

We all miss her so much, but we are glad she is home.

We've had a Mass offered for all those who prayed for her.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  May God bless you abundantly for your charity and compassion to us in our hour (month!) of need.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Poem of the Week

My Father and Myself Facing the Sun

By Lawson Fusao Inada
We are both strong, dark, bright men,
though perhaps you might not notice,
finding two figures flat against the landscape
like the shadowed backs of mountains.

Which would not be far from wrong,
for though we both have on Western clothes
and he is seated on a yellow spool
of emptied and forgotten telephone cable
and I recline on a green aluminum lounge,

we are both facing into the August sun
as august as Hiroshima and the autumn.

There are differences, however, if you care
to discover, coming close, respectfully.
You must discover the landscape as you go.

Come. It is in the eyes, the face, the way
we would greet you stumbling as you arrive.
He is much the smooth, grass-brown slopes
reaching knee-high around you as you walk;
I am the cracks of cliffs and gullies,
pieces of secret deep in the back of the eye.

But he is still my father, and I his son.

After a while, there is time to go fishing,
both of us squatting on rocks in the dusk,
leaving peaks and tree line responsible for light.
There is a lake below, which both of us
acknowledge, by facing, forward, like the sun.

Ripples of fish, moon, luminous insects.
Frogs, owls, crickets at their sound.
Deer, raccoon, badger come down to drink.

At the water's edge, the children are fishing,
casting shadows from the enormous shoreline.
Everything functions in the function of summer.

And gradually, and not by chance, the action
stops, the children hush back among rocks
and also watch, with nothing to capture but dusk.

There are four of us, together among others.

And I am not at all certain what all this means,
if it means anything, but feel with all my being
that I must write this down, if I write anything.

My father, his son, his grandsons, strong, serene.

Night, night, night, before the following morning.
This a poet I had never heard of before, but I really like his stuff. He is a Japanese American who was interned as a child during WWII (which adds meaning to some of his allusions).   Here is more about him.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How About an Update With GOOD News?!

The doctors think my dear MIL will live (barring any new infections)!

When they asked to "speak to the family about her long-term condition," I must admit I did not think it would be good news.

Opening her up to get rid of the hematoma turned out to be the right call: it was the source of the infection, and it was suppressing her blood pressure.  He blood pressure is slowly rising, and it looks like they will be able to do the second operation to close her chest sometime this weekend.

She'll need one more operation a week later,  the ICU for another month, and various specialty hospitals for a few months after that, but if it all goes as planned, she will come home to us this summer!

If all goes as planned.  After the several days where I thought she would unambiguously die this week, I've decided: I'm all right with some ambiguity!

Thank you St. Joseph!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gospel Desserts: Laetare Sunday

Last Sunday was Laetare Sunday, meaning "Rejoice!"

As in, "Rejoice, you're more than half way done with Lent!"

The gospel was the conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus, a tough call to turn into a dessert.

He starts out saying that "Just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up." In the past, I've gone the bronze serpent route with this gospel.

But this time, what caught my ear was the end of the gospel where Jesus tells Nicodemus that those who do evil don't want to come near the light (for fear of being revealed), while the just are drawn to the light for the very same reason.

I've always liked the symbol of Jesus as a light house, revealing dangers and drawing us to safety, so Klenda and I went with that (while singing the light house song).

But just to be complete, I put a tiny snake on the sand...

In other dessert news, Saturday was a very special Pi day, and the vigil of Laetare Sunday, so Klenda made this fabulous banana coconut cream pie!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Guest Blog by Choclo: Hakann's Adventure

 Hi, I'm Hakann!

I'm going for a big adventure.

Here I am climbing this fallen tree.  It's harder than it looks, actually.

I got to the top!
I'm dancing as a celebration!

This tree climb is much harder, but often a challenge is fun!

Now I'm taking a break to bask in the sun.

After a challenge, you should always take a break.  Ahhhhhhhhhh.

Now what should I do?

I think I'll fight this tree monster!

It's really big!
Now what?

I think I'll go swimming.

It's always nice to dive into good cold water.

So, that's my adventure.  What a great time!

Can I go next time? Please?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Poem of the Week

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314)

By Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
Image from Threadless

Saturday, March 14, 2015

An End to the Impass?

I haven't been doing updates on my dear mother in law because things haven't changed much.

That seems about to change.

If you're coming to this party late, she had open heart surgery nearly a month ago, and has been in the ICU pretty much since. She has been more or less unconscious and hooked to many tubes and wires  for the last two weeks or so.

Last Wednesday they transferred her to a top notch research hospital where they discovered the root of the problem.  She has a large hematoma (a mass of blood and fluid) in her chest from the first operation.

So, that's why she can't breathe, keep her blood pressure up, and restart her kidneys!  Who knew?

She is in surgery as I write this. It's a major sign of hope, but she's very fragile at this point, and it's a major surgery.  Major as in they may have to open the sternum again.

We are on day 8 of our novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots...

Which is a way of saying thank you for all your prayers, please pray again for her!

UPDATE: She made it through the surgery and they were able to get everything out!  They did have to open the sternum again, and they are leaving it open until they are sure the problem is fixed.  There will be another surgery in a few days to close her up again, so, um, keep praying.

Friday, March 13, 2015


 March came in like a...

Snow leopard?

We had 6 1/2 inches of snow last week!

The Zoomlians built a fantastic sledding track with luge like curves and a ramp which is doubling as an ongoing experiment in glacier science.

And this week it's 60 degrees (15 C) and raining.

So we have this, instead.

Happy March!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Large Family

I have at last reached the cherished dream of having a large family: I now have four teen children (plus some others).

If that didn't make sense, say it aloud.

I am enjoying this immensely!

Me: I've got four teen children downstairs watching a movie.

The Emperor:Where are the rest of them?

Me: Watching Ultraman on my laptop.

Although it's not completely perfect.

Me (calling out to the back of the van): How are my four teen children doing?

Chorus: Great!

Me: And how are the rest of my children?

Quiet voice: They were delicious!

I've also figured out that by the end of all this, I will have had six teen children!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Happy Birthday, Leena!

 Leena is thirteen!  She's a teenager!

She wanted a Lumpton themed birthday, complete with a jelly cake.

Yum!  This one was mango and raspberry.

And then she had a party with her friends with lots of sledding and more jelly cake.

This one was cherry and melon!

 Very fun, but the big news was her birthday present.

 Various siblings bought her parts and accessories for this enormous gerbil palace!
 Mom and Dad bought her the actual gerbils: Chocolate and Vanilla.

That's Vanilla cuddled up with Chocolate, but you can only see Vanilla's face.


Thirteen Cute Things About Leena

1. She is very caring with all sorts of little animals.
2. She's Queen of the Squirrels.
3. She's very snuggly with us, too!
3. She loves God very much.
4. She invented Lumptons - if that's not cute, I don't know what is!
5. She loves doing Algebra with Lumptons.
6.  She's very kind, loving, and gentle.
6. She gives scooter lessons to the younger boys.
7. She makes fabulous audio books, some with very cute voices.
8. She likes to make videos of her brothers and sisters.
8. She loves teaching people things, and helping them do things.
9. She is a fantastic humor blogger!
10. She's a lot of fun to be around!
11. She is a thoughtful and caring sister.
11. She is a thoughtful and caring daughter!
12. She draws lots of Chibi (cute manga) stuff.
12.  She loves jokes and puns.
13. She has a real talent for piano and acting.
13. The world just wouldn't be right without her (submitted by Oob)!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Poem of the Week


It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Pop (my dear father in law) made a very perceptive comment.  He said that we were unprepared for the level of ambiguity in the hospital process.  He's a lawyer.

We did a lot of research on the valve replacement process and projected outcomes.  The conventional trajectory is nothing like what we have been experiencing!  By which I mean we are well into our third week in the ICU, as opposed to the single day projected.

Looking back, I think we expected her to do well (and be home by now), but we knew there was a small chance things would not go well (and we would be grieving by now).  It certainly never occurred to me that we would still be wondering how things would turn out.

So how is she doing?  A little better.  The valve seems to be ok, so no repeat on the open heart surgery (hooray!).  But her kidneys are still doing quite badly.

She's no longer sedated and her mind seems clear, but she's still on the ventilator. But she may be coming off it today.  Or not.  They thought she would be off it yesterday.

The general antibiotic seems to be turning back the mysterious infection, but they can't seem to track down what is actually infected.

I don't know when we will leave the fragile edge of not knowing

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Easy Papermaking

Feeling like you need a new indoor hobby (since we have 5-11 inches of snow on the way)?

Making paper is pretty easy- and fun for kids from 4 or 5 on up.  The only difficult part for me was getting the screens.  I didn't have any conveniently rigid metal screens, so I stapled fiberglass screens over some empty picture frames.

Actually, for me that was very easy since I did that in 2008, the first time I did this project! But I remember I had to rummage in the basement to find the frames and screen.

I had the kids tear scrap paper in pieces and soaked them in warm water.  We used mostly regular paper with a little blue construction paper for color.

We whirled it in batches in the blender until it was a milkshake consistency and poured it into a tub.  Actual amounts of paper and water don't seem to matter. We added a little bit of silver glitter at this point, but you can also add small flower petals or leaves.

Our tub was a little small for one of our screens, so we ladled the pulp on. Usually we just dip the screen in and pull it up horizontally.  You want to put the pulp on the flat side (the one with out the raised frame).

We let most of the water drain off (back into the tub), then put the screen in the sink.

Then we covered it with an empty gallon sized bag and pressed out more water.

Then we peeled off the bag (carefully!), and placed the paper (still on the frame) against a window. This part is easier with a second pair of hands, but I've done it solo.

You hold the frame against the window and press the paper against the glass. 

Some more water will come out, so put a paper towel on the sill.

When the paper seems stuck to the glass, peel off the frame.

The next day, when the paper is dry, it will peel off the window easily, and you will have paper with a smooth side and a rough side. 

Very fun for calligraphy and/or home made cards!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


How about some good news?

Mxyl got his driver's license! Fantastic job, Mxyl!!!

Thus ends an epic saga in which we learned how to navigate the complexities of getting a license in Maryland.

If you are lost somewhere in the midst of this process, a word of advice: yes, you have to do 60 hours of training and then do the driver's training course.  The 30 hours of classwork is easily scheduled.  Ask how long after the classes it will be until they will actually do the road work.  In our case this added 6 weeks to our saga. 

Also, figure into your calculations three months to schedule the driver's test! Next time we will schedule the test after the classes and before the road work.

Also, we managed to take the test after only a two month wait because we were willing to drive more than an hour to take the test. 

And to perfect the parallel parking skills, we recommend this video. It's clear, easy to remember, and it shows you how to do it with cones as well as cars. It's from a driving school in Canada. 

Lastly, a true story on the dangers of teaching your kids to drive.  Mxyl was driving us to Mass and did a particularly fine job on a tricky bit of driving.  I complimented him on it, then realized I had really finished teaching him to drive. 

I turned to the Oob in the back seat and told him, "Someday I'll teach you how to drive."

"Too late!" he chirped.

"Too late?"

"Mxyl already told me how to drive!"

Monday, March 2, 2015

More Surgery?

UPDATE: No surgery yet.  It looks like the heart valve may be ok, but she may have an infection somewhere.  More tests!

We are awaiting results of testing on my poor MIL's new valve.  If it is failing, she will be going for a second open heart surgery (in less than two weeks!) today.

Thank you so much for your prayers!

Gospel Dessert Week 2

 This week's gospel is the Transfiguration.

Jesus goes up on Mount Tabor (portrayed here by an entire batch of rice krispy treats with chocolate chips melted in), and meets Moses and Elijah.

They talk about his upcoming trip to another mountain (Mount Calvary), and then the Father descends in the Glory Cloud (the Shekinah from the Old Testament - a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night).

The cloud is portrayed by cotton candy.

Easy and yummy!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Poem of the Week

Cold Iron

Gold is for the mistress -- silver for the maid --
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade."
"Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
"But Iron -- Cold Iron -- is master of them all."

So he made rebellion 'gainst the King his liege,
Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.
"Nay!" said the cannoneer on the castle wall,
"But Iron -- Cold Iron -- shall be master of you all!"

Woe for the Baron and his knights so strong,
When the cruel cannon-balls laid 'em all along;
He was taken prisoner, he was cast in thrall,
And Iron -- Cold Iron -- was master of it all!

Yet his King spake kindly (ah, how kind a Lord!)
"What if I release thee now and give thee back thy sword?"
"Nay!" said the Baron, "mock not at my fall,
For Iron -- Cold Iron -- is master of men all."

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown --
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown."
"As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small,
For Iron -- Cold Iron -- must be master of men all!"

Yet his King made answer (few such Kings there be!)
"Here is Bread and here is Wine -- sit and sup with me.
Eat and drink in Mary's Name, the whiles I do recall
How Iron -- Cold Iron -- can be master of men all!"

He took the Wine and blessed it. He blessed and brake the Bread.
With His own Hands He served Them, and presently He said:
"See! These Hands they pierced with nails, outside My city wall,
Show Iron -- Cold Iron -- to be master of men all."
"Wounds are for the desperate, blows are for the strong.
Balm and oil for weary hearts all cut and bruised with wrong.
I forgive thy treason -- I redeem thy fall --
For Iron -- Cold Iron -- must be master of men all!"

"Crowns are for the valiant -- sceptres for the bold!
Thrones and powers for mighty men who dare to take and hold!"
"Nay!" said the Baron, kneeling in his hall,
"But Iron -- Cold Iron -- is master of men all!
Iron out of Calvary is master of men all!" 
By: Rudyard Kipling 
Image by Matt Reier, (c) Intellectual Reserve Inc.
HT: Poetry Lover's Page