Monday, August 21, 2017

Why You're Probably Not As Incompetent As You Think You Are

Yard maintenance isn't my forte. Actually, that's an understatement. (Listen hard, and you can hear the neighbors laughing.)

I'm so bad at it that when an old acquaintance from out of town was in the area, they drove by my house but didn't stop to say hello because they assumed from the look of things it was abandoned. We were probably inside eating lunch.

Mostly ignoring the yard works for me, but every once in a while the weed-choked flowerbeds and the grass as tall as my toddler will start making me crazy.

Then I start comparing myself. I list all the busy people I know who still manage to have a decent-looking yard, and I start to feel like there's something wrong with me.

"Why are we so incompetent?" I yell to my husband, quite literally grabbing my hair in both hands as if I'm going to start tearing it out in frustration.

"We're not incompetent," he answers calmly.

"Oh yeah? Well then, explain that," I say, pointing out the window at the crabgrass farm that is supposed to be our landscaping.

"That's just not what you like to do," he replies.

And he's right. If you give me an hour of free time, I 100% guarantee you I won't be rolling up my sleeves and heading out to the garden with a spade in hand. That's just not my idea of a good time.

It's not so much that I can't do it. It's more that I don't want to. And I need to be okay with that.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I'm not a gardener. What I am is a writer.

I've spent hundreds of hours building this blog from the ground up and I'm really proud of what I've created, even if it's just pixels.

I'm also an organizer, and anyone who sees my email inbox can tell you I'm pretty good at it.

If I really wanted to, I could make yard maintenance a higher priority. But when it comes down to it, I'd rather not.

Weeding the garden and replacing the mulch will continue to be at the bottom of my list of Important Things To Do, because, well, I chose to put it there.

Which brings me to another point: just because I don't care about something doesn't mean that you can't. I may laugh about not having time for that stuff, but it's not a put-down to anybody who does.

I know some phenomenal women who can grow anything, including flowers that bloom when you look at them and vegetables that taste like heaven. And believe me, when I visit their houses I'm not thinking that (1) they're wasting their time, (2) they're trying to make me look bad, or (3) I'm better than them for not bothering with such silly gardening stuff.

Even though it's not my thing, I genuinely admire their gifts at making their yards beautiful. Usually they're even nice enough to send me home with a basket of their extra tomatoes.

It goes the other way, too.

I may be a writer and an organizer, but I hope you're not afraid I'm judging you for ending a sentence in a preposition or having a filing system that basically amounts to 126 wadded-up receipts in your purse. I really don't care. Those are my things, but they most certainly don't have to be yours.

The older I get, the more I learn that life is a chance to sort out your priorities. There isn't enough time in a day to pour your energy into everything, so you have to make choices and own them.

We're all born with different talents, different limitations, and especially different passions, so it only makes sense that we're not all going to have the same priorities in life.

Making different choices about what to do with your time doesn't make you any better or worse than me; it just makes us different.

And I'm glad we are. Otherwise, where would I get my good tomatoes?

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Madagascar

Every summer vacation, I pretend to travel the world with my kids. They learn geography, appreciation for other cultures, and that they shouldn't complain they're bored or this is what happens.

(For more on how this tradition began, read this post.)

This week we learned about Madagascar, and to be honest it was hard to find relevant books and DVDs. Every time I searched the library catalog I got 1,042 results for DreamWorks' Penguins of Madagascar.

But we did find some great resources, with a little digging.

(This post contains affiliate links in case anyone wants to buy this stuff for a homeschool unit or to do an educational summer vacation with their own kids. If you don't want a tiny portion of your purchase to go to me, for goodness' sake don't click on anything!)

Monday



Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Usually the kids are all pretty excited to fill out their passport pages, but one child fought me tooth and nail this week (I think we need to start getting to bed earlier this summer.)

After compromising ("Fine, just write the country and the capital and you can be done") we moved on to the flag of Madagascar, which was apparently more interesting.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
See, that wasn't so bad, was it?

As they colored I read to them from Exploring Countries: Madagascar and learned a lot. Something like 90% of Madagascar's plants and animals aren't found anywhere else in the world, so the kids ended up running and getting the iPad to look up pictures of all the unusual wildlife mentioned in the book.

And of course when the book mentioned zebu wrestling, well, my son was all over that.


It was harder than you might think to find online resources for learning Malagasy, the native language of Madagascar. I could only find one YouTube video on the numbers in Malagasy, and it was pretty useless to me since it had no sound and I didn't know how to pronounce everything.

Luckily, the book had a handful of phrases, so we learned "please" and "thank you." They were so hard to remember that it's all we could fit in our Western brains, anyway.

We watched a DVD on Madagascar from the Countries Around the World series. I've sung the praises of the series before, so I'll spare you this time. But they're great.

Tuesday


This was one of my favorite days. The bizarre-looking baobab tree is the national tree of Madagascar. People sometimes call it "the upside-down tree" because its branches look like roots.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Baobab tree, photo courtesy of Rob Waddington

We read all about it in Tree of Life: The World of the African Baobab by Barbara Bash and then I loosely used this lesson plan for an activity idea.

I asked my artist daughter to sketch me a baobab tree the night before, which might strike some people as a weird request but she was like "Sure!" and had it done in 10 minutes. I painted it gray and let it dry.

After reading the book, I showed the kids how to sponge paint black over it. At first my younger kids didn't get the concept so there was a gigantic black smear at the bottom of the trunk, but my older ones reasoned it could be a hole from an elephant eating the bark, so there you go.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

We dried the paint with a hairdryer and cut out the tree, then pasted it to another big piece of paper.

Most of the year, the baobab branches are empty, but they briefly get leaves and flowers so we put those on, too.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Tissue paper flowers: the kids already knew how to make these because they helped make a bunch in the spring for a church activity.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

There was only one door-slamming incident regarding the distribution of tissue paper flowers, and the finished product turned out nicely.

For dinner that night, I made romazava, which InternationalCuisine.com assures me is the national dish of Madagascar. I was fresh out of zebu meat, but they said that a combination of chicken, beef, and pork is an okay substitute.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

This meal was way more flavorful than I expected, probably because of the serrano chiles. I substituted kale for mustard greens because (1) I don't even know what mustard greens look like, and (2) when I asked the guy at the store he said they were all out.

Wednesday


Today was sort of crazytown because we were already stressing about leaving for a camping trip the next day, and for some reason, we also thought today would be a great day to move everything out of the attic so some guys could come and insulate it.

So we didn't get much done, despite my grand plans.

But I did send the kids downstairs to watch Jungle Rainforest from the Eyewitness DVD series I like. This wasn't on Madagascar in particular, but more about tropical rainforests in general.

Thursday through Friday


Our campsite was a few hours away from home, so I forced gave the kids the opportunity to read some books in the car that were about or set in Madagascar.

I loved how my daughter kept randomly reciting lemur facts to me throughout the day when she remembered them.

The books I brought in the car were:

Saturday



All I wanted to cover today was a random smattering of cultural tidbits about Madagascar and an IMAX DVD called Island of Lemurs: Madagascar. Which we did, but just barely. 

Our camping trip ended in utter disaster (which I'll tell you all about next week) and I was beyond exhausted. But when I say I'm going to do something, I do it. (Unless I don't, but that's another story for another time.)

We read a little bit on traditional Malagasy beliefs and mythology, and watched a YouTube video of some traditional Hira Gasy dancers. I still can't place the style, it's like 3 or 4 other things I know jumbled up together. 

And then... there's this:


Famadihana is a family celebration with a name that literally means "turning of the bones," and whatever you're thinking that might be, it's even more out there.

This was probably the most interesting thing I've ever learned about another country, ever. And I've learned some things.

We followed up with the videos here and here for a little more context or some different perspectives.

Also, throughout the week we listened to some contemporary singers from Madagascar Razia Said, Lala Njava, and Hanitra Lasa. I thought they were all really soothing. Basically just what I needed after today, when we have wet camping gear scattered all over the yard and a hundred boxes from the attic sitting all over the house still.

Everything your kids never knew they wanted to know about Madagascar. (Spoiler alert: watching Penguins of Madagascar isn't that educational.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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Friday, August 18, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Pensive Desserts, Serious Remorse at the Zoo, and the Secret Life of Strawberry Shortcake

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?

1


Waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, my daughter pointed this out to me.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Crafted with 'thoughtful ingredients.'

'Thoughtfulness' seems like an awfully sentient quality for brownie ingredients, but okay.

I flipped it over to see what could possibly be in these, but we had to start unloading our cart and I only had time to read the first ingredient: it was flour.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed.

2


It was free admission day at the zoo, and even though it was an hour drive one-way and I was on the second day of the head cold from Hades, I figured it would be a good idea to go there with the kids.

It was not.

The traffic was so horrible it took us an hour and a half to get there, we couldn't find parking, and when we made it to the gates the crowd was so thick we could hardly walk. In my head, I actually heard Gob's voice from Arrested Development saying "I've made a huge mistake..."

We saw about four animals, the baby grabbed a smashed PB&J off the ground and tried to eat it, and then we literally turned around for the hour-and-a-half drive home.

I haven't seen Anchorman, but from now on I'm just going to assume that the following scene was based on free day at the zoo, because there's even a bear in it:


3


I already mentioned I'm doing a pretend trip around the world with the kids through the end of August. Months ago when we set up our "travel itinerary," the kids chose North Korea for next week.

Which should be interesting, considering current events.

We try to explore as many aspects of the country's culture as we can, including the dominant religion. In North Korea that's atheism, which seems pretty straightforward, but I searched our public library's catalog to see if there were any resources in the children's section for talking about it.

What the actual heck.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The top 6 results for "atheism" in the juvenile section were Strawberry Shortcake books. I was so confused.

I even Googled "is Strawberry Shortcake an atheist," thinking maybe I'd missed some serious existential commentary in the show as a kid in the '80s, but nothing came up.

I'm still confused.

4


So I was looking at my 8th grader's school supply list, and halfway down the page it says I'm supposed to get her a TI-84 graphing calculator.

Excuse me?

How are these not completely obsolete? I used a TI-85 (one model newer, even!) when I went to high school twenty years ago. This is one step away from getting her a slide rule.

I'm actually more upset the longer I think about it. There are zero professionals in math and tech jobs today using a graphing calculator. Zero. We have a little thing called "the Internet" now, and pretty much any device from your laptop to your tablet to your iPod can do everything a graphing calculator does.

But at least such a defunct piece of equipment won't cost a lot, right? Nope. $100. I'm seriously considering buying her a $30 smartphone and installing the TI-84 simulator app on it.

Seems unconventional, but I think it's a much better idea than the $100 doorstop I'm supposed to be buying.

5


Something bizarre happened at the pediatrician's office for my toddler's checkup. The visit part was run-of-the-mill, but afterward he needed two shots, one in each arm.

He got his first shot and didn't even react. He just looked at the giant syringe in his arm thinking, "I wonder what this is?" and then after the second he simply whimpered once and looked at me as if to say, "Well, that was annoying."

And that was it.

After 13 years of shushing and rocking an inconsolable baby, toddler, and yes, sometimes elementary-schooler after getting a vaccination or blood draw, I honestly didn't know what to do with a kid who was completely unfazed by the whole ordeal.

6


My 5-year-old has always been a maker. Until she came along, the obligatory cabinet o' craft supplies sat mostly forlorn and neglected in the corner. Now she's in it every day, whipping up some work of art or another.

Recently she's been on an absolute crafting rampage. There are some nights when I can't cook dinner because her newest creations are drying on every counter in the kitchen.

If I take a look around right now, I can see this Christmas-and-feather collage:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
No doubt a satirical commentary on the hollow commercialization of the Christmas season.

This mixed media glitter-and-watercolor painting:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
If anyone needs me, I'll be cleaning magenta glitter out of EVERYWHERE for the rest of the month. 

And this abstract sculpture:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
To be honest, I'm not really sure about this one.

And that was just today's work. I really think I need to rent some studio space for this kid.

7


Because our attic is poorly insulated, we get ice dams in the winter. If you don't know what an ice dam is, it's an unpleasant phenomenon that results in dripping ceilings, climbing ladders in subzero temperatures with pots of boiling water to pour on chunks of ice in your gutter, and chucking pantyhose filled with ice melt onto your roof.

Anyway, that's why Phillip hired some guys to come insulate our attic. Better insulation means no more ice dams.

I was all for it, until it dawned on me that in order to insulate the attic we'd first have to physically remove every single thing we're currently storing in it.

When Phillip ignored my pleading to call and cancel the appointment, I decided to be positive and look at it as an opportunity to organize things I knew needed organization and throw away things we didn't need anymore.

So far it's going pretty well: I donated one carload of stuff, spent the better part of a day reorganizing and labeling boxes, and only broke down in hysterical tears once.

Okay, twice. It's a little overwhelming.


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Monday, August 14, 2017

Signs Your Kids Have Turned Feral Over the Summer

Summer vacation is a magical three months when kids enjoy late-night bonfires, family vacations, and endless days to play with friends and siblings.

However, it's also the time of year when 75% of all school-aged children are at risk for becoming feral. Do you know the signs?

What do you mean by "feral?"

Domesticated animals like cats, dogs, or children can, if left to their own devices for too long, return to their wild state. This is called "turning feral."

The loss of structure during summer vacation is a root cause for many children who become feral.

How do I know if my child has turned feral?

The most obvious sign that your kids may have turned feral over summer break is to look at the bottoms of their feet.

Are they completely blackened? If so, you may be dealing with a feral child.

Other causes for concern might be arms and legs that are covered in mosquito bites and scrapes, as well as sand in the hair and/or diaper. Dried watermelon juice running down the chin and neck is also a red flag.

If your child has returned to his wild and untamed state over the summer break from school, there may still be hope!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

That said, "feral" is a behavioral term and can only be properly diagnosed by asking yourself these questions:
  • Does he hiss and spit when you try to get him to bathe?
  • Does he pee outside more often than he pees inside?
  • Is she confused about the term "meal?" Does she help herself to 564 snacks a day without regard for a scheduled "snack time?"
  • Does she drop every object exactly where she is when finished using it? (i.e: craft supplies on the table, snack wrappers on the counter, piles of clothing on her bedroom floor that looks like a fully-dressed person walked in and evaporated every day of the week)
  • Does he not appear to recognize his shoes anymore?
  • Does she constantly demand popsicles?
If you answered "yes" to 4 or more of the above questions, your child is in need of serious intervention.

Is this condition reversible?

It depends. As with all feral animals, the extent to which you can tame them depends on the individual's age, personality, and the length of time they've been feral.

If it's only been for the three months of summer vacation, you have a very good chance of reclaiming your child.

I think my child has turned feral. What do I do now?

First, congratulate yourself on recognizing the signs! Many cases go unchecked until a feral child goes to school, where it becomes the teacher's problem.

Some of the following tips will help you re-integrate your feral child into society:
  • Make them eat broccoli and dark, leafy greens
  • Lure them into the shower or tub at least weekly
  • Patiently explain the difference between daytime clothes vs. pajamas and swimwear as many times as may be necessary
  • Threaten to shave them if they don't start brushing their hair
  • Slowly phase out summer food until less than 50% of their diet is hot dogs and S'mores

As always when attempting to tame a feral animal, be prepared for some scratching and biting. We wish you the best of luck and a happy back-to-school season!

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Chile

In theory I like the idea of doing nothing over my kids' summer vacation, but in reality we all crave a little structure in our house when school is out.

Several years ago I got the idea to take the kids on a fake trip around the world in the summer, a new country every week, and it's become something the kids look forward to every year.

This week, the kids picked Chile. My 5-year-old could not stop giggling all week because "chilly" is a ridiculous name for a country.

(This post includes my affiliate link, meaning that a percentage of your purchase goes to me if you buy through a link on this site.)


Monday


This week started out with more fighting than usual about who got to stand where and who couldn't see because someone was blocking their view of the map.

Everyone was getting run over by the chair my 5-year-old kept pushing over to stand on, until she realized that Chile was on the bottom half of the map which she could see just fine from the floor.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Crisis averted, the kids somehow managed to fill out their passport pages.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I used to make each of the kids legit-looking bound passports with their picture on the inside. But then I had another few babies and ended up just stapling the next year's passport sheets together haphazardly, and the kids didn't even notice the lack of fanciness.

Remind me about that next time I'm tempted to do something over-the-top, okay?


Download the Passport Pages


I read parts of Exploring Countries: Chile by Lisa Owings while they were coloring the Chilean flag.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

We also listened to some traditional music from the Andes. There's good stuff on YouTube, but I got the Putumayo: Music of the Andes CD. I love, love, love the Putumayo series. There are dozens of them in all kinds of collections, and I don't think I've ever heard one I didn't like.

Then we watched a short DVD called Countries Around the World: Chile. It's a great video series for kids and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday


Today we watched two Spanish language DVDs in hopes that we'd learn a little more Spanish. We checked out First Fun with Spanish and Spanish Rock 'n Learn and honestly, each one was more terrible than the next.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

In the end I don't think the kids learned much Spanish, they were laughing too hard at the goofy dancing and cheesy effects. At one point my daughter asked me, "Don't they make any good language learning videos?"

We did at least go over how to say "please" and "thank you" and how to count to ten.

We also made squish books, cut out magazine pictures, and used Google Translate to label them in Spanish.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The only magazines I had on hand were church magazines, so for the most part, their homemade dictionaries of Spanish words turned out to be extra-churchy. Oh, well.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

For dinner, I made a Chilean dish called 'pastel de choclo.' (The kids were really excited to hear this until I told them that there was no chocolate in it.)

After doing this trip around the world thing for several years, we've tried some pretty funky food. We generally don't expect much, other than a cultural experience, from our ethnic dishes. We've all come to view it as more of a learning experience than an enjoyable meal.

Until now.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

This was SO GOOD I wanted to shove the entire 9x13" into my mouth and steal the kids' plates so I could eat theirs, too. There were no leftovers from this meal. This is definitely going into our regular dinner rotation.


Wednesday


Today we learned about Easter Island, which is a part of Chile, using this YouTube video.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Between the video and the book 20 Fun Facts about Easter Island, we learned a lot more about Easter Island. We even learned why it was called Easter Island. And while I knew it had some giant stone heads on it, I didn't know that there are over 900 of them (called maoi) on the island, and some have at least partial bodies and even red stone hats.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}


I set the kids up outside with some paint and told them to find rocks to make some maoi of their own.

I had a meeting with some ladies from church and didn't really supervise what they were doing, so I was thrilled when I later went to check on them and (1) they hadn't made a giant mess (just a normal-sized one) and (2) their maoi were awesome-looking.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Love the red hat on this guy. Very authentic.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
My 13-year-old mixed her own paint colors and even found a rock that was a perfect little stand for this one.

The 3-year-old couldn't remember what the maoi were called, so he called them "murfs." He was concerned about leaving them outside to dry overnight and kept asking me, "The dragonflies won't eat the murfs?"

Thursday


In my mind, today was going to be the funnest day of our educational trip to Chile. After reading The Atacama Desert by Lynn Peppas and The Andes by Charles W. Maynard to learn more about some of Chile's physical features, we were going to make a model volcano erupt.

There are several volcanoes in the Andes Mountains because they're part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a few in the Atacama desert, and 3 inactive volcanoes on Easter Island, so this was perfect.

The 9-year-old and I collected supplies and made a volcano the day before while his sisters were at their friends' houses using this tutorial.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I think we mixed in too much liquid, because the volcano kept gradually sliding down after a few hours and never really dried.

And I'm not sure what went wrong, but our explosion was a total dud. I know that it's more like a bubbling over than a bonified explosion, but we didn't even get that. Not even after washing out the bottle and re-trying it a few times.

(I'd be lying if I didn't say this wasn't a hit to my self-esteem. I've always known that I'm not a "craft mom," but come on. A baking soda volcano is like the most basic of all kid crafts. Who can't make a baking soda volcano??)

That isn't to say my kids didn't have a good time, though. After our failed detonation attempts, I told the kids they could destroy the volcano however they wanted, which they took immense pleasure in doing.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Friday


After watching a DVD on Chile (Discover the World series) I decided to continue my tradition of Pinterest fails. 

I attempted to make Chilean cazuela for dinner. It tasted alright, but didn't look remotely like the picture on the recipe and I forgot to put in the corn.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Meh. Whatever.

The kids may not have been crazy about my cazuela imposter dinner, but they did like watching this video about the cueca, the national dance of Chile, and imitating in on their own:


Picture books set in Chile that I read to the younger kids throughout the week included:


Overall, we had a good time learning all about Chile. We now have two failed activities under our belts, some new maoi decorations for our porch railing for the time being, and a new addition to our repertoire of dinner recipes. Not bad.

By the end of the week, my 5-year-old had even stopped laughing about the name "Chile" and just thought of it as the name of a normal place in South America.

What do your kids know about Chile? Use this as a guide for some fun South American activities or a homeschool lesson plan.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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Friday, August 11, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Frozen Yogurt Concoctions, Great Hiding Spots for Your Passport, and a Waste of Perfectly Good Baking Soda

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?

1


Phillip's company does a family day at Six Flags every year. Last year was a blast, but the weather for the scheduled day this year was looking iffy. Since we try to be optimists, we bought tickets hoping the forecast would improve as time went on.

It did not.

The revised plan was to have Phillip take the older three kids in the morning, and after naps and the worst of the rain, I'd bring the little kids.

I tried, I really did. But that afternoon as I was packing a picnic lunch and everything else we'd need for Six Flags, I could feel myself fighting this big, black pit of anxiety in my stomach.

A three and a half hour round trip so we could get rained on for a few hours of standing in line? Really? I pictured driving home with a soggy, crying baby (possibly soggy and crying myself) and I just quit in the middle of the sandwich I was making and texted Phillip to say we weren't coming.

I may be an optimist, but I'm not stupid.

2


The good thing is that little kids are easy to please, and they were just as thrilled when I said I was taking them out for frozen yogurt 4 minutes away instead.

It was one of those places where you choose your flavor and then put on whatever toppings you want and pay by the pound.

This is what happens when you present a 3-year-old with that option:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Blue raspberry sorbet with M&Ms, Nerds, strawberries, peach rings, and gummy bears.

When he offered me a taste I was equal parts flattered and horrified.

3


We were playing this card game called Slapzi, where you try to match random objects to the appropriate description. (If you've ever played Apples to Apples, you get the idea.)

When we got to the card that said "You can hide it under a sock," we all started frantically looking through our cards to see if we could find a picture of something that would fit that description.

Lightning-quick, Phillip slapped this one down on the table:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Waaaaait a minute...

Naturally, we all gave him a hard time about that because that socks are clearly too long and skinny to hide a passport.

I expected him to either argue his point or give up, but what I didn't expect is for him to go get his passport, cover it with a sock in the other room, arrange a second sock on the floor beside it, and then make us all come in and guess which one was hiding the passport to prove his point.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
We chose wrong, so it kind of worked.

He won the game, by the way.

4


My 9-year-old offered to clean up the baby and get him out of his booster seat after lunch, and then he wiped down the table afterward.

"I really like clean houses," he told me. "I don't know why, I just like things to be clean."

Yes! I thought, All the lessons I've trying to teach about the importance of cleaning up after yourself are sinking in!

Then he added, "That's why I like other people's houses."

So someone got some extra chores that day. I'm not naming names. But someone did.

5


Ever since we had our piano tuned, I've been thinking about having someone fix some cosmetic issues on the outside so it looks as nice as it sounds. Over the years, the top has collected a few water spots thanks to people who obviously hadn't ever heard of coasters.

A friend of mine does furniture restoration for a living, and when I mentioned this to her she offered to fix it up in exchange for some tutoring in the fall. (She's going back to school for engineering, which is perfect since Phillip is an engineer and presumably knows some of that stuff.)

She spent a couple of days at our house working on the piano (with my kids creepily lining up on the couch to stare at her while eating their snacks) and it looks fantastic now.

I wish I had before and after pictures, but I'm always so excited to get the work done that I rarely remember to take a "before."

That's why I'd be the worst DIY blogger ever. Well, I'd be the worst for a lot of reasons, including the fact that I have a 75% fail rate when it comes to anything that could be described as "DIY." But the picture thing, too.

6


Speaking of which, I did (sort of) do a DIY project this week.

On vacation we played cornhole, a fun backyard game with an uncomfortable name that sounds like a word I don't want my kids to say. We've been thinking it would be fun to play at home, but sets online are a complete rip-off. We're talking over $100 for 2 sheets of plywood and some beanbags.

I am not paying that.

So I decided to do it myself. I haven't started on the boards yet, but I just made the beanbags out of scrap fabric from the basement and $6 of dried beans from Market Basket.

Barring an expensive medical catastrophe arising from the use of the jigsaw, I think we'll finish the set well under budget. Wish us luck.

7


A little more representative of my DIY success rate, I present to you this awe-inspiring baking soda volcano:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Yet another sign that crafts and projects are decidedly Not My Thing.

After two failed attempts to get an actual lava flow going, the kids ultimately had the most fun just smashing apart the volcano in the yard (which never really dried like the online tutorial said it was supposed to.)

And to top it all off, when I told them to go out and clean it up, my son got stung by a wasp.

As if I needed an even clearer sign that this was not the right kind of activity for our household.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

All the Things My 3-Year-Old Wants to Know "Why" About

Child development is a funny thing. You celebrate every nonsense syllable your baby makes. He morphs into a toddler with a growing vocabulary and then one day around his third birthday, he learns the word "why."

Before you know it, you're caught in a tsunami of "why" questions more relentless than that Chumbawamba song about getting knocked down and getting up again.

I've heard about this before. I even thought I'd experienced it when my other children were that age. But never in my life did I imagine it was possible to this level.

My fifth child is now 3 years old, and the number of "why" questions he can (and does) ask on a daily basis boggles the mind. My other children were complete amateurs compared to this kid.

Every day is an incessant flood of whys. An avalanche of whys. A nonstop barrage from a machine gun with an ammo belt full of whys.

He asks why it's lunchtime, why my shirt has stripes, and why it isn't raining. He asks why school buses go to school and why is that the moon.

He wants to know why there's a car parked outside the bank, and also why I don't know why there's a car parked outside the bank.

When we're driving around he looks out the window and gives me the third degree: "Why is that car going that way? Why is the girl walking on the sidewalk? Why isn't the brown truck driving? Why is that dog in the driveway?"

I think he believes I'm some sort of omniscient being, because he's constantly asking me why everyone in the world does everything.

In theory, I love his unbridled curiosity.

In practice, I tell him not to step on his toys and he asks why, and when I say it's because I don't want them to get broken, well, he wants to know why about that, too.

With every reasonable answer I give him, there's predictably another "why" waiting, each one more nonsensical than the one before. Here's an actual conversation we had on the way to the grocery store:

"Why did we go up?"

"Because we went over a hill."

"Why?"

"Umm... because... there's a hill on the way to the store?"

"Why?"

This could go on all day.

In theory, I love his unbridled curiosity. In practice, it makes me want to tear my hair out.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Occasionally I might humor the question, explaining how landforms are created and how this very hill came to be on the way to our beloved grocery store, but do you know what? He's not listening. He's not even mildly interested.

I know because he doesn't let me finish before interrupting with another "why."

What possesses him to do that? I've often wondered to myself in exasperation. It's more of a hypothetical question than anything.

But the other day I stopped in the middle of another interrogation and really asked myself: wait... why does he do that?

And I think I know.

When I was a teenager, I spent hours on the phone. You did it too, with your best friend or maybe your boyfriend. And I'll bet you spent a lot of time talking about nothing. You traded meaningless phrases and talked about things you didn't even care about, just to keep hearing their voice.

It wasn't the information that mattered, it was the interaction.

For this small slice of time, I'm fortunate enough to be that person for my 3-year-old. The one who means so much to him he'll say anything to prolong the conversation.

He'll learn more sophisticated ways of doing it when he's older. But for now he's only three, and his current repertoire is pretty limited. He pulls out "why" from his arsenal so often because it's the best he can do and it works.

This morning, that thought was still on my mind as my 3-year-old sat at the breakfast table, grilling me with "why" questions about last night's thunderstorm.

When I started to get tired of the follow-ups, I decided to throw him a "why" of my own: "How come you ask so many questions?"

"I dunno," he said, taking another bite of his breakfast.

"Well," I sighed, "I love you."

With a mouthful of cereal he immediately replied, "Why?"

I should've seen that one coming.

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