Monday, November 30, 2015

Mikro Meets His Word Count Goal & Wins Nanowrimo Again!

For the fifth year in a row, Mikro made word count and "won" Nanowrimo. Which is more than his mother can say! (Although he does benefit from a shorter, age appropriate word count goal-- he does not write 50,000 words (what he does is more like a short story really).)

This year he chose to write another installment of Enewan's Quest. It may take a few more Nanowrimos, but eventually he will have an honest to goodness full length fantasy novel. It's really coming along. His mama, queen of half finished manuscripts, is proud of him!

Read the earlier installments here.

Enewan's Quest, Installment 3: Copyright 2015, Mikro Coyne.


“What did you eat for breakfast today, Rotanaka?” I asked, almost dropping the litter. “You weigh more than a murkotos!”

“Same thing as you did, and be careful. If you talk to me like that you will reveal yourself. You are supposed to be a servant, not a shaman,” he whispered.

I bit my tongue as we approached the Kuru of the Tinao clan. As we came nearer, I could see two huge statues of their Tree Spirit, Tinarii. They were clothed in grey robes and flanked the main gates. They had the head and feet of birds. From beneath them, a long line of wagons pulled by skraels filed towards the main gate.

“It must be market day,” Retenotar said.

After several hours of waiting for our turn to enter, we finally reached the main gate. We put down the litter and Rotanaka handed me a scroll. I unrolled it and read it to the soldiers at the gate: “The Elder Rotanaka of the Netarpa Clan requests a council with the Tinao Elerastapok. He also requests that his escorts be quartered with the Tinao shaman until the council is concluded. As this is a diplomatic mission, we will leave our weapons with the gate garrison and enter the Kuru unarmed.”

Without looking back, I knew that Beneret was scowling at the thought of leaving her sword behind, and Retenotar did not seem happy at the prospect either, but they both handed over their weapons. One of the Tinao soldiers ran into the tree city and disappeared from view for a good ten or twenty minutes, leaving us waiting for a response. When he finally returned, he announced: “Your council shall be granted, but you must speak with the Chief as well.” This was one of the reasons our clan hates the Tinao. They added an Elerastapok, but their chief still retains most of the power over their clan.

The soldier continued, “As for the rest of you, you will stay with the shaman until your Elder’s council is completed. None of you may go into public areas or into the homes of any of our Nobles. If you wish to visit our Temples, then the Shaman must escort you.” With that, he nodded his head to one of the guards, who used a winch to open the gate and allow us entry.

Two of the soldiers escorted Rotanaka to the Palace, while we were brought under guard to the Shaman’s house. The guard bowed his head to the Shaman and then left.

“Thank you, oh Great Shaman Eifos, for your hospitality.” I said. “I am Enewan, appretince Shaman to Sedenka of the Netarpa Clan. My master has told me of your great powers. While we await our Elder’s return, I would like to learn more of TInao culture and beliefs. Will you be my guide so I may understand your people better?”

“You understand that because you are outsiders I cannot reveal to you the greatest of our mysteries, but I will be happy to show you the Great Temple of Tinarii.”

“I am honored, oh wise one.”

Eifos called his servants and haughtily commanded that food and drink be brought for Beneret and Retenotar. This is another thing we Netarpans dislike about the Tinao—they treat their Chief and Nobles like they are so much better than ordinary folk, whom they treat with disrespect. I did not like the tone that Eifos took with his servants, but I said nothing. My plan called for flattering the Shaman in hopes that he would reveal something that would lead me to the next unknown ingredient for my potion.

I followed Eifos to the Great Temple of Tinarii, the Tree Spirit of the Tinao Clan. The building was carved out of the huge roots of the Tinao Kuru Ta’Rashkin. It was an impressive work of architecture, but I worry for the structural stability of the tree. At the main entrance, there were golden statues of Tinarii as well as all the great chieftans of the Tinao clan, including one that was under construction. All the statues had been enchanted so that it seemed like their eyes followed you as you moved around the Temple. Eifos noticed my staring at them and announced, “I am quite proud of them. They are a work of my own design.”

“Quite impressive! I have never seen anything like them! You are clearly a talented shaman.” I flattered.

“Why, thank you,” Eifos purred, puffing out his chest. He ate up the compliments.

We entered the main chamber of the Temple. It had a domed ceiling covered in a huge painting that showed Tinarii carrying the souls of dead warriors to the Upper Realm. She wore earthy colored robes and had a head like a bird, and wings to go with it. She was armed with a sword, a dagger and a sling. The landscape was a jungle, lush with foliage, and in the background, a small creature with six limbs, two of which were wings, crouched in a tree above a flowing fountain. It had gleaming white fur and long ears. I had never seen anything like it before, and had no idea what to call it.

I had to leave off studying it when Eifos called my attention to the Altar. It was surrounded by pillars, from which artifacts were hung. I will only mention a few here, because there were many. One was the sword which the Great Chief Tinar used to cut off the head of the dragon Ithros. Another was the helm which the great general Athakaroi wore during the Ten Winters War. It was said to be enchanted to protect its wearer by causing arrows to miss their mark. There was the rope which the Great Chief Tamaskaru used to hang the rebel Anterrisi. Many lesser artifacts also decorated the columns, but these were the most impressive.

It took several hours to tour the Grand Temple, and Eifos was happy to tell me the legends of his people while we walked through it. I heard the tales of Tinar and Athakaroi, and then Eifos reached farther back to the of the Tinao clan, and told me the tales of Tinarii.

Tinarii and the Kuru Ta’Rashkin
In the early days of the world, when Hanuapi and Anazuli created everything we know, Anazuli created the Tree People, and Hanuapi in his rage sent his power into the Seven Chosen Ones, creating the Tree Spirits of the Seven Clans, the newly powerful Tree Spirits wandered the jungle, seeking the perfect home for their people. But they were lost. The jungle covered the Realm of the Living, and they did not know where the people should settle. Anazuli sent a messenger from the Upper Realm to guide Tinarii to the Home Tree, and to guide the Tinao in praising Anazuli as the Creator. Yllor the Messenger taught Tinarii the Song of Worship and Tinarii taught the people. It is said that the Kuru Ta’Rashkin will never die so long as the song is remembered.

“Tell me more of Yllor,” I asked. But Eifos refused, because it was not a matter for outsiders to know. I let it go, hoping to learn more later.

Back at Eifos’ house, the Shaman ordered a grand banquet for his guests. Rotanaka returned, having spent an entire afternoon haranguing the Chief and Tinao Elerastapok about the sad state of trade relations between our clans. Rotanaka, who is no merchant, and not much of a diplomat, was doomed to fail, which was the plan. His request for council was a distraction that allowed me to gain access to Eifos. The banquet featured Tinao delicacies like roast tagu and illyra nectar. As Eifos was about to serve dessert, I asked for a moment.

“In order to thank you for your gracious hospitality today, Great Shaman Eifos, we poor travelers would like to gift you with a special treat from our own land. You may have heard of telna fruit. It is sweeter than even illyra nectar and we are pleased to offer it to you as a fit conclusion to this wonderful meal.”

I nodded to Beneret, who retrieved a tray of telna fruit from our baggage and set it before Eifos. Eifos was only too happy to sample this rare luxury. He carved the fruit and had his servants distribute it, keeping the largest portion for himself. What is little known among the Tinao, who almost never encounter Telna fruit, is that, while it does not affect the Netarpa, who are quite used to it, it can have an effect like strong wine on those who are not accustomed to it. The large portion that Eifos consumed was enough to relax him and get him talking, perhaps more freely than he otherwise would have. As we compared the best delicacies of Netarpan and Tinaorite cuisine, he let slip the fact that there was a special treat, reserved only for the Tinao noble classes, which had marvelous properties. Anyone who ate it was restored to health.

“What is this amazing substance?” I asked.

“You will never taste it, as you are not Tinao, but it is made from the breath of the Messenger Yllor Whitefur.”

That had to be it! Our missing ingredient. But where was I to find this Yllor Whitefur? As Eifos began serenading us with Tinao folk songs, I sat, thinking.

I had just remembered the painting at the temple when I caught a verse of Eifos’ song:

Sent by Anazuli
Her Messenger spoke truly
Yllor Whitefur of the Mountain
Perched above the sacred fountain
Sent Tinarii to the Home Tree
All praise to Anazuli be!

Yes! The winged creature with white fur in the temple painting must be Yllor the Mesenger, and his breath must be our missing ingredient. How do you collect breath, I wondered, as Eifos slumped forward and began to snore.

I yawned, pretending to be as tired as our host. “Excuse me, but it seems your Master and I are quite exhausted. Perhaps it is time for us all to retire to our beds.” I suggested to Eifos’ servants. They assisted their Master to his bedchamber and our party climbed the stairs to the guest room we were to share for the night.

Rotanaka wanted to discuss the day’s events, and find out what I had learned, but knowing the servants were still awake and might be listening, I refused to tell him. Whether the servants were loyal to Eifos or not, they would certainly be more loyal to their clan than a bunch of strangers. Better to wait until we left the city to discuss our plans.

“Go to sleep, Rotanaka, and we will discuss it in the morning. We have a long hike ahead of us, so better to rest while we can.”


Oof! Last night’s banquet has made Rotanaka even heavier. We were all happy to leave the Tinao city behind, and even more happy to dislodge our heavy burden. We hid the litter in the dense jungle and headed toward the mountains, where we hoped to find Yllor the Messenger and the Sacred Fountain.

Onward we hiked for several hours until we reached the foothills of the mountains. Rotanaka grumbled, as usual. We stopped for a drink of water from a mountain stream. I filled Retenotar and Beneret in on the plan. It seemed to make sense to follow the stream, in hopes that it would lead to the Sacred Fountain. I expected it to be under guard, so I told our warriors to go ahead of us and try to circle around and approach the guards from behind. “Don’t kill them. We don’t want to start a war.”

“We can use the blow gun and fire sleeper darts. That will just knock them out for awhile.”

“Good. Do it.”

Retenotar and Beneret disappeared into the trees. Rotanaka and I walked on as quietly as possible, listening for their signal. A short while later, we heard the distinctive call of the Akisra bird, a Netarpan species that is not native to these lands, and we knew that Beneret and Retenotar had succeeded in their mission. We followed the bird calls to the sacred spring, where we found our warriors standing over two unconscious Tinaorite soldiers.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Enewan's Quest-- Parts 1 and 2

Here are the first 2 installments of Mikro's fantasy novel, Enewan's Quest. Copyright 2013-2015, Mikro Coyne.


I, Enewan, make this record of the sacred quest of the Netarpa Clan of the Qwerastafay for a potion to heal the Kuru Dupal, our sacred home tree, which suffers greatly and may die from the venom of the Fire Serpent set upon it by Seraivin, the last Evil Chieftan of our people, who was deposed by the Elerastapok, our Council of Elders, for his crimes. I have been chosen to lead an expedition to collect the ingredients needed and to make the potion which will counteract the venom.


Today was an eventful day. It started with a semi-public meeting of the 125th Elerastapok. The shaman Sedenka ( who is also my mentor ) was summoned to this meeting . I got to carry his tarran, his books, his potions, and a cylindrical package.

“These tarran are so heavy,” I complained. “What do they do anyway?”

“The tarran concentrate magikal energy,” he replied. “Without them, even the simplest spells would be impossible.”

“But I’ve seen you do spells without tarran!” I shouted.

“That is because I have trained with them so long that they remember my spirit and will do my biding even when we are apart. When you complete your training, it may be so for you as well.”

We lapsed into silence for the rest of our climb up the tree to the House of Elders. It is the largest residence, all the way at the top of the tree. Even though I have been an apprentice shaman for over a year, it still takes my breath away when I come upon the House of Elders. It is carved from the living wood of the Kuru Dupal, which has been polished to a gleaming white.

We approached the door, where we were stopped by the crossed spears of the two guards stationed there.

My master,, the Shaman Sedenka, recited his full title and stated that he had business with the Elerastapok. The guards stood aside and permitted us to enter. We bowed our heads in respect as we passed through the doors.

I was amazed by the beauty of the interior of the House of Elders, which I had never seen before. Usually mere apprentices are not allowed inside. An escort lead us to the meeting room, where the Elders had gathered.

Lenaratan, who has a wooden leg from the knee down, was the most seior of the Elders. Binarim, the unusually tall female Elder, was second eldest, and Rotonaka was the youngest, and most junior Elder.

“Ah, Sedenka, have you have brought it?” asked Lenaratan.

Sedenka reaching for the cylindrical case I was carrying for him. “Yes, I have it here,” he said.

“Good. Then let us see it!” Lenaratan commanded.

Sedenka opened the case and removed a scroll of bark, and unrolled it carefully, setting it down on the table. The elders crowded around it and touched it, reverently. From my spot behind Sedenka, I could see that iIt was a peculiar looking map, and its contents appeared to change depending on who touched it. Finally, it settled down into a stable formation of glowing dots.

In the center of the map, were seven great trees, the seven home trees of the seven clans of the Qwerastafay. Above them, hovered two spheres, representing the Upper and Middle Realms of the spirits. Below was another sphere, for the lower ream of the damned.

Sedenka pointed at each glowing dot in turn. These are the things we need to heal the Kuru Dupal. There are nine ingredients to the potion, and 8 are in the Realm of the Living. One is in the Lower Realm.

“Anyone who can read a map can see that,” scoffed Rotonaka.

“Maybe so, but what can you see when you hold it? Sedenka asked.

Rotonaka picked up the map. The dot pattern shifted and several disappeared. “It’s not the same!” he said.

“No, it wouldn’t be. This quest is not your destiny, Rotonaka. My vision was clear. It is Enewan who must lead our people to a solution.”

What? Did I hear that correctly, I wondered. Surely my master did not mean to put the future of our people into the hands of one as young as I.

“Enewan!?! Surely you jest! This child? What proof do we have that Enewan-- You would send this child—“ Rotanaka sputtered.

“Silence, Rotanaka. Sedenka sees true visions. You will not question his wisdom. If it is Enewan he says must do this thing, then it is Enewan we send.”

“Thank you, Lenaratan. I am honored by your faith in me. Enewan, come here and touch the map and settle the doubts of others.”

As if in a dream, I walked forward and lifted the map. It did not change.

The Council appointed three warriors to be my companions: Benaret, Shiran and Retenotar. Roanaka would not hear of permitting us to go without an advisor with more experience than a boy like me, and pushed his way onto our team.

(Days 2 and 3 will be added here...)


"Are you sure, Enewan? This doesn’t seem right." Retenotar said to me.

"Yes, I'm sure, Retenotar. Trust me." I paused, looking at the barren field surrounding our group. The only signs of life were a lot of iridescent blurs darting around the area. "Benaret, go get the bowl. Rotonaka, you will get the rest of the parts to build the trap. Don’t forget the honey. Shiran, you are going to build the trap. And I shall collect the ingredient."

We set to work immediately. In a matter of hours, the trap was set. (It would have been ready earlier if Rotonaka hadn’t gotten stung by a swarm of Pekeronian wasps…) It took the form of a bowl full of honey with a piece of bark balanced on the rim. If a serpon should land on the bark to eat some honey, its own weight would cause the bark to drop in to the bowl, thus trapping the serpon.

Now all we had to do was wait.

After five minutes we caught a serpon. One landed on the piece of bark carefully placed on the rim of the bowl. As planned, the bark tilted down and dropped the serpon, face first into the bowl. We rushed foward and Benaret pulled the serpon out of the bowl.

The serpon looked a lot like a Qwerastifay infant, but some of the features were different, like, for example, the eyes were smaller and differently shaped; it had five fingers on each hand and it had two birdlike wings in between its shoulder blades. It started yelling in serponish and I didn’t need a translator to know it wasn’t happy.
Benaret handed me the serpon and I was about to pluck the feathers when it made a high pitched shrieking noise. The iridescent blurs froze and you could see the now still serpons’ bodies attached to each set of iridescent wings.

Suddenly, the serpons howled and attacked as one. They used every trick they could, clawing, dive bombing, biting, scratching, yelling, in an effort to get us to release their brethren, but I held on to the struggling serpon.
I finally managed to pull three flight feathers from one of its wings. Then I let the serpon go. It flew away as fast as it could, and the others followed it, once they saw that it was free.

I carefully placed the feathers in my sack, with the other ingredients we had managed to collect: the sacred water from the well of Natalian, and 6 tail feathers from the Anora.

Six more to go.

We continued on or way, until we saw a large silhouette of a tree in the distance. This was the Pekeronian Kuru, the home tree of the Pekere clan, who we were currently on friendly terms with. We proceeded to the Kuru and asked to meet with the Pekeronian Elders.

Rotonaka and I met with the Elders in their ceremonial chambers. I told them of our quest and asked for their help. We needed a boat and supplies for our next mission. The Pekeronian Elders, satisfied with our gift of Natarpan telna fruit, a delicacy to them, since it did not grow in their territory, agreed to give us what we asked for. They also gave us beds for the night.


We left the Pekeronian Kuru this morning. We trudged on and on,for what must have been hours, until Rotonaka started complaining.

"Can we stop now? Because I’m tired and I’m hungry and I’m thirsty and I feel faint and I need to pee and I-"

"Fine. We will stop. Just SHUT UP!!!" I yelled, ignoring Rotonaka's muttering, I found the perfect spot under a tree. Once everyone had finished eating, I asked Retenotar to scout ahead and see how far the lake was.

Perhaps I should endeavor to tell you what ingredient we were after today. You see, off the shores of the Eastern Sea, there lives a sea monster, named Makatharu. Makatharu's teeth have a powerful poison in them, which will counteract the venom of the fire serpent . So now you are probably wondering: why are you looking for a sea monster in a lake? The lake connects to a river which connects to the Eastern Sea. Once a year, on the first day of spring, Makatharu comes up the river into the lake, for reasons no one knows. I knew we would find him there today.
Retenotar rushed back to our camp below the tree, panting for breath. “The lake is just a couple miles north of here. We can make it there by noon, if we leave now.”

We packed up our things and Benaret and Shiran once again took the boat upon their backs. We resumed walking.
The sun was at its zenith when we reached the lake. Shiran and Benaret put down the boat and got to work assembling it. It looked similar to a canoe, only larger and wider and heavier. Inside the boat was a mast and a sail, trapezoidal in shape. We worked together to push the boat into the water, then jumped in before it could float away. Because there was little wind, we took up the oars and paddled out to the center of the lake.

(Day 5 part 2 and day 6 will be added here.)


The ground began to shake. I backed up and watched in horror as a horrible thing burst forth from the earth. The thing was long and thin. It had black scales and large red eyes and sixteen black spines emerging from its neck.

"It is murkotos!" Rotonaka shouted.

"What?" I yelled back. Then I remembered: the murkotosalerochoenall (murkotos for short) is a creature that burrows. It moves aboveground just like the way it moves undveground. It slithers.

"Scatter!" I yelled, and not a moment too soon. A second later it lunged, sinking its fangs into the ground where Retenotar had been a moment before. Shiran climbed up a tree and then he threw himself at the murkotos. His chest was slashed by the first spine and impaled by the second. The creature shook its head and flung his body at a tree.

Beneret was swallowed by the monster and we thought that was the end of her until the blade of her sword poked out of the monster's chest and she cut her way out. Pieces of the monster’s heart went flying everywhere.

We took Shiran's body with us. We carried him for several miles until we found a place to camp for the night. I sent Benaret into the woods to find firewood and to take her mind off the loss of Shiran. Beneret was an orphan and Shiran had been like a second father to her.

Rotonaka set the pyre on fire and I said the blessings:

“May Anazuli bless your journey to the Upper Realm. May Netalian guide you safely to your rest. May our ancestors welcome your spirit home.” I threw three crystals of salt into the fire, followed by three silver coins. The silver coins were a tribute to Netalian for guiding Shiran’s spirit, and the salt is a gift to Grovehstahr, the Guardian of the Upper Realm, for allowing them entry to his territory.

We stood watching in silence as Shiran's body went up in flames. After Shiran's remains had burned to ash, Rotonaka tried to lighten the mood by telling a tale. He said: "The world didn’t always exist, so I am going to tell you how it was created"


"In the beginning, there was nothing. And then, there was a seed. From the seed sprouted a humongous vine. The vine grew four main sections: The lower realm or hell, the upper realm, or heaven, the middle realm (purgatory) and the realm of the living.

The realm of the living was barren and desolate, covered with dry brown grass. Then one day, a part of the ground rose up. It appeared as though there was a spear sticking out of the earth, and it kept coming out, out, out until it exploded.

Inside the spear of rock was a god called Hanuapi. The god was lonely, so he created a wife for himself. He and his wife, Anazuli, still thought there was something missing, so they decided to create animals such as the crow, the eagle, the ant, the aye aye and thousands of other tropical creatures.

In order to give the animals a home, the God and Goddess created a large jungle. But there was still something missing.

When the god said: “Come forth my friends and come and praise your creators,” the animals came forth but they could not praise their creators. They bellowed, they hooted, they brayed… but they could not praise their creators.

Hanuapi got angry. He wanted to destroy all he had created and start over. But his wife managed to calm him down. She planted seven large trees in the center of the rain forest. And she came up with an idea to create a creature that would praise them. So she created the first of the Tree People, we who are called the Qwerastifay.

The first tree people she created were in her own image, meaning they were female. However the females did not have mates and were not immortal and they started to die out.

So next, she created several males and sent them down to help them. Hanuapi got angry when he saw his wife’s creation. She had not told him about it and he had not had a chance to add anything to it. So he got angry and summoned all his strength and stuck it into seven chosen people from the seven different tree clans of the Qwerastifay, and he put a seventh of all his strength into each of them. Having been greatly weakened, he burned to ash.

The seven chosen ones were the tree spirits, and they were the gods that the tree people worshipped as the go betweens between them and the female god Anazuli. Since then, the female god has retreated into the upper realm and now the tree spirits act as full gods.

On bad days when Anazuli mourns the loss of her husband, which happens often, her tears fall into the realm of the living, but they are not salty. They are sweet and fit to drink. Thus the tree people have water to survive.

And now, my friends, it is time for us to take our rest. Tomorrow, our quest continues and we will need our full strength.”

“Quite so, Rotonaka. You have anticipated my orders exactly,: I said, taking command, since I am the appointed leader for this journey.

I waited until the others retired before settling down in my bed of leaves. By the light of my lantern, in which burned the sap of the sacred Kuru Tree, our Home Tree, I got out the magic map and examined it. It showed me the ingredients that I had already found and those that I still needed to find:

Sacred water from the well of Netalian? Check. That one was easy-- the well of Netalian lies directly below the Great Temple at Kuru. Next, a tooth from the giant sea monster Makatharu. Check. Six flight feathers from the wing of the flying anora? Check . Three flight feathers from the wing of the dimminutive serpon? Check. Five scales from the head of the Murkotos. Check, though those were the most costly so far, since we lost Shiran in obtaining them. Five of the nine ingredients of the potion were already ours, and in just seven days. What remained before us was to collect the final four ingredients: three we knew, and one was a mystery. Had our map not been torn by Rotonaka in his attempts to usurp my authority, we would know what the final ingredient was and where exactly it was to be found. We do know it is in the territory of the Tinao Clan, who are the arch enemies of our people, the Netarpa Clan.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Geo Bee Prep Project: State Fossils

For our first homeschool group Geo Bee prep meeting, Mikro did a project on state fossils.

Here are some of the cards he made. Can you guess which state's fossil each is? (Answers below...)

Here are a few of the resources Mikro is using to study for the Bee...

Have you guessed the state fossils? Here are the answers, in the same order as the cards above.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

BLAZING IDIOTS: THE GREAT JACK O'LANTERN BLAZE, or Why I Now Detest Historic Hudson Valley

For years, my family enjoyed the local history themed events put on by Historic Hudson Valley, especially the July 4th celebration at Van Cortlandt Manor, River Days, Heritage Crafts, the Eagle Fest tie in event, etc. When the Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze started, it ran a couple of weeks, and was mostly attended by locals. It has since expanded into a 6 week or more extravaganza that draws a ridiculous crowd to this Village of 8,000 people. I would bet my property taxes have gone up to cover the police overtime they have necessitated.

In the early years, it wasn't so bad. They used their own entrance road on Riverside Avenue. Now they have their cider and donut tent, complete with cheesy souveniers, and to make as much off the public as possible, they close their entrance and vector all traffic through the local supermarket parking lot and into a field where the concessions are located.

A week or two of heinous traffic, no parking availble when you shop, and people aimlessly wandering about in lanes of traffic causing a road hazard might be something that people could grin and bear, but their greed knows no bounds. It is November 7th. And yet, there are still two more weekends of this nonsense to endure, after four weeks of almost daily inconvenience.

In the past at least 3 years, they have shown ZERO consideration in their handling of the parking situation. I am tired of being endangered by the reckless stupidity of their patrons and unlawfully imprisoned (kept trapped in a parking spot and not free to leave while they make no effort whatsoever to temporarily halt the line of idiots streaming into their parking field in order to let local shoppers leave and go about their business).

Here is the review I left on HHV's facebook page, which I fully expect them to delete.

You are abyssmal neighbors. You have no consideration whatsoever for the people who live near your sites, esp. Van Cortlandt Manor. The crack team of imbeciles you have directing traffic pinned me in my handicapped parking spot and would not stop the flow of traffic, which they had vectored completely around shoprite, creating a nightmare (as usual) for anyone who actually lives and has to shop here. One of your parking idiots stood in front of my car in the exit ramp and refused to move over to let me pass her safely. This is not the first time I have been pinned in my spot and your employees did NOTHING to permit me to leave. Your customers show up hours early and take all the handicapped spots at Shoprite, requiring locals to lug heavy groceries in pain, all because you refuse to use your own entrance and insist on inconveniencing the local community by using Shoprite as your entrance ramp. People who live here have to run our entire October and November schedules around avoiding the ridiculous traffic you generate and fail to control. Halloween was over a week ago, and still you are making my life miserable. And you should drop historic from your name. You cancelled the July 4th reading of the Declaration of Independence, and other small scale HISTORIC events in favor of pirates and pumpkins and the almighty dollar. You will never see another penny from me in support, and I will leave negative reviews everywhere I can. I informed Croton PD verbally of the parking incident, and I will go in and file a formal complaint when I have time. You are lousy neighbors.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween at AMNH

Mikro enjoyed Trick or Treating as New York's state fossil at the American Museum of Natural History. One museum employee saw him and said "Cool eurypterid!" Most people, however, thought he was anything from a bedbug, to a beetle, to a rat. (Huh????) Paleontology Boy had fun educating people about his costume, and wandering the halls of his favorite place as if he belonged on exhibit there...

Kevin and I somehow stayed awake and cheerful, despite pulling an all-nighter to finish his costume. Next year, Mikro gets to take the laboring oar on costume making...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Resurrecting the Extinct for Halloween? Why not!

My paleontology obsessed son wants to be New York's state fossil for Halloween. So out came my sketch pad, and Kev and I are now attempting to assemble a prehistoric sea scorpion out of foam floor tiles and fabric... It is a work in progress, and time is flying. Here is what we have done so far:

We still have to make the patterns for the body and tail, cut foam, assemble the segments, cover all the foam with contrasting fabric, detail it with paracord, and make sure it works for standing and sitting... This would be easier if we hadn't left it to the last minute, but hopefully the ghost of Eurypterus remipes will be haunting us come Saturday..

Saturday, October 10, 2015

National Geographic Bee

Mikro is really excited about the National Geographic Bee, which local homeschoolers are going to be studying for. Team blog here. We've picked up an atlas and some study guides, and are working our way through them. Mikro watched last year's competition and says it looks like fun.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mikro's Going to Mars... Well, His Name Is, Anyway!

Get your name sent to the red planet too by signing up with NASA here.

2015 Not Back To School Interview With Mikro

Q: What is your favorite subject?
A: Biology, Evolutionary Biology, Paleontology, Robotics... Science!

Q: What are you best at?
A: Science.

Q: I need to get better at __________.
A: Handwriting, note taking, typing, writing essays.

Q: What's the best thing about being a homeschooler?
A: That I get to learn what *I* want to learn.

Q: What's the worst thing?
A: No such thing as summer break.

Q: What kind of work do you want to do when you grow up?
A: I want to be a paleontologist, or evolutionary biologist. I also want to do robotics and cartography. I want to be a professor, because I like to lecture, and I would love to work at AMNH someday.

Q: This year I want to learn about ________.
A: Paleontology (of course), cartography, drawing, ships (maritime engineering/architecture), robotics, natural satellites, terraforming, space exploration, science fiction, fractals, geometry, special effects and animation, East Prussia, colonialism.

Q: I want to do more _________.
A: Field trips.

Q: I want to do less _________.
A: Handwriting.

Q:Who is your best friend?
A: Ezra and Koby.

Q:I want to go on a field trip to __________.
A: Philadelphia.

Q: I want to go on vacation to __________.
A. Ireland.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Foraging With Kids: A Review by Mikro

Mikro reviewed Wildman Steve Brill's book, Foraging with Kids for our homeschool group's newsletter:


I really enjoyed “Foraging With Kids” by Wildman Steve Brill. The book was more than just a field guide to edible plants. I especially liked the sections about the folklore, myth and superstitions about plants. I also enjoyed the plant poems. My favorite story was about how people can try to tell time with dandelions, which are nicknamed “the clock flower.” You will have to read the book to find out how a fairy story turned into this strange activity.

The book is organized by seasons so that way you know when to look for certain things. The photos were really clear and make it easy to identify the plants Wildman Steve talks about. We decided to field test the book by going foraging once it got warm enough.

We went foraging in a meadow near the Hudson River and in our own backyard. We took along Wildman Steve’s book and a bunch of baggies to collect plants with. We were able to identify the plants we found easily, except for one that we thought was purslane. We were not one hundred percent sure, so, as Wildman Steve tells us, we did not eat it.

meadow foragingmikro3

meadow2 foragingmikro2

We found wild onion, dandelions, violets, mint and wood sorrel. My mom likes wood sorrel and dandelions. I liked the mint and violets.


violets wildonions

When we got home, we looked at the male and female parts of the flowers under a field microscope. Wildman Steve’s book has lots of suggestions for science lessons, which my mom and I both liked.

dandeliionanthers tipofvioletstamen

violetovaryinside violeteater dandelioneater

Foraging is a fun way to spend time outdoors. We had a really nice day outside and saw lots of birds as well as plants. I want to go foraging again later this spring and in the summer when there is more out there to find.

perchedkestrel redwing1

redwing2 kestrelinflight

I would recommend this book highly for all kids and families.

What an amazing day. It was still very early spring here on the day we foraged, and I was happy that we were able to find a few edible plants. (I promised to give the newsletter first go at publishing this, which is why it's only being posted now...) The walk also brought us some amazing non-botanical sights: an American Kestrel up close, and all sorts of song birds, but the highlight (besides the Kestrel) was a red winged blackbird displaying for a mate. To top it off, there was a spectacular sunset! Our fun day inspired a poem:

A Foraging Poem,
by Chele Coyne

We went to the park,
But not on a lark,
For we had a mission in mind.
With Steve Brill’s tome,
And a meadow to roam,
It’s amazing the food you can find.
Though winter’s barely over,
We found wood sorrel and clover,
Wild onions, mint, violets blue.
As we tramped along,
We heard the birds’ song.
Foraging’s a fun thing to do!


Have you ever gone foraging? What's your favorite wild edible?

Check out a field trip we took with Wildman Steve here.