Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Turkmenistan

When I started taking the kids on a pretend trip around the world every summer, I envisioned doing countries like France, China, and Japan. You know, countries I knew the location of.

But that's apparently not what my kids had in mind, because they chose Turkmenistan for this week. Which meant we all had a lot to learn.

I've included links to the resources we used to learn; please feel free to use them! Some of the links are affiliate links, which means if you buy anything using them I receive a small commission for referring you.


Monday


Turkmenistan is just a little larger than the state of California.
The kids located it on the oversized wall map and filled out the passport pages I made for them. On the passport pages, there are spaces to write what the capital is, what the bordering countries and waters are, that kind of thing.

But I also ask them to design a visa, like you'd get in your actual passport when you traveled there for real. Here's my son's:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

He did that because Turkeminstan, once part of the USSR, is now a communist dictatorship whose first "president for life" has been compared to Kim Jong Un. Which, we learned last summer when studying North Korea, is bad.

Next up was the flag of Turkmenistan, one of the most complicated flags known to man. I literally laughed out loud when I looked it up the night before to see what they would have to draw this time:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Sheer ridiculousness.

There's a lot of symbolism to the Turkmen flag, obviously, and a good place for the kids to read about some of it is here.

While they were drawing the flag for 100 hours, we listened to Turkmenistan's national anthem under the USSR, and then the current national anthem written by the president for life.

Making the cuisine of another country is always the hardest part of these weeks for me, mostly because I'm not a good cook and I don't enjoy cooking. But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Turkmen cuisine is really easy and I actually enjoyed it.

For lunch, we made somsas. They're kind of like a Turkmen version of Chinese dumplings. The kids liked folding them into triangles and the 2-year-old helped put them on the pan.

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

They were gone in about three minutes.


Tuesday


One of the most interesting things about Turkmenistan is that it's the only religious dictatorship I've ever heard of. Which means that an interesting type of communism and Islam are practiced there.

Backing up a little, we read The Fall of the Soviet Union to review what happened before Turkmenistan became independent.

During the Soviet era, mosques were closed and religious observance was banned, but when The Great Leader Saparmurat Turkmenbashi (seriously, that's what the president for life called himself) took over he made great efforts to bring Islam back.

He even wrote a book called the Rukhnama, a moral treatise that he required be placed alongside the Quran in all mosques and is the textbook in schools. Even more amazingly, our library had a copy and we checked it out. Can you believe that??

We finished by watching this video on the spread of world religions:


And that night, another tasty and simple recipe for dinner followed. I made Turkmen pilaf and it was delicious.

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Wednesday


Since Turkmen is only spoken by about 4 million people, it's a little hard to find resources on. But I tried.

We at least learned 'please' and 'thank you' here, and watched a YouTube video on counting in Turkmen. The numbers 1-10 are very similar to Turkish, which we just learned a few weeks ago, so it was actually pretty confusing.


But we did our best.

The Turkmen language was once written in the Arabic script, then in Cyrillic script under the USSR, and in a Latin-based alphabet called New Turkmen: you can see all of them here if you're interested.

Thursday


We wrapped up this week a day early because my three oldest were flying to visit their grandparents on Friday. For our last farewell today, we watched an eclectic assortment of YouTube videos featuring different interesting places and things in Turkmenistan.

Video #1:  In the Kara Kum Desert (also called the Black Sand Desert) that covers 80% of the country, there is a 40-year-old huge flaming crater called the Darvaza gas crater. Otherwise known appropriately as the Door to Hell.

Video #2: Tourists to Turkmenistan (yeah, those exist) often come to see the ruins of Merv. In the 13th century it was among the biggest and most important cities in the world. Total surprise when the Soviets found it while looking for oil in the desert.

Video #3: Turkmenistan borders the Caspian Sea... which is actually a lake. This video explains why that's even an important distinction to make, and has an awesome cameo of Vladimir Putin.

Video #4: The Ashgabat earthquake in 1948 killed 10% of population of the entire country, including the future Great Leader's mother. The country is actually quite earthquake-prone.

Video #5: The akhal-teke horse is called "the most beautiful horse in the world," and comes from Turkmenistan. It's kind of a national emblem: it even appears in the middle of their country's coat of arms.

After watching this hodgepodge of videos, I gave the kids a choice:


  1. Design your own Turkmen emblem featuring the akhal-teke horse, or 
  2. Research what makes a building earthquake-resistant and design one for me.


My 14-year-old started to draft a building but had to go to work and then it just never got finished:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Looks like it would've been nice.

My 12-year-old sketched a statue of the Great Leader Turkmenbashi riding an akal-teke horse in his signature "thoughtful" pose which we saw featured in many of his official photographs:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I don't know why he's riding side saddle. He just is.

My 10-year-old made a building with our architectural legos and explained to me how earthquake-proof buildings should have a light roof and make use of the 'X' shape to retain strength:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

And my 6-year-old just wanted to copy the existing Turkmen coat of arms so that's what she did:

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Official crest courtesy of Wikimedia Commons on the left; my 6-year-old's replica on the right.

I think I can safely say she's the only non-Turkmen 6-year-old in the world who knows what the national emblem of Turkmenistan looks like.

We finished off the week by eating shurpa for dinner.

Do your kids know anything about Turkmenistan? All the free resources, printables, videos, and links you need to turn them into world travelers are right here.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Capping off a very successful week of ethnic food.

I know I'm adding shurpa to my regular meal rotation as it was fast, easy, and good. You just dump everything in a pot and let it simmer for a while, which is my cooking style exactly.

When my kids return from their vacation, I plan to give my oldest a library copy of the novel Unknown Sands: Journeys Around the World's Most Isolated Country. This novel/memoir contains just the right mix of factual information and real-life story for my 14-year-old. I just had to screen it first for appropriateness because it came from the adult section of the library.

(I also tried Sacred Horses: Memoirs of a Turkmen Cowboy, but I found the author's voice/attitude so off-putting I couldn't get past the second chapter. I wanted to like it, though.)

Wrapping up another summer of fake traveling the world is always a mixed bag. Yay for no more work and planning activities and driving the librarians crazy! However, I miss it because the kids really do pick up a lot and we have fun.And I know for a fact that without it, I never would've learned this much about Turkmenistan. Like, ever.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

7 Quick Takes about Apologizing to Robots, Cautionary Notes about Water Balloons, and Not Putting Limits on What You Can Be When You Grow Up

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

1


Lately I've been getting these bizarre telemarketer calls that open with a joke. For example, here's the last one I got:

[phone rings]

Me: [tripping over Duplos and barely making it there in time to pick it up] Hello?

Syrupy sweet female robot voice: Oh my gosh, getting a hold of you is harder than getting my husband to cook dinner!

Me: Uhhhh... sorry?

After a pause, robot voice goes on to say something else, but by that point I'm so confused (and a little irritated that I just got punked by a robot,) I reflexively hang up.

I don't even know what the call is for, so the weird jokes aren't working, marketing execs.

2


It was time for the annual washing of the car seats so I brought in the five-point harnesses belonging to my 2- and 4-year-old and enlisted the older kids' help in taking them apart. (Which, by the way, is probably one billion percent more effective at preventing teen pregnancy than that unit in health class where you carry around a fake baby for a week.)

"Don't worry, you guys," I told the kids as they struggled with all the belts and clips and clasps. "By the time you have kids the car seats will be way better."

My 10-year-old son surveyed the mess while shaking his head and soberly said, "I hope so."

3


We've been trying to get through a busy couple of weeks, but next week I'm going to focus on school supplies.

The plan is to buy everything online this year, (I still have PTSD from that one time I took the kids to Wal-Mart three days before school started) and I've got the lists all printed out and ready.

Well, except for my high schooler.

Apparently there is no supply list for high school. My first reaction was to be elated but my second was... not so elated. I certainly don't miss the lists calling for "Crayola Crayons (the 10-count boxes are fine)" when the teacher knows full well that Crayola doesn't even make 10-packs, and I can do without demands for "24 pencils  TICONDEROGA BRAND ONLY!!!!" in all caps... but it would be helpful to at least have some general guidelines.

Because if you ask a teenager what they need for school the answer will be, "I dunno. Pens, I guess. Some paper. Maybe, like, a folder or something. I'll figure it out." Okay, then. You'd better.

4


My friend Holli has a nice neighborhood pool and a big problem: her toddler hates the water, making it nearly impossible for them to go. Her older kids can't go by themselves because it's not lifeguarded, so being the charitable person that I am, I offered to take them while the baby napped.

Just kidding, it was totally selfish because I wanted to go to the pool and so did my kids.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I brought all of these children myself.

I looked like the Pied Piper of Hamlin leading all the kids to the water, and just to make sure the pool would be totally full one of Holli's kids also brought along a giant inflatable flamingo.

5


If I've learned anything about summer, it's that you always think water balloons are a better idea than they actually are.

It starts when you're shopping for something unrelated and see a 100-count package for $1, and before the logical part of your brain kicks in you're tossing one, two, or maybe even five packs in your cart because yay, water balloons! summer memories! Not even thinking for a second that you're going to have to tie all of those balloons with preschoolers clinging to your legs wailing "whennnnn can we do waaaaater ballooooons?"

You poor fool.

Luckily, I remembered that from last time and told the kids we were having a water balloon fight but first they should expect to spend significant time prepping and I expected them all to help. The kids exceeded my expectations, formed an assembly line, and finished 100 balloons in about 15 minutes.

Of course, the actual fight took 10 seconds and three people were crying by the end, but has there ever been a water balloon fight in the history of water balloon fights that went any other way?

6


For the past decade plus, we've had a rectangular computer desk in a small bay window area. If you can visualize a rectangular desk in a bay window, you'll understand why it's been a spectacular pain in the butt: there's a huge gap between the desk and the window where everything constantly falls.

This week we finally got a new computer desk that fits the space (and just like I expected, we found years of lost game pieces, toddler socks, plastic toy food, and marbles when we moved out the old one) and I love it!

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Next we just have to get rid of the ugly file cabinet and printer stand, also relics of our college years.

My 6- and 4-year-old love the new desk, too. They like to fill up the shelves with books, pretend it's a circulation desk, and "play librarian." 

Sometimes they also "play blogger," but that game doesn't last as long because there's only so much they can do without actually knowing what a blog is.

7


My preschooler's Sunday School teachers helped him fill out this "About Me" sheet in class this week:

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

He handed it to me with a proud grin as I picked him up and I looked it over, reading out loud so he'd know I was interested. "Let's see... your favorite color is red... your favorite food is chicken... your favorite animal is coyote and... you want to be a policeman when you grow up"

"That's wrong," he stopped me.

"It is?"

"Yeah. I want to be a coyote when I grow up."

I foresee some problems with his career plans but on the bright side, I don't think that requires a bachelor's degree so we just saved some money on post-secondary education.

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Hungary

Every summer, I pretend to take my kids on a trip around the world using books, recipes, music, and whatever crafts I can get my hands on.

Is it work? Absolutely. But it gives the kids something to do other than laze around in their pajamas reading. Now they laze around in their pajamas learning about countries, which is a little bit of an improvement, I guess.

The kids chose Hungary for this week, probably because we did Turkey last week and they're hilarious like that.

(You're welcome to follow along and use our ideas at home. Links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you buy anything using them I get a cut at no extra cost to you.)

Monday


After researching for a bit, I knew that the first thing we had to do is figure out why Hungary is called that. Did you know that Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország? Not similar at all.

We watched this video by way of explanation, and then this video of singing Hungarian provinces just for fun and to hear and see the Hungarian (or Magyar) language.

Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország... and other facts you didn't know about Hungary. Free links, resources, and printables are here!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Then we turned to the map to find Hungary and fill out our passport pages. These pages are free to download and print: you can make a fancy cover and binding, or you can just staple them together in the corner like I did this year.


Download the Passport Pages

The kids designed and colored the Hungarian flag while I read to them from some books on Hungary I'd checked out sight unseen online from the library.

The problem with reserving books online is that you can't see what year they're written. Actually, that's not true. I think you can, but I didn't pay attention, and ended up with Take a Trip to Hungary which was written in 1986. 

Hungary was still communist then, meaning that almost none of the information was still accurate. But thanks goodness we still learned a lot from Hungary: A Portrait of the Country through its Festivals and Traditions.

We talked about St. Stephen's Day (which is only a few weeks away on August 20th) and the fact that for Christmas Hungarian kids hang a boot in the window on December 6th (which is the name day of St. Mikulás, the Hungarian Santa.)

We decided to try our hand at making Beigli, a very pretty New Year's Eve roll that is constructed sort of similar to a cinnamon roll.

Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország... and other facts you didn't know about Hungary. Free links, resources, and printables are here!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

As you can see, my Beigli turned out beautifully and the filling definitely did not ooze out in the oven and come out looking like something from Ghostbusters.

Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország... and other facts you didn't know about Hungary. Free links, resources, and printables are here!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Not ectoplasm. Probably.
After they were cut, they looked slightly better. Still not beautiful, but presentable.

Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország... and other facts you didn't know about Hungary. Free links, resources, and printables are here!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
A marginal improvement.

At least they tasted good.

Tuesday


Hungarian is one of the hardest languages to learn, which fascinated my 14-year-old because she loves languages and she loves a challenge. I knew today would be right up her alley.

We read 13 Fascinating Facts about the Hungarian Language and then explored some Hungarian grammar basics and why Hungarian isn't remotely related to any of the nearby European languages:


Of course most of this video went right over the heads of my younger children (frankly, I had to watch it a few times before I understood it all,) but it was only 6 minutes long.

We then learned how to say 'yes,' 'no,' 'please,' and 'thank you' here, and practiced counting to ten in Hungarian here.

Then we watched an animated, singing Hungarian alphabet video (Magyar ábécé) and I asked the kids, "Did you notice anything about the Hungarian alphabet?


The answer is that it has a billion letters and goes on forever. (It's actually only 44, but it felt like a billion. By the end the song was starting to sound like the Lambchop's "This Is the Song That Doesn't End," which you'll be singing all day now if you were born before 1990.)

Hungarian also glues letters together to form other letters, meaning that you've got some crazy-looking letters like 'dsz.' That one is still taking me a while to wrap my head around.

I tasked the kids with writing the Hungarian letters on paper strips (I gave them a modern alphabet to copy and also an alphabet of old Hungarian runes just for fun) and then we put them all in order to make a 6-foot long paper chain.

Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország... and other facts you didn't know about Hungary. Free links, resources, and printables are here!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

While we were busy doing that, my 2- and 4-year-old were sitting on the table writing "letters" of their own:

Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország... and other facts you didn't know about Hungary. Free links, resources, and printables are here!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország... and other facts you didn't know about Hungary. Free links, resources, and printables are here!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I told the kids they could play around on this online Hungarian learning site, which they will take me up on only if I tell them it's their only option for screen time for the rest of the day. 

Except my 14-year-old, of course.

For dinner I made Gulyásleves (i.e: goulash) using this recipe. When I sat down to write this post, I couldn't figure out why I didn't have a picture of it, but then I remembered that was the day that I was simultaneously cooking a goulash on the stove, mowing the lawn, and keeping 6 kids alive. 

The goulash even turned out well and everybody liked it. You may kiss my ring now.

Wednesday


Ahead of time I'd research famous Hungarians and chose four to focus on. I gave my four oldest kids a biography to read (we used these books on Joseph PulitzerHarry Houdini, and Erno Rubik: Rubik's Cube Creator, plus Google to learn about Franz Liszt) and set a timer for 20 minutes.

When time was up, I gave them 10 more minutes to compose their thoughts and dress up like their assigned person. They were going to introduce themselves, and they were going to do it in character.

They were all hilarious, creative, and very informative. My 14-year-old is possibly too old for this but she was a good sport and her presentation was seriously awesome.

Thursday


After watching a 30-minute Rick Steves' Budapest: The Best of Hungary on YouTube, we watched a short video about the underground caves below the thermal baths dotting Budapest.

We read a nonficiton book about caves called, creatively enough, Cave, and then I tasked the kids with making a cave out of couch cushions.

I wasn't sure quite what they were going to do since our cushions are part of a fort more often than they are part of our sofas and I thought they'd exhausted all their architectural ideas, but they figured out something pretty cool involving draping a sheet in a doorway that all of them could fit in at once.

Until it fell down and 15 minutes of screaming ensued.

Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország... and other facts you didn't know about Hungary. Free links, resources, and printables are here!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I was impressed with their ingenuity, although my favorite cave they've ever made has to be this one.

Friday


We briefly discussed the history of Hungary, at least from WWII onward.

If I were trying to pretend like I had it all together this week, I'd tell you we read Peter in Peril: Courage and Hope in World War Two, a graphic novel telling the true story of a Jewish boy in Hungary during the Nazi occupation.

If I were honest, I'd tell you I lost the book and that part never happened. I know it's here somewhere because I had it yesterday, though, and I'm so annoyed because it looked like a such a good book! I did tell the kids that whoever finds it gets a popsicle, though, so it should turn up soon.

Then we talked briefly about the Soviet occupation that followed immediately after WWII. Hungary has not had an easy time. We reviewed what we knew about communism from studying communist countries like China and North Korea, and then we watched a slideshow of photos from the seige of Budapest.

During the communist years religion was discouraged, but today Hungary is mostly Christian (2/3 Catholic and 25% Calvinist.) We reviewed the basics of Catholicism with the help of this video and introduced Calvinism to the kids with this Minute Faith video. Both led to a great discussion of our differences and similarities with other faiths and what the kids' thoughts are on our beliefs. I admit that's kind of one of my favorite parts of doing these pretend trips around the world.

I made Főzelék for dinner (Hungarian lentil stew) and it was a little boring. Maybe next time I'll add a little more salt.

Hungarians actually call their country Magyarország... and other facts you didn't know about Hungary. Free links, resources, and printables are here!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Some of our kids aren't crazy about lentils so there were some full bowls still left, but it was healthy and it's a traditional New Year's meal in Hungary for good luck in the coming year. So joke's on the kids who didn't eat it.

This week we listened to the following music:


and read the following books whenever the mood struck us:


Pretending to visit Hungary for a week was entertaining and educational. My favorite part was learning about the language and the kids' favorite part was the Beigli rolls (I didn't ask them but I think it's safe to assume.) Thanks for following along with us!

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Friday, August 10, 2018

7 Quick Takes about Everyday Uses for Trigonometry, Stink Lines, and Signs Your 4-Year-Old Might Be Spraypainting Under Bridges in a Couple of Years

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

1


If you want to know what it's like being married to an engineer, it's like this:

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

If you thought this looked like blueprints for a time machine, that's a good guess but no.

It's just what happens when you're looking online at computer desks and ask an engineer whether he thinks you could fit a keyboard tray underneath the one you like.

2


Have you ever opened someone else's mail by mistake? It seems like every time we're accidentally delivered someone else's mail, I realize a second too late that the name on the envelope I just ripped open isn't mine.

And what do you do next? You can't just put pre-opened mail in your neighbor's mailbox or they'll get all mad at the mail carrier or the post office, so you have to go over there in person and be like, "Hey, sorry to bother you but your Verizon account is past due" or "Bad news, your health insurance only partially covered your colonoscopy."

Why, oh why, can it never be just junk mail?

3


Phillip's first time conducting sacrament meeting for church was on Sunday (for those of you who are new readers, we're Mormon and he was just called to be a counselor to the bishop, who is the head of our congregation.)

But regardless of the visibility of whatever calling he has or whatever important stuff he's doing up at the pulpit, our kids like to keep him humble.

"How did I look up there?" he asked after church.

"Stinky," the kids said. (They're so predictable.)

"How can someone look stinky?"

"Stink lines."

4


My 6-year-old wanted to make a Shopkins figure out of salt dough (don't ask,) and while it was baking I started to smell something.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Well, this doesn't look like a horror movie or anything.

At first I was completely shocked and confused, but using my mom forensics training I figured out that a red plastic Tupperware lid had stowed away under the baking sheet with the salt dough Shopkins knock-off.

Phillip wiped most of the mess off the bottom before it hardened, and I took the racks outside where I spent a very focused 20 minutes on the front steps melting the plastic with a lighter and wiping it off with a paper towel.

I burned my finger and accidentally lit the paper towel on fire, but now I'm pretty practiced at this sort of thing so I'll be ready for next time.

5


Can I just say how much I love you faithful readers? Long-time reader and fellow blogger Melinda from Purple Slob in Recovery recently featured her favorite Unremarkable Files memes on her page this week, and I'm honored to finally be making someone laugh besides myself (which is kind of why I started this blog in the first place.)

Go visit Melinda's blog to check them out and say hi, and if you like what you see, head over to Unremarkable Files' Facebook page because there's more where that came from. You wouldn't believe the source material my kids provide me with on a daily basis.

6


Sometimes I realize something very brilliant about parenting and really kick myself for not figuring it out until 14 years into the game.

What I've learned recently is that the best place in the world to shop for birthday presents is at the dollar store.

Yes, the dollar store gets a bad rap because it does carry some things that are basically crap, but they also have some cool stuff. Some of my kids' favorite toys have been stocking stuffers from the dollar store.

Not only that, but buying at the dollar store means you can get the jump rope AND the bubbles AND the stickers AND the sidewalk chalk AND the glow sticks AND a cute container to put them in, and still spend less than if you'd gotten one or two of those at Target.

Learn from my mistakes, fellow parents, and don't take your local Dollar Tree for granted.

7


Lately, my 4-year-old son has been obsessed with this book his sister brought home from the library called Angelina and the Princess. We have to read it multiple times every day.

To sum up, Angelina is a mouse ballerina who gets sick the day of auditions. Mom tells her to stay in bed but she sneaks out, does poorly at auditions, and gets a minor role  but as luck would have it, the lead dancer sprains her ankle right before the performance and Angelina steps in to save the day.

It's pretty different from his usual favorites about trucks and trains, so one day as we were settling down with Angelina and the Princess I asked, "What exactly do you like about this book?"

"She tiptoes out of the house," my preschooler said, using the exact wording from when Angelina goes AWOL.

"Why do you like that part?"

With a grin he immediately answered, "Because she doesn't listen to her mom."

I'm in trouble.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

18 Ways You Know You've Had a Lot of Babies

Having lots of babies changes you, and I'm not just talking about stretch marks and a wayward pelvic floor.

Parenting a large brood means you're used to dealing with a very specific set of challenges and joys  usually ones only other big families will understand.

Some things about having lots of babies can only be understood by other people who've had lots of babies.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

If you've had a lot of babies, chances are...

1The Labor & Delivery nurse waved you off saying, "See you in a few years!" (Yes, that actually happened to me.)

2. It's completely possible for your baby never to be set down all day, just transferred from one pair of arms to another.

3. Family memberships, kids eat free deals, and occupancy codes in hotel rooms are a joke to you.

4. You're regularly stopped in public and told "You have your hands full" when fewer than half of your children are with you.

5. Your parent friends have aged out of playgroup and moved on, leaving you to find a new group. Three times.

6. You've been hearing crying (both real and imagined) 24/7 for 10+ years. Instead of phantom crying, you sometimes hear phantom silence.

7. There's always somebody in the bathroom and there's always something wrong with the toilet.

8. Your baby can sleep through a thunderous piano performance, a toddler bear hug, and people fighting over a kazoo three feet away from her head... all at the same time.

9. You have this doormat.

Some things about having lots of babies can only be understood by other people who've had lots of babies.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

10. Your toddler has a preferred hierarchy of people to go to when you've told him no.

11. You overhear the kids talking about "when the next baby comes," and you're not even pregnant yet.

12. You're okay with waiting 10 minutes to see if the crying baby will settle down on his own. Actually, better set a timer so you don't forget about him.

13. Everything your pediatrician says to you starts with "You probably already know this, but..."

14. Your kid learns to do everything by observation, from using a spoon to using a potty.

15. Instead of going directly to mom or dad when he has trouble operating a toy, your toddler just stands in the middle of the room and yells "Can somebody help me?"

16. You've stopped attending curriculum night and any other kind of parent orientation night for the schools. You've been there longer than the principal, anyway.

17. You dismiss all methods of sleep training. You realize this is just a phase and the baby will learn to sleep eventually, no matter what you do.

18. You know each sweet age of childhood is fleeting and try harder than ever to relish it. And you totally do, when you aren't preoccupied with someone else crawling on your head asking for water.

If you've got a big family, you know firsthand that having a lots of babies is a grand, messy adventure that sometimes seems bizarre to other people. But even with the decades of sleep deprivation, you wouldn't give it up for the world.

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Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Turkey

This week my kids and I learned all about the country of Turkey, which isn't as easy as it sounds because Google searching for a "Turkey craft" results in 10,052 results for Thanksgiving handprint turkeys. And you know how I feel about those.

Also, in a very strange coincidence we've sort of acquired a wild turkey who keeps wandering through our yard. My kids named her Henrietta and she's taken to hanging out in our window wells. Periodically, we have to chase her out of the garage.

(I've included links to the books, videos, and resources we used to learn about the country of Turkey and you're welcome to use them. Some of the links are my affiliate link, which means I get a small percentage if you choose to buy something. Thank you!)

Monday


After finding Turkey on the map, my kids made the Turkish flag. Our wall is really starting to fill up with flags after seven summers of doing this!

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
You'll notice the background of the flag is divided into three equal sections. My kids are Nazis about fairness in all the things.

Then the kids filled out their passport pages with information about Turkey from the map.

Apparently my 6-year-old and I need to review the correct spelling of 'Turky.' But actually we won't because it's freaking adorable.

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

While the kids worked on the flag and their passports, I read out loud the book T is for Turkey and skimmed through sections of We Visit Turkey.

Then we watched an hour-long DVD called  Rudy Maxa's World: Turkey, which was strangely fixated on the host's obsession with buying Turkish carpets but taught us a lot about the country, anyway.

(If you can't get your hands on the books or DVDs we used, there is a great general reference page on Turkey from National Geographic Kids here.)

When Phillip came home, we hopped in our cars (we have so many kids we have to caravan it, don't judge us) and headed out to dinner. I'd told Phillip to find "a kabob place or something" for dinner, and when we pulled up I was instantly mad. 

First off, there was a letter in the name of the restaurant that wasn't even part of the Turkish alphabet, and the first thing I saw on the menu when we got in the door was 'tzatziki sauce' which I know for a fact is Greek. We were in a generic Mediterranean restaurant, NOT a place that served reasonably authentic Turkish food, and Phillip was getting reamed out for it.

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Some kind of foreign-y food. Probably.

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
My 4-year-old's meal of mac & cheese and french fries was decidedly not Turkish at all.

However, I later learned some things we ate actually were Turkish (or at least they were widely served and eaten in Turkey.) Oops. Phillip was gloating over the fact that the Turkish language learning CDs we listened to on the way home specifically mentioned things on our plates like kibbeh and stuffed grape leaves, so I had to apologize. 

Tuesday


The history of Turkey is so long, rich, and fascinating that we had a hard time finishing everything. But we sure did try.

We started at the very beginning, with the ruins of the oldest known civilization on the planet. Catal Hoyuk is in modern-day Turkey, which we learned about with the videos here and here.

We took the opportunity to talk more generally about what an anthropologist is, and how they use artifacts they find to make educated guesses about the culture who used or created those artifacts.

I asked the kids to look around the house to see what anthropologists would learn about our family (they said that based on the contents of the shoe basket by the door, anthropologists would assume that 347 people lived here.) Then we looked at a penny and made assumptions about the culture who used it based on just the existence of the shiny circle (I found the idea for this activity here.) It was an interesting thought experiment.

Next, we're getting into mythological territory. The Hittites created an empire in Anatolia in 2,000 B.C. and that's where Troy was. Remember the Trojan War? I explained how it was a factual event but most of the details have been mythologized over the years, and we read those myths in an abridgment of the Iliad and the Odyssey called Trojan Horse: The World's Greatest Adventure.

It went on and on about how Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world and when I flipped the page the kids were like, "Wait... that's Helen??" "Why does she have '80s hair?" Good times.

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
The height of seductiveness back then was the female mullet. Everyone knows that.

Even though scholars debate whether the Trojan Horse was just a metaphor, we then made a model of a Trojan Horse using these templates from DLTK Kids.

They struggled a little, mostly because I left them to it while I took their younger sister somewhere. When I returned they'd assembled it without the directions and ended up with an extra piece and a Trojan Horse that didn't open. (I later found out that the not-opening part was actually part of the instructions, so we cut a trapdoor into the back with an X-Acto knife so we could put Minecraft mini-figures inside.)

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
The real Trojan Horse was also traditional-looking on one side and extremely flamboyant on the other.

And that's not it for history, guys. King Midas was also a real person who ruled in the area in 700 B.C. My daughter summarized the myth of King Midas turning everything he touched to gold.

Many place names in Turkey are familiar to my kids from the Bible. The Hittites, Mount Ararat, Ephesus, Tarsus... I could go on. The point is, this is a super-rich area and we talked briefly about what we knew about each of these places. According to Wikipedia, the apostle Paul didn't change his name after his conversion as is popularly assumed; Saul was the Hebrew form of the Roman 'Paul.' I learn something new every day.

We then focused on the city of Istanbul. Did you know it's had three names? First when the Greeks took over in 334 B.C. they named it Byzantium, then the Romans took over and the emperor Constantine renamed it Constantinople after himself (I'm sure he was a real humble guy,) and after it was conquered by the Ottomans and then later by Greece again, Turkey finally won their independence in 1923 and renamed the city Istanbul.

We read a fantastic book called Istanbul, Once Constantinople to get that timeline straight in our heads, but to be perfectly honest I still had to fact-check myself with Google while writing it down for you. History is hard.

Wednesday


We continued to listen to our Turkish language learning CDs in the car, and my 14-year-old who loves languages devoured the little green booklet that came with it figuring out the rules of Turkish grammar and pronunciation.

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I like to keep this in the car because it makes me seem smart.

Using YouTube, we learned how to say hello, please, and thank you. I insisted that the kids use Turkish 'please' and 'thank you' at dinner but no one could ever remember how to say 'thank you.' It's a doozy.

Out of all the languages we've used to count to 10, Turkish was the greatest challenge for me. Almost every language we've studied has at least some similarities with English or Latin, but I couldn't find any here. It was just me and my memory which is frankly not as watertight as it used to be.


But thankfully my 14-year-old is around to remind me.

Turkish has a Latin-based 29-letter alphabet. I printed out a pronunciation guide from the Internet and gave the kids some extra "Hello My Name Is ______" tags so they could approximate their names.

And I left out a copy of a children's illustrated Turkish-English Bilingual Visual Dictionary to try their hand at pronouncing the words.

Thursday


I'd never considered Turkey for the list of places I'd like to visit someday, but after this week I've completely changed my mind. Today, I read a cute picture book about two dogs who go to Turkey on vacation called Bella & Harry: Let's Visit Istanbul! and then we talked about all the amazing places there.

There's the extensive ruins of Ephesus:


The "fairy chimneys" and underground cities in Cappadocia:


And the terraced hot springs called Pamukkale (Turkish for "cotton castle"):


This place is too cool.


Friday


Even though the country is 99% Sunni Muslim, Turkey is officially a secular state. To review Islam we read Owl & Cat: Islam Is... and then we talked about the poet Rumi.

I grew up seeing quotes from Rumi but I didn't know he was a Muslim mystic who founded the Mevlivi order in Turkey, more popularly known as the Whirling Dervishes. We read a children's picture biography by Demi called Rumi: Whirling Dervish and watched this 3-minute CNN documentary on whirling dervishes.

Then we watched The Hidden art of Islam (free with Amazon Instant Video!) and learned how Islamic art is based on math and geometrical patterns. 

I thought afterward we could just grab some graph paper and make a simple Islamic-inspired design, but it turned out to be much more complicated than I'd assumed. After scouring the Internet, I finally found this amazing online beginner tutorial for creating 5 basic patterns. 

It took the kids forever to draw and decorate, but the end results were pretty amazing:
Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
My 12- and 14-year-old's designs. You have no idea how many guide lines they had to measure, draw, and erase to get these patterns.

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
My 10- and 6-year-old's designs. Didn't they do a nice job?

For dinner I made pide (Turkish pizza,) which was eaten down to the last crumb and I have to say was easy and turned out pretty well:

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

And even though most people think it's Greek, baklava actually comes from Turkey so we had some for dessert. Storebought of course, because I can't handle trying to make my own.

Fun Reading

I also gave the kids a bunch of books to read for fun throughout the week. Included were these Turkish Fairy tales:


and these historical fiction books which they claimed to enjoy:



Our pretend trip to Turkey was even better than I thought it would be. I learned a ton and now have a new place I'd like to visit someday. The kids had a great week, did some art, did some STEM, learned a new language, and ate pizza. I'd say it was a pretty good week.

And for reference, here's a picture of the turkey who keeps roaming around our house and peeking in through all our doors:

Everything a kid could possibly learn about the history, religion, language, and landscape of Turkey in a single week!  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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