Sunday, May 31, 2015

Poem of the Week: 25th Anniversary

  Don't Go Far Off

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --
because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far
I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Happy Birthday, Choclo!

Choclo is 10!

This is what I love about my kids.  That's Choclo hugging Zorg after opening Zorg's present to him.

It was a Barraki named Mantax.

No, I don't know what that is either, but Zorg knew Choclo would love it and he did!

Choclo had a very happy day.  Besides all the presents, we went back to the aquarium.  He loved petting the jelly fish and looking at frogs, giant fish, and sharks.

He really does love sharks and Bionicle, which is why his cake ended up looking like this.

He loved it! Plus it was less creepy than last year's dinosaur.

10 Great Things About Choclo

1. He's a Webelo (that's the transition between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts).
2. He can do Algebra!
3. He likes sharks, cobras, and hummingbirds.
3. He knows a lot about Ancient Egypt, particularly mummies.
4. He gives great hugs!
5. He can build pretty much anything out of Legos.
5. He can build pretty much anything in Minecraft.
6. He can build Minecraft stuff out of Legos!
6. He still loves penguins!
7. He looks great in a mustache.
8. He likes to swim underwater.
8. He loves to read about all the things he's interested in, plus the things that he hasn't heard about, plus funny stories, plus adventure stories, plus how things work... I think he just loves to read!
9. He likes to do science experiments.
9. He likes to take walks in the woods and have adventures.
10. He likes to talk to God about everything, and he likes to tell Him jokes.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Seven Quirky Quick Takes

1. Our beloved friend (who has been living with us while she got her master's degree) has graduated!

We gave her this beautiful bouquet of vegetables.

She really, really loves vegetables.  She was moved, and touched, and thrilled. And, before you ask, yes, she enjoyed eating them.

I wouldn't necessarily give you (gentle reader) a bouquet of vegetables, but there's something special about giving a particular person the particular thing they love.

How do you like my nose?!
2.  In other news, Choclo got his first cavity, and thus his first  filling.

Our Very Awesome Pediatric Dentist suggested we use laughing gas (nitrous oxide). This worked well: his tooth is fixed and he was not scarred for life. But.

This involved a bright orange "nose" which Choclo will not allow me to throw away.  He loves it!  He wanted pictures!  It's still on my desk 3 weeks later no matter how many times I "accidentally" knock it into the trash.
3. I had a birthday of record!

Bonus points if you can figure that out with reference to the cake.

Klenda made me her amazing tiramisu cake. Truly swoon worthy!

4.  Speaking of which, my new header is based on this picture which Klenda painted for me for my birthday.

 Actually, all the kids made me things: I got a mosaic stepping stone from Oob, a bird feeder from Choclo, a squid magnet from Leena, a ship model from Zorg, and a Japanese tea mug from Mxyl.

Best birthday ever!

You could name me "My Dog!"
5. One thing I did not get for my birthday: baby doll sheep!   

This was the sheep I was looking for at the Sheep and Wool Festival!  They only get about as big as a normal lamb, and they look like they are always smiling.

Look at that face!  How could my friendly neighborhood code enforcement officer consider him to be livestock?

(Unfortunately, if you bring him within a few yards of Grumpy Cat, you get a universe annihilating explosion.)

I get that joke a lot, actually.
6.  We made another trip up to the Aquarium.

Every time I go without the Emperor, every time, I text him a picture of a really ugly eel.

That's a moray.

7.  I didn't blog at all last week.  It was sunny, breezy, and mild (70s) with no humidity.  I tried not to step inside inside my house.

This week it's been hazy, hot (90s), and humid, so I'm back to blogging (in air conditioned splendor)! I am trying not to step outside my house this week.

Still, I love this picture of Choclo, even if it did force me to admit he needed a hair cut!

Have a great weekend!  More fun with Kelly!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Zoomlians in India

Wrapping up India, we really did eat a lot of Indian food - very yummy!

In our imaginary trip we stayed one day in Agra,  We took a bike tour and saw the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort- so awesome!  We also splurged on a photo safari -so we got to see wild elephants, a tiger (from pretty far away), and (my favorite) rollers!

Non imaginarily,  we watched Jodha Akbar, a movie I love.  It's the movie Klenda mentions, and we recommend it to people who want to try foreign film.  It has something for everyone: war, romance, intrigue, opulence, singing, dancing, elephants, history, and some really excellent sword fights. Plus part of it takes place in the Red Fort!  And the movie really is quite long.
Also our Indian friend made a welcome string with the kids.  That's what Choclo is holding in the video.  It's a pretty string of birds, pom poms, and bells, that hangs in the doorway of many homes (many people leave their doors open).

The Zoomlians made this video after many takes.  Trust me, the other takes were even sillier.

Total spent thus far:  $56,153.  (Good thing we can imagine a lot of money.)

Total distance traveled: 21,000 miles!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Big Enormous Playground and The Teeny Tiny Zoo

Also known as Watkins Park!

Much to our surprise, the Big Enormous Playground had been ripped out and was in the process of being replaced by a Bigger More Enormous Playground with a Wizard of Oz theme.

Holy flying monkeys!  Before this it was the biggest playground I'd ever seen!

Still, the nature center was open, and we took turns putting on puppet shows.

We loved looking at all their animals.

They seem to be a repository for strange pets who have outgrown their owners: large snakes, lizards, turtles, Madagascar cockroaches, and raptors (these are the animals, I'm not insulting the former owners).

Then we hiked over to the "farm zoo".

We had a ridiculous amount of fun feeding grass to chickens.

I am always amazed at how beautiful many of the chicken breeds are!

Of course, I'm sure it's hard to feel that you are a truly beautiful chicken when your neighbors are peacocks.

The truth is that they're both beautiful.

Lastly, we found this goat in a pen with some sheep and llamas.

What do you think of his color?

Mxyl asked me if I thought it was white and gold or blue and black.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day!

 Usually Memorial Day finds me searching my garden for the last of the peonies and a few late roses.  It usually lands between the last of the late spring flowers and the first of the summer flowers.

This year we had the earliest possible Memorial Day, and an unusually late spring.  This year I was looking for the first of the peonies to go with mounds of roses and irises!

As I've mentioned in past years, it's our family custom to decorate the graves of our loved ones and then come home for a big cookout full of food and family stories.

If I grew flowers for no other reason but this, I would grow them!
 I love to pick out favorite flowers for each person.

I love to think and pray for each of them.

I love all the stories we tell about our dear ones - all the funny things, the kindnesses, the joy.

This was the first year that I did it for my beloved mother in law.

It was hard.

I discovered that some part of me really does have peace and joy that she is with the Lord.  Some part of me feels her closeness.

And some part of me has really had enough of her being gone and can we just stop with the being dead thing already?

Being with family, grieving together, remembering together makes it easier.

Having a specific way to remember, and to show our love makes it easier.

Prayer makes it easier.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Poem of the Week

Unless the eye catch fire

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Leena has shown an uncanny ability to teach herself new technology.  She has an idea and she figures out how to make it happen.

First she decided she wanted to make audio books.  But she didn't want them to be just her reading, she wanted her audios to sound like they were full cast productions, so taught herself audio editing with Wavepad.  She modified her voice for each character, then added in sound effects, and finally incidental music.

Then she got more interested in making her own incidental music, so she taught herself LMMS.

Most recently, she wanted to make music videos, so she figured out Windows Movie Maker.  Right now she's interested in Bionicles, so she is combining existing songs (not necessarily related to Bionicle) with existing Bionicle footage.  She works to put together a coherent story from many parts all while synching the visuals with the music.  It looks like this:

and this:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sheep and Wool Festival

Sheep, glorious sheep!  Every time I come away from the Sheep and Wool Festival, I think what a fine thing it would be to have a sheep. 

This despite the fact that my town does not allow livestock of any kind.

So I always look for sheep that might pass for dogs.  What do you think?

If I trimmed her like a poodle and named her My Dog, would she pass? 

If asked if she were a sheep, I could always airily reply, "Oh, that's just My Dog!"

Maybe not.

At any rate, we had  wonderful time at the festival!

Klenda learned how to spin on a wheel (as opposed to the drop spindle) and I bought another spindle so that I could learn to spin without messing up Klenda's skein (my spinning is much lumpier than hers!).

And we wandered about admiring fleece, roving, and yarns galore.

We also ran into an artist (or a company of artists) who does astonishing animals by felting wool.  As in, this lion is made entirely of wool (except maybe the eyes).

They sells kits so that you can make the animals yourself, too!

A lovely day!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Poem of the Week

Thinking about my mom today.  Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

Sonnet  18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

By William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
   So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hppy Birthday, Oob!

 Oob is 8!

He had a great birthday.

 Presents from people who love him!

 A Bionicle cake with swirly colors inside! (Thank you, Klenda!)

And pizza for dinner!

With extra olives!!!

A trip to the Bay!

And lots of fossil shark teeth!

In fact, counting ray plates and bone fragments, we found 134 fossils!

And we spent a lot of time just playing in the sand and water.  A perfect birthday!

8 Amazing Things About Oob

1. He's a morning person, a genuine, crack of dawn, smiling morning person.
2. He's a ferocious snuggler.
3. He tells really silly jokes.
3. He loves gummy bacon (lox) and capers.
4. He's fast with a scooter.
5. He's a Wolf Scout, but he's about to be a Bear Scout.
5. He creates costumes out of everything!
6. He can figure out complicated math in his head.
7. He loves to say the Rosary.
7. He loves to give people flowers.
8. He's mastered the art of super fast Lego building.  Wait, does that mean he's a Master Builder?!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Big Trip: Japan

Backtracking a bit as we catch up with our home videos, here's one from our trip to Japan!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Five Favorites: Educational Apps

 I'm not getting paid for any of this, but you can repay me by telling me your favorite educational apps in the comments!

 1.  Dragon Box  This is a game about why math is fascinating.  It's a puzzle game that teaches algebra.  Unlike a lot of the math games which reward you for doing math by letting you progress in the game, here algebra is the game, and it is seriously addictive!

I got the family pack, which was good because the younger kids finished the "5+" game and wanted to start the "12+" immediately!

 We all got sucked into this one, from Oob to Mom.  You start out with symbols like in the picture above.  The box wants to be alone!

You end up doing things like the picture to the right.  The box is hiding as an X, but it still wants to be alone.  Every few puzzles, the creature in the box grows a little bit. 

The family pack also included "Elements," a separate game that does geometry puzzles that teach you Euclidian proofs! (So I'm cheating, the first pick was three apps... but I hope this company makes a lot more games!)

2. Stack the States  (and Stack the Countries) And the second pick is two apps.

But so fun!  You answer question about states (or countries).  If you get the question right, you stack the correct state into a pile passing a particular line.  If you pass the line you "win" a random state.  Winning enough states unlocks other mini games. 

We mostly finished this a year ago, but when places come up in the news, Choclo and Oob tend to remark, "I have that state/country!" 

I found the states fun and the countries surprisingly challenging!  With both games you can select the kinds of questions you are asked which makes it usable for a wide range of ages.

 3. Presidents Vs. Aliens  Made by the same people as Stack the States, you answer questions about presidents.  Correct answers give you a president to aim at the aliens - you win by clearing all the alien invasion.  And you win presidents and unlock mini games.

Very fun, plus Oob really shocked an adult by knowing all about James K. Polk.

4. Letter Quest.  This is basically Bookworm as an app.  You build words to defeat bad guys and progress on your quest.  You can play the whole thing free, but we used it enough that I bought it. Great way to learn spelling.

5. Hungry Fish Very simple fun way to build number sense.  Your fish is hungry.  You feed it numbers that add up to the number on the fish.  You can pull numbers together to create larger numbers and, as you progress in the game, the numbers your fish wants get larger and larger.  I believe this game can be expanded to subtraction as well.

I got this for my youngest kids, but found that older kids who had a weaker number sense were drawn to it as well (at higher levels).  It seems to me that it's possible to progress in math without a good number sense (I know I did), but it does not seem possible to enjoy math without number sense.

And now you know why my phone runs out of batteries!  Please tell me your finds in the comments