Sunday, July 31, 2016

Poet of the Week: Mary Mapes Dodge

Here's a poet I just discovered over at Poetry Foundation, and I am quite charmed by her work!

Fire in the Window
Fire in the window! flashes in the pane!
Fire on the roof-top! blazing weather-vane!
Turn about, weather-vane! put the fire out!
The sun’s going down, sir, I haven’t a doubt. 
 Early to Bed
Early to bed and early to rise:
If that would make me wealthy and wise
I’d rise at daybreak, cold or hot,
And go back to bed at once. Why not?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

More Silliness with Choclo

One of the fun things about completely rearranging our house is the rediscovery of fun toys like Demolition Labs. 

We got a bunch of these kits a while back, and we have them all in a large bin so that they can make huge buildings!

The picture is actually Oob, but the video is Choclo 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mxyl!

Can it be true?

Mxyl is 19!

We celebrated at the beach house with cake, presents, and lots of beachy fun!

19 Great Things About Mxyl 

1. He's working on the special effects for his movie, Abydos.
2. He's really good at kayaking.
3. He's a great older brother who doesn't mind taking his little brothers kayaking!
4.  According to those little brothers, "He's amazing!"
4. He's an honor student in all his college classes.
5. He's writer, director, producer, cameraman, and actor in Abydos.
6. He loves the sacraments.
7. He's got a great sense of humor!
7. He's a deadly punster.
8. He looks cool in sunglasses.
9. He never gives spoilers.
10. He's passionate about his projects.
10. He has an amazing ability to learn complex things, 
whether it's calculus or Japanese, or a computer language.
11. He always tries to make things better.
12. He's great with little kids.
13. He always sees things through.
14. He fan subs Japanese movies.
14. He loves to help people.
15. He's great with a katana!
16. He's my in house computer support guy.
17. He's my out of the house errand guy.
17. He knows an astonishing amount about tokusatsu.
18 He has an eye for creating beautiful photographs.
19. He's a very loving son!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Poem of the Week: Sumer is i-cumin in

We've been having very warm weather and it is really feeling like summer here!
Sumer is i-cumin in
Sing, cuccu, nu. Sing, cuccu.
Sing, cuccu. Sing, cuccu, nu.

Sumer is i-cumin in—
Lhude sing, cuccu!
Groweth sed and bloweth med
And springth the wude nu.
Sing, cuccu!

Awe bleteth after lomb,
Lhouth after calve cu,
Bulluc sterteth, bucke verteth—
Murie sing, cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes thu, cuccu.
Ne swik thu naver nu!

Modern English
 Summer has arrived,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
Seeds grow and meadows bloom
And the forest springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo!-
The ewe bleats after the lamb,
The cow lows after the calf. ,
The bullock jumps, the billy-goat leaps,
Merrily sing, Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing, cuckoo;
Nor will you ever stop now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Poem of the Week: The Unknown Bird

The Unknown Bird
Snowy Egrets and gulls on Assateague
Three lovely notes he whistled, too soft to be heard
If others sang; but others never sang
In the great beech-wood all that May and June.
No one saw him: I alone could hear him
Though many listened. Was it but four years
Ago? or five? He never came again.
Oftenest when I heard him I was alone,
Nor could I ever make another hear.
La-la-la! he called, seeming far-off—
As if a cock crowed past the edge of the world,
As if the bird or I were in a dream.
Yet that he travelled through the trees and sometimes
Neared me, was plain, though somehow distant still
He sounded. All the proof is—I told men
What I had heard.
                                   I never knew a voice,
Man, beast, or bird, better than this. I told
The naturalists; but neither had they heard
Anything like the notes that did so haunt me,
I had them clear by heart and have them still.
Four years, or five, have made no difference. Then
As now that La-la-la! was bodiless sweet:
Sad more than joyful it was, if I must say
That it was one or other, but if sad
'Twas sad only with joy too, too far off
For me to taste it. But I cannot tell
If truly never anything but fair
The days were when he sang, as now they seem.
This surely I know, that I who listened then,
Happy sometimes, sometimes suffering
A heavy body and a heavy heart,
Now straightway, if I think of it, become
Light as that bird wandering beyond my shore.

HT: Poetry Foundation

Friday, July 15, 2016

At the Beach: Friday

 We went to Mass at St. Andrew's on Chincoteague, and were very warmly welcomed by the community there!

It turns out they are the oldest church building on the island, dating back to the 1700s, although the church was originally Baptist, then Methodist.  It's only been Catholic since the 1970s - before they got a building, they had Mass at the movie theater!

What impressed me the most was their loving care of the cemetery.  There are graves from all three denominations, of course, and they've turned the small cemetery into a beautiful and prayerful garden for all God's children buried there.

I forgot to mention this from earlier in the week:  I'm not sure why, but the first time we went to Assateague, I declared that the first person to see the ponies got to sing their My Little Pony song.

Picture from Maryland Tourism- we were never this close.
And every trip we have a new winner (two because we count there and back).  It's been crazy (who did opera?) and amazing (Leena's Dance song from Labyrinth with pony words: Prance, Pony, Prance), and sometimes annoying (my singing the first three words of My Little Pony for five minutes), but it's a thing now, just so you know.

More stuff I forgot to mention:

Fun model kits!

My microscope bulb burned out!  I was able to use my phone flashlight, but it was hard for the younger kids to use the microscope.

They continued to make slides of everything they could find anyway!

Also, for whatever reason, we couldn't find any jellyfish.  This is usually great news, but I had particularly hoped to make a slide of the stinging cells with a methylene blue stain. I may have to go back to the bay.

More kayaking!

Would you believe we found out today that we also had a canoe?

Very fun and holds more people, a definite win!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

At the Beach: Thursday

 We went to the Tom's Cove Visitor's Center, which is mere steps from the beach on Assateague.

They had a great touch pool of local animals,an aquarium of local fish, and a large pile of beach finds: bones, shells, and oddities like whale baleen!

It was particularly interesting to see the whale vertebrae, turtle scutes, and dolphin jaw since we have fossils of these at home.

And then it was down to the beach!

Aside from the usual wave riding and sand play, we were fascinated by all sorts of abundant small  creatures.

 I'm not sure if it was because we were near the tip of the island, next to the part which was closed to protect the nesting sites, but we saw swarms of tiny crustaceans which we call sand fleas.

They don't bite, and they look nothing like fleas!

It turns out they're also called mole crabs since they are exposed by waves, then speedily dig themselves back into the sand.

We saw hundreds of them in the surf, and many on the sand.

We also found many baby clams exposed by the surf.

They come in all sorts of colors and look like tiny jewels glistening in the sun- if jewels could stick out tiny feet and dig themselves back into the sand!

All in all, it was one of the prettiest beaches we've seen, especially the part closed off for the nests.

 And there was still plenty of room for shenanigans!

Back at the ranch, we lazed about and played with these nifty dinosaur hand tattoos!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

At the Beach: Wednesday (Mostly Wordless)

 NASA Wallops Island Visitors Center (This is where NASA launches all it's unmanned missions)

 An adventurous exploration of Chincoteague.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

At the Beach: Tuesday

Today we climbed the old Assateague lighthouse.

It has about 8 million steps, but my legs didn't actually fall off until I was back on  the ground.

Kidding!  My legs haven't decided whether they will fall off or not.

They're thinking about it.

But the view was amazing!!

It was a beautifully clear day, so you could see all off Assateague, and most of Chincoteague!

My eyes think it was totally worth it!

Besides which, Klenda and I got to sing the sea shanty about the lighthouse keeper and his mermaid wife as we climbed down.

I think, with the echoing tower and Klenda's harmonizing, we sounded rather good!

Then it was back home for lunch, lazing about and more kayaking.

After dinner, it was more beach time!

I almost forgot, we saw what we thought was a whale swimming in the shallow water.

No dorsal fin, so we knew it wasn't a shark, but we kept seeing a large dark shape which would occasionally raise a giant flipper out of the water.

Except it wasn't the giant flipper of a whale, it was the giant edge of a giant ray!

Monday, July 11, 2016

At the Beach: Monday

 The only other time we had been to Chincoteague, we had missed out on hiking their nature trails.  I was determined not to miss out this time, and all the kids were game, so I decided to start with the 1 1/2 mile (2km) Woodland Trail.

I was thinking, with a name like that,  it would be shady, but it turned out the trees had been suffering from a bark beetle, and many of them had a weird sculptural quality that, while fascinating to look at, cast no shade at all.
Little did we know, only the first part of the path was hot and sunny.

Even less did we know that the path becoming cool and shady would be a huge problem!

I took the picture on the right because I loved the huge riven trunk of the holly tree.  But, if you enlarge the picture, you'll see that this is the moment we discovered that every patch of cool shade was swarming with mosquitoes!

Even though every inch of skin was covered with Deet 100,  the little blood suckers swarmed us, landing on parts of our clothes that we hadn't sprayed, and trying to bite through.

I started to wonder if I would need to add a pint to my Red Cross donor card!

We ended up running the rest of the shady parts of the trail, and speed walking the sunny parts. 

But we did get to stop at the Pony Overlook, and you may be able to see the herd in the distance.

It was a bit more of an adventure that we had bargained for, and more running than I thought I could do.

Turns out I was just lacking the proper motivation!

After we'd recovered, we went off for our annual candy store trip.

I'm not sure which the kids enjoy more: picking from a zillion kinds of candy, or swapping with siblings for the rest of the week.

I got a bag of licorice allsorts, so I was happy!
 After dinner we took another kayaking trip (if the cove across the street can be called a trip).

Everyone was a bit more comfortable, so Zorg gave Choclo and Oob turns in the big kayak while he taught them the basics.

Choclo and Oob were both over the moon!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

At the Beach: Sunday

This year we went to Chincoteague Island, to  a house tucked away in a quiet cove full of pine trees and salt marsh grass.

It's a wonderfully quirky house with lots of room and a nice big kitchen, but it's real claim to fame is in the garage...

Three kayaks (one of them large enough for two)!

And the quiet (shallow!) cove is the best possible place to learn to kayak, particularly since we had an experienced instructor with us: thank you Zorg!

And thank you Boy Scouts, for giving our family skills we would not otherwise have!

 Back at the house we've been relaxing.


Playing games.


And just enjoying each other's company.

Chincoteague's seas are very quiet, but it's just a short drive over to the next island east, Assateague!

Assateague is a barrier island, sort of a long sand bar that has been turned into a wildlife refuge for deer, birds, and the famous ponies.

It has wonderful beaches with great waves to play in!

It's got a much larger shallow section, so that you have several layers of waves, and you can go quite far (50 yards/meters) and still be only up to your waist between waves.

And of course, it has lots of great sand to play in!