Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Guest Blog by Mxyl: Oops^2

A follow-up to my previous oops

My website had, for a while, allegedly been extremely script-heavy enough to crash the server CPU (which, given that I hand-coded everything there, I personally doubt) and wouldn't load, and much more recently it announced that I apparently have to back up everything and restart the uploading from scratch to join a new membership redirect thing. 

Fortunately, by that point, I'd already backed up everything and restarted from scratch.  Powered by the fantastic GitHub, I may now present the new Zoom Times website at, complete with a few minor updates and under-the-hood navigation improvements! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Happy Birthday, Choclo!

Choclo is 12!

He wanted a robot cake, and it came out hardly creepy at all!

Actually, he had two cakes because we celebrated once with Pop, and once with just the eight of us.

On his actual birthday, he wanted a pumpkin cake. He wanted it to look like a pumpkin, and he wanted it to taste like a pumpkin, something I found very funny at the end of May!

He liked it so much that he declared it to be the best 3D cake he had ever seen, "Even better than a 10 layer wedding cake!"

12 Great Things About Choclo

1. He likes to be tickled.
2. He is a Minecraft master!
3. He loves to create secret places.
3. He tells funny jokes.
4. He loves babies.
5. He makes great paper airplanes.
5. He likes to cook special snacks with lots of hot sauce!
6. He knows a lot about sharks.
6. He knows even more about penguins!
7. He can build pretty much anything out of Legos.
8. He has lots of great story ideas.
8. He's about to cross over to be a boy Scout.
9. He's an altar server!
10. He's a Duck fan.
10. He really likes garlic.
11. He's a sweet and loving brother.
11. He likes to play games with "smash" in the title, and he's a good sport
12. He's interested in everything!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day!

 This Memorial Day we split up the visits to the graves.

Last Wednesday we visited Arlington, and Sunday we were supposed to visit our graves at Fort Lincoln.

I'm super glad we did it that way, because Mxyl came down with a horrible stomach bug, and we weren't able to go on Sunday!

As it was, we got to go to at least some of the graves, and we got to see at least some of the cousins.

And today we'll be praying for the dead (and praying that no one else gets sick!).

Bouquets for Moi, Grandpa Frank, and Grandpa Bob

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Poem of the Week: In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

HT: Poetry Foundation

Saturday, May 27, 2017


emerging from the soil
We are getting a front row seat to one of natures epic events: the emergence of the periodic cicadas, also known as magicicadas.  I have no idea how you actually pronounce that, but I say it like magic cicada.

emerging from it's shell and shaping it's wings

The amazing thing is that these creatures are from Brood X, which last came out in 2004.  They are on a 17 year cycle, and should be coming out in 2021, but part of the brood has emerged after only 13 years!

Fully formed but not fully colored

I think enough of them have emerged (we have several hundred emerging from the roots of our largest tree)  that we are essentially seeing the formation of a new brood! 

Magicicadas usually are on either a 13 or a 17 year cycle.  If this brood stays at 13, thanks to the power of prime numbers, the two broods would only crossover after 225 years.

The cicadas themselves are a bit smaller than our annual green cicadas, and they make a sound like a steady throbbing hum, kind of like a flying saucer in a 50s B movie.

Mxyl not eating a cicada
 They don't bite, sting or eat things, which make them very fun to watch and handle.

And they are being eagerly devoured by wildlife (and some people).

One odd thing is that they love Blue Streak's tires. 

I have to remove all the cicadas before I drive anywhere.  Well, I guess I don't have to, but I do!

 And then there are all those shells!  Perfect for learning to multiply by 6 (each shell has 6 legs).

Also perfect for trolling your cousins by covering their car with shells!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Seven Quick Takes: Bugs, Meatballs, and Graduation

1. With the emergence of the magicicadas (full post on that tomorrow), we have been fascinated with all things cicada, especially their beautiful wings.

I traced Oob on the driveway, then gave him cicada wings!

Then Choclo wanted bird wings.

Easy and fun!  Having older kids, I really relish the chance to do some younger kids' stuff before they also grow out of it. Sniff!
2. I got a new garden for my birthday!

The kids moved 2 cubic yards of compost as I directed them, and my dear FIL had me pick out plants at my favorite gardening center.

It's across the lawn from my "dream garden" which I planted 18 months ago and now looks like this.

4. I made spaghetti in meatballs!

I kind of pranked the Zoomlians with these, but they were so fun!

You just stick uncooked spaghetti through the meatballs, then boil them like you would regular spaghetti (meat balls and all). I used thawed store bought meatballs, but I'm sure you could do them with home made.

And a tip of the hat to Leena, who gave me the idea!
5. The Emperor and I actually left the kids on their own overnight for the first time ever, and they were all alive when we came back! The house was even cleaner than when we left!

The special occasion was a trip to Pittsburgh for the Nebulas to see my dear FIL receive a posthumous award for my dear MIL, the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award.  

I'm the one in blue
While I was there, I got to see my favorite living writer, Mary Robinette Kowal! Her books are like Jane Austen with magic, and magical they are.  Even better, she was one of my MIL's favorite people, and my MIL was clearly one of her favorite people!
Being honored while wearing a suit

6. Klenda joined the Phi Theta Kappa college honor society!

Mxyl joined also, but wasn't interested in going to the ceremony. They are both part of National Collegiate Scholars honor society as well, and he had been to that ceremony while she had skipped it.

So, two college honor societies.  Not bad, I guess we'll have to let her graduate high school. :)

He's in there somewhere
7. And speaking of graduating, Mxyl graduated from the community college last night with an associates degree and a professional certificate! 

He's planning to head to University of Maryland in the fall.

Standing up, gold sash on the left

Where we are, if you graduate from community college, you are automatically accepted into any of the state colleges as a junior. 

If you couple that with the fact that you can start classes when you are 16 (and the tuition is half off for dual enrolled home school high schoolers), community college has been a really nice transition from home school to college for us, while skipping the college admissions drama.

There he is!
The gold sash is his Phi Theta Kappa honor, but he also graduated summa cum laude and I think we were supposed to get an honor cord, but we didn't know to ask for it (we barely remembered to get the sash!). Ah well, the perils of being the first kid.

You know, for kids that never got graded during their 13 years of home schooling, they are doing really well at the college grade thing (as in 4.0), so if you're wondering if you need to grade your home schoolers, you don't.

Hope you had a fun week and an even better weekend!  More takes with Kelly!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kid's Chemistry

Here's something I haven't been blogging about because I am essentially doing the Kid's Chemistry class that is in the sidebar.  At any rate, I recently completed another round with a fresh group of kids!
 One reason I didn't reblog the whole class was that I have a hard time teaching and remembering to take pictures.

But I wanted something for the portfolio, so here are some pictures from the last class, Acids and Bases.

Here the kids are pH testing a dozen or so household substances.
And here they are with the obligatory baking soda and vinegar volcano.

I was using it too explain the concept of limiting reagents: the volcano reacts until it runs out of it's limiting reagent (in this case acid), but you can add more until it stops reacting to fresh vinegar.  That means  base has become the limiting reagent, so you can add more  baking soda.
They were having such a good time I let them use up the whole gallon of vinegar and a fair amount of baking soda.

Vinegar is cheaper than curiosity!

The whole class is blogged here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Awesome American History: 1846-1848

This was a super fun one, and I completely forgot to get any pictures! Well,  this covered Thoreau, the Donner party, and the Gold Rush, pages 87-98 in The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong.

We built cabins out of Popsicle sticks for Thoreau (for his cabin at Walden Pond),  panned for gold (sieved for fools gold in sand and water) and ate jerky (which the Donner party lacked).

I explained to the kids how to tell the difference between fool's gold and real gold (smash it with a rock: pyrite will shatter, gold will bend), and I let them keep the pieces they found.  The kids wanted to know how much the pyrite (fool's gold) would be worth if it were real, so we weighed it and looked up the answer: if it had all been gold, it would have been about $200,000!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Leapin' Lizards

 We went for a walk around the block and found this cute little lizard!

He's a little hard to see in the grass, but he's dark with light stripes.  In fact, he's five lined skink!  When they are young, they have bright blue tails, but this one had hardly any blue, so he must have been a bit older.

Leena and Zorg spotted it and were trying to catch it, when it hopped on Oob's sock, giving us a chance to get a better picture.

It was the coolest thing ever!

Right up until it ran up his shorts!

He asked me to shake him so that the lizard would fall out, but I was laughing too hard to manage more than feebly waving Oob back and forth.

Fortunately, just then the lizard popped out of the collar of his shirt, scurried to the top of his head and jumped off.

Leena wanted to catch it, but Oob said, "I think I've had enough lizard for one day."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Poem of the Week: Leisure


                                           by William Henry Davies (1871-1940)
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

HT: Holy Joe

Saturday, May 20, 2017

NJ Trip

 Klenda and I went up to NJ to see my folks last weekend.  We had a lovely time when we finally got there - I discovered, 2 hours into the 6 hour trip, that I had forgotten my wallet at home.

Unfortunately, I found out when we stopped for gas...and didn't have enough gas to either go on or go back, and only $6 to our name!

That was exciting! Thanks be to God, Klenda had her wallet and was 18! Mxyl was able to wire money to Klenda (I couldn't receive money without an ID), and we got on our way.
Because they are further North, they are just starting Spring.

The geese on the lake had 6 tiny goslings.

And my mom had a garage full of sheep.

 Crazed, maniacal sheep, by the look of them.

Which she wanted to send home with me for some reason.

Which I did not want to bring home for some reason.

So she hid them in my car.

Fortunately, I found most of them before I left and hid them in her garage.

Unfortunately, she hid one with a bunch of cheese in the trunk... Wait, are you still reading this? I feel sheepish.

Uh, anyway, We had a great time, and we celebrated Mother's Day and Mumpy's birthday, and my birthday, and we planted their summer garden.

And we got Pa telling stories of strange things that happened to him in stranger places, and that is always amazing and fun!

Friday, May 19, 2017

27 Years Ago Today

Sonnet 43
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.