Friday, August 23, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Unintended Food Surpluses, an Accurate Mandrill, and Advertising Tricks for Literally Any Random Product

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


At the park where I took the kids on Monday, there was a tennis court near the parking lot. As we were getting in the car to go home, my 5-year-old stopped to watch them and was clearly enthralled with their game.

After a few moments, he asked, "Mom, what if they're confessional players?"

I'm pretty sure he meant professional.

I have no idea where he got the word 'confessional' from. We're not even Catholic.


My older three kids are gone all this week visiting their grandparents, and everyone keeps asking, "Oooh, what's it like just having 3?"

I really don't know how to answer. It's easier but it's harder.


  • Not as loud (tweens and teens pound around on orc feet and their post-pubescent voices are unbelievably large)
  • House is tidier (toy mess is easier to control than big kids who drag everything out "for a project" and then get indignant when you ask them to clean up after themselves)
  • Less driving around (younger kids=not involved in outside-the-home activities yet)

  • My helpers are gone (toys may be picked up, but I have little time or energy left to mop, vacuum, clean toilets, wash windows, or any of the other chores the big kids usually do)
  • No one gets any of my jokes
  • Drowning in leftovers
I'm serious about the leftovers. This is what lunch looks like now. I don't think I've made lunch once since the big kids left. 

Funny quips, quotes, and observations in this week's 7 Quick Takes, a weekly update from Unremarkable Files. There's a reason why our tagline is 'family, faith, and just enough crazy to make it fun.' #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarakblefiles #funny #update #friday
Step right up! Choose a leftover, any leftover!

The little kids eat like birds and they are so not helpful in disposing of all these leftovers. I'm just about to start going door-to-door to get rid of it.


One thing I do really like about having only young kids is that you are totally in charge of your schedule. No activities, no part-time jobs, nothing. We can do whatever we want, whenever we want to.

I suppose that's why some women don't like the years when all their kids are 5 and under: there's no structure, no built-in breaks like school or playdates, all they want is you, you, you, and every day has the potential to feel like Groundhog Day.

But actually, that's exactly why I liked it. It's your own little universe and you are in charge. It's been fun to revisit that place again, and it's made me excited for someday when I'm a grandma and I can do that with my grandkids.

Like my parents are doing with my older kids at this very minute.


My 7-year-old was telling me something about her bathroom habits so I said, "You know what that sounds like?"



She just looked at me confused, so I had to explain that 'TMI' means 'too much information' and it means she's telling me a lot more than I need or want to know about a subject.

A few days later she was telling some story involving a burp or a fart (I forget which,) and she stopped in the middle and said, "Mom, is that IMT?"

So close, dear.

And yes, it was.


I took the kids to see The Lion King remake. 

I was happy to see they fixed Rafiki this time. (It's always bothered me how the cartoon Rafiki was a species that doesn't actually exist since real mandrills don't have long tails.)

But other than that, I wasn't very impressed.

I want to like all the Disney remakes, but I just... don't. I don't feel like the live action factor adds anything significant to the movie, and they always change the favorite lines or scenes I remember from when I was a kid and that's just depressing.

I think this one particularly missed the majestic feeling of the original. They did make the animals very realistic-looking, but the problem is that real animals don't have facial expressions  so I thought the movie was frankly kind of boring!


One thing I liked was watching my kids watch the movie. It was my 3-year-old's first time in a movie theater and he could not stop talking about how "huuuuuuuuuuge" the "TV" was.

And my 5-year-old is interesting. He's never scared of the monsters, the chases, the fight scenes, or the mortal peril. You know, the parts you're supposed to be scared of.

He's scared of the eerie scenes, where the music dies down and it's so quiet and still you just know something or someone is going to pop up any second. So when Simba and Nala started poking around the elephant graveyard, he knew something bad was coming and covered his eyes, terrified.

And without any prompting his 7-year-old sister put her arm around him, quietly whispering that it was going to be alright until the end of the scene.


I still feel like there's a lot of summer left, but there's really not.

I know because of all the back-to-school exploitation I'm now seeing in advertisements to sell virtually every product imaginable.

Funny quips, quotes, and observations in this week's 7 Quick Takes, a weekly update from Unremarkable Files. There's a reason why our tagline is 'family, faith, and just enough crazy to make it fun.' #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarakblefiles #funny #update #friday
Buy our gum, get good grades, go to a good college, land a fantastic job, become rich, and have a great life. Simple, really.

Sure, gum isn't a traditional school supply, but it's totally a school supply... right?

Funny quips, quotes, and observations in this week's 7 Quick Takes, a weekly update from Unremarkable Files. There's a reason why our tagline is 'family, faith, and just enough crazy to make it fun.' #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarakblefiles #funny #update #friday
Unless you're going to dental school (and I guess even if you are,) I fail to see how this applies.

I'm still trying to figure out how having a stockpile of toothbrushes would be advantageous to your schooling. Maybe since you don't have to worry about your oral care (and don't have to find time to go to the store to buy more toothbrushes) you can think about your schoolwork more? I'm not sure. The coupon was unclear.

What's the most random product you've seen advertised as a "back to school" item?

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

If We Handed Out Awards for Our Washington State Vacation

When my son's cub scout pack holds their Pinewood Derby, every car receives an award. Fastest car, most colorful, most aerodynamic... everyone's a winner.

Well, vacations are kind of like that. Even the bad ones deserve their own award. So I present to you, in no particular order, the awards I'd give to all the moments of the week we took to drive all around Washington state as a family at the end of the Evans reunion in Oregon.

Funniest Moment

We had to wake up every one of the 8 kids at 8:30 AM to get going on Day 1, they were that tired from the reunion. My 3-year-old had been napless for a week and was sleeping like he was in a medically-induced coma.

We eventually roused the troops and got going, and a few hours into our scenic drive up the Washington coast, we made a pit stop in the tiny town of Humptuplips.

Yes, Humptulips.

The Humptulips Grocery was the only gas station in town, with exactly one ancient-looking pump out front.

Did it even work?

Had this place been in operation since 1957?

More importantly, were we really in the middle of nowhere in Humptulips?

I've only seen pumps like this in pictures.

But the pump did work, and their port-a-potties were very clean. I guess you've got a reputation to maintain when you're the only gas station in Humptulips.

And you know you're going to Google it so here. I saved you some work.

Most Ironic Moment

At the beach, my 3-year-old hurled a big rock at a teepee someone had built out of driftwood. I ran over and told him no, and after he walked away I looked down at the rock he'd thrown.

I'm not even kidding but it said "plz respect the fort."

I don't mean to brag, but my kid can disobey written instructions without even knowing how to read.

We hadn't planned to visit this beach (it was simply one of many emergency pee stops,) but it ended up being one of our favorite beaches.

There was driftwood piled so high on the beach it was hard to even get to the water, which you can see  in the background of the teepee picture below.

We'd also randomly showed up at low tide, so we could walk all around and through some amazing sea stacks out in the water:

Rainiest Moment

The day we'd planned to visit Rialto Beach was exceptionally cold and rainy. We debated just hiding in the hotel but decided we didn't have the luxury of sitting around waiting for nice weather, so we went anyway.

My nose was freezing and my toes were turning blue, but there was a wedding party taking pictures behind us so I guess it could've been worse.

At least I got to wear a waterproof fleece-lined jacket instead of something off-the-shoulder and dry-clean only.

When I took a kid to the bathroom I heard the bridesmaids complaining about how wet and cold they were, so I hope they got extra cake at the reception. They deserved it.

Once I (sort of) got over being cold, I looked down and realized that this beach had possibly the coolest eclectic assortment of rocks ever. We'd visited rocky beaches before but the rocks had all been uniformly smooth and gray. These were amazing.

I found these all in a 20-foot radius of each other. I don't understand how they all came to be at the same beach.

My favorite.

And once he saw me setting up a collection, the 5-year-old got obsessed.

Meanwhile, the 15-year-old kept herself busy building a shelter out of driftwood with her dad. (Please note that one side is propped up on a single log of driftwood that had to be 5 feet in diameter.)

I'm behind the camera hoping none of that driftwood falls on anyone's head before we can get out of there.

Most Taken-for-Granted Moment

Looking back at pictures now that we're home, I can't believe we weren't just standing in awe of the  rainforest the whole time.

I mean, look at these trees! They're so huge and yet they look like they could pick up their roots and start walking around the forest floor at any second.

But humans are human, I guess, and we can take anything for granted.

By the time we went on this quarter-mile hike through the Quinault Rainforest, we'd all had a long day and the kids were kind of over it.

They were loud, rowdy, wouldn't stop singing "Old Town Road," and couldn't care less about the informational plaques along the way.

Although they did like the hollowed-out logs I'm not 100% sure it was okay to crawl around in.

Tallest Moment

On a whim we decided to stop by Deception Pass, which our brother-in-law told us about the week before at the reunion. It's a state park, but also has a very high bridge you can walk across if you dare.

One of the older kids refused to cross it on sight.

Phillip started, but he was carrying the 3-year-old who started whimpering he was scared so he turned around, not wanting him to freak out in the middle of the bridge 180 feet in the air.

So the remaining four kids and I crossed the bridge, then rejoined the rest of the family and walked down to the beach where the kids threw rocks and Phillip accidentally left his wallet behind.

Luckily the wallet was still there when we realized it and went back; I don't even know what you do when you have to get on a plane to fly home but your only form of I.D. has been stolen.

Most Vampiric Moment

If you have no reaction to hearing we stayed a few nights in Forks, WA, then good for you.

I, unfortunately, know it's the setting for an early 2000s young adult vampire romance trilogy and that's all I want to say about that.

Phillip was in charge of choosing our accommodations and had no idea, although I guess Twilight tourism is a thing. When the guy at the gas station in Humptulips heard we were headed to Forks, he nodded sagely and said "Looking for vampires, eh?"

Forks quickly won me over, though. It was a charming town in its own tiny way. We ate at a cute 1950s-era diner with this rusted-out antique truck in the back.

Our 8-person suite at the Forks Motel was the nicest place we stayed on this whole trip. We cooked real food in our full kitchen and forced each child to take a turn on dish duty. (We even attempted to enforce naptime, although I have no idea how an exhausted person can lie in a bed for 40 minutes without falling asleep.)

So basically, I loved Forks. Even the staff at the Forks Community Hospital was super-nice.

Most Terrifying Moment

Which brings me to the part of this post I really did not want to write, but it happened and that's what this blog post is so here goes.

We had a near-drowning scare with my 5-year-old at the motel pool.

I'd sent Phillip back to the room to get the camera, and my eyes were on the 3-year-old. When I turned around my 5-year-old was floating face-down in the water, in that awful way you never want to see a human being floating.

I pulled him out of the water and he was completely unresponsive. I was calling his name and put his little body on the deck of the pool; probably only a few seconds had gone by but it felt like hours. I was just about to start mouth-to-mouth when he spit up water and started screaming.

I can't tell you how good it felt to hear that scream, because screaming means you're alive.

After that, I was so freaked out over the dry drowning articles that go around Facebook every summer, we ended up canceling our morning plan and getting a chest X-ray at the emergency room instead just to be sure there wasn't still water in his lungs.

FYI, he was absolutely fine, and the only lasting damage was me having a panic attack every time I look at his swimsuit and have flashbacks to seeing him in the water.

Most Awkward Moment

While we were hiking through the Hoh Rainforest, a woman ran up to us on the trail and frantically asked if we had any water. We gave her what we had and she stammered "Thanks... my fiancé had some bear spray... and it went off..." and then she jogged away. We were like, "Okaaay, that was weird."

We forgot about it until we finished hiking the trail and went to the restrooms by the trailhead and there she was, using her body to awkwardly shield her fiancé from my kids as he stood hunched over the drinking fountain like he was peeing in it.

Upon seeing him, it all instantly made sense: the bear spray had gone off in his pants pocket.

Of course, my completely oblivious kids kept craning their necks to get a better view and were practically yelling, "What's that guy doing? Mom? Hey, what's that guy doing?"

Meanwhile, I'm shushing them and literally shoving them into the bathroom, because what am I supposed to say? "Oh, that man? He's just experiencing the most painful and embarrassing moment of his life washing off his genitals in a public fountain with a pack of children staring at him, but I don't really want to answer a hundred questions about it right now so GO TO THE BATHROOM!"

(While they were in the restroom I asked the couple if they wanted me to find a ranger or get them medical attention but they said no.)

Aside from that exciting episode, the Hoh Rainforest was pretty awesome. This part was called The Hall of the Mosses:

Funny story: as we were driving to the Hoh Rainforest the weather wasn't that good and Phillip said, "It looks like we'll have the whole rainforest to ourselves!"

"Ha, ha. The 'Hoh'  Rainforest!" someone laughed.

Then my 15-year-old chimed in with, "Hoh, hoh, hoh! This is going to be a pun-filled trip!" (instead of a 'fun-filled' trip, get it? I don't mean to brag, but my 15-year-old can tell dad jokes at a 35-year-old-man level.)

This went on for a really long time, with hoh-ribble puns that were incredibly hoh-riginal. I swear my daughter would straight-up win the National Pun Off, if only we lived closer to Texas.

Most Nervewracking Moment

As you drive up the mountains in North Cascades National Park, you can stop at a waterfall that is pretty to look at but really stressful when you're responsible for the safety of several small, top-heavy people who keep forgetting to use WALKING FEET.

The signage was honestly more anxiety-provoking than helpful, but thanks for trying, National Park Service.

To my great relief, all 8 of us made it alive back into the car, only to drive up some pretty scary winding mountain roads with no guardrails whatsoever to prevent us from going over a cliff.

I was so scared I didn't even take a picture until we were on the way back down, when our lane was on the far side of the cliff and didn't look nearly as scary.

Phillip asked if I wanted him to turn around so I could get a batter photo, but I thought that sounded like a really dumb way to die so I said no.

Even with the scariness of it, the drive up was worth it. The kids were thrilled to see snow in July and there were lots of cool volcanic rock formations to look at.

At the visitor's center, my 7-year-old tried to talk us into buying her every stuffed animal in the gift shop, and when we finally told her 'no toys,' she tried to convince us they'd make good decorations for the mantel.

My kids then wandered over to a 3-D topographical map of the area, where a friendly guy pointed to the plastic representation of Mt. Shucksan and said, "Did you know I've climbed this one?"

Unimpressed, my 5-year-old just stuck his thumb out in the direction of Mt. Baker and said "That one's higher."

"This one's harder to climb," the guy retorted, probably unable to believe he was getting owned by a 5-year-old in an argument about rock climbing.

Although I don't rock climb, it's a feeling I can actually relate to quite a bit as a parent.

Weirdest Moment

We stayed at a variety of places, including the most rundown Days Inn I've ever seen.

Both the phone and the clock on the bedside table were broken, and the ceiling tiles in the faded hallway were sagging. We'd grabbed take-out food before checking in to the hotel, but the room was sort of dark so we looked for a place to eat outside.

There was no grass, just a courtyard that looked like someone had started to landscape it and then given up in the middle, but the kids ate their pizza and played tag and were generally having fun.

So there we were, making the best of it, when I turned my head and found myself staring directly at THIS:

Sinister-looking voodoo potato skewered on a pole? Yes, that comes standard with the room.

A few days later we stayed at another mildly sketchy Days Inn, and when we were doing a final sweep of the room before check-out in the morning Phillip found something disgusting and unmentionable left by a previous guest under the bed where my children had been sleeping, so long story short, he washed his hands about 12 times and we're done with Days Inn for the rest of our lives now.

Most Nostalgic Moment

Phillip used to live in Washington as a kid, so we visited his old town where he gave us a tour of his neighborhood and all the places he regularly used to go.

The kids even got their first taste of Jack in the Box. They messed up our order, but they were very fast and gave us nicer food than what we'd ordered so we didn't exactly mind.

We drove by Phillip's old school are were all laughing because the building was now condemned (just kidding, it was being renovated.)

After driving along the paper route he had in middle school, Phillip showed us the corner store where he used to ride his bike to buy candy with his earnings.

Amazingly, the little convenience store was still there, and since it was a hot day, we took the kids inside to pick out an ice cream treat.

The ciiiiircle of liiiiife...

BFF Reunion Moment

Even though we met in college in Minnesota, my best friend Kim now lives in Washington and we couldn't not stop by to see her.

Let me tell you that Kim is pretty amazing. Even though we haven't seen each other in 13 years, she immediately nailed the names and ages of all my kids. (I have friends I see once a week who still don't know exactly how many kids I have, letalone which one is which.)

Funny story: since Kim and I both have light hair and similar body types, and were even dressed a little alike that day, the older kids insisted we looked alike. As if I wasn't convinced, two of my younger kids on separate occasions ran up to Kim and started pulling on her, thinking she was me.

We met up with Kim (and her husband and baby who I was meeting for the first time) at a park, and here's a life tip: when trying to make a good first impression, tell people you're always 30 minutes late to everything, so when you show up only 15 minutes late everyone feels like you're early and you might even be the first one there!

Eventually the baby got tired and went home for a nap (my 7-year-old daughter was unsuccessful in figuring out how to kidnap her and sneak her back home in her suitcase,) and Kim and I went out for lunch while Phillip took the kids to a scenic overlook.

Kim works in records at the police station and got permission to give us a tour, so that was cool. We regrouped with Phillip and the kids after lunch, and she showed us around. An officer even took us out to see her squad car.

That evening we left the kids at the hotel with a pizza and told them they could watch TV while we went on a double date with Kim and her husband.

One of our kids was mad because "you can't pick what to watch on TV and there's tons of ads," and did not appreciate when Phillip and I started laughing at that 21st century problem.

Most Metropolitan Moment

We spent the last day of our trip in Seattle, seeing the sights. Since we'd rather see nature than city, one day was plenty for us.

Phillip and the big kids took a Boeing factory tour (no photos allowed since I might share their secrets and next thing we know, you're building a 747 in your backyard) while I took the little kids to the park and the library.

Then we headed to downtown Seattle where the kids played at a park with the Space Needle in the background, rode the monorail, and ate overpriced street food in a plaza downtown.

I can't believe they walked across this walkway to get to the slide.

In the plaza, there were games and a cart full of picture books, and my 13-year-old and I both spied this story that looked extremely sad until we picked up the book in front of it and saw that the full title was There's No One I Love Like You.

There's No One I Love: voted most depressing children's book of 2013!

Stinkiest Moment

One problem I didn't anticipate about the constantly overcast and drizzly weather is wet shoes that never dry out. At home we throw them on the back porch in the sun for a few hours, but what do people who live in the Northwest do?

By the end of the trip we were dealing with a serious stink problem. We even tried Gold Bond powder but it just added menthol to the nasty foot smell, which was not much of an improvement.

When I saw that a sunny day was finally forecasted when we went to the mountains, I got a brilliant idea. If I lined up the shoes on the dashboard, they'd dry in the sun while we were out enjoying nature. It was a perfect plan, really.

Except it didn't work. They totally stunk, even after they were dry, and every time we got in the car we had to drive with the windows down in order to stay conscious.

We left for home with a ton of dirty laundry, 8 very tired people, and a major appreciation for the beauty of the Northwest. We loved the mountains, the beaches, the rainforests  all of it.

Well, everything except for the voodoo potato. That thing still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Panama

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What do you know about Panama? I mean, besides the Panama Canal.

That's what I thought.

I didn't know anything else about Panama, either, which is why this travel-the-world thing I do with my kids every summer is fun. We all learn something, even me.


We looked at the wall map to find Panama, and I realized that in our 6 years of doing this, Panama is our very first Central American country.

I think Central America and Africa have been underrepresented in our Educational Summer Vacation so next year I'll make sure the kids choose at least one country from each.

While the kids were filling out their pretend passports and arguing over who got to color what on the Panama flag (the people who did the stars didn't get to color as much as the ones who did the squares, which was a grave affront to justice,) I read pages out loud from Welcome to Panama by Ronald Tan.

Two crafts Panama is known for are (1) its intricate woven baskets and (2) a type of textile art called mola.

I planned to give the kids a choice between weaving a simple basket and recreating a piece of mola using any medium they chose. I expected all of them to pick mola, because how awesome is this?

mola photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

But to my surprise, all of them wanted to make a basket.

Using the template here, (you have to subscribe for the template but you get it instantly and I haven't gotten any spam from them yet) we broke out the yarn I used when I briefly took up knitting before #5 was born. And the kids made some pretty cool little baskets.

Word of warning: the website claims this is a 15-minute project, which is maybe true if your kids are wizards.

It took us an hour. But they were entertained the whole time and happy with the finished product.

They had a ridiculous amount of fun making these baskets, and three of them even made another one the next day.


The tropical rainforest that runs along both sides of the Panama Canal are another major feature of Panama, so today we read Hands of the Rain Forest: The Emberá People of Panama.

It was a fantastic introduction to daily life of people that live (almost) entirely off the rainforest and therefore don't do pizza delivery, trips to Wal-Mart, use a washing machine, or many other things my kids wouldn't think twice about. And there were lots of pictures to keep in interesting.

Do you remember Jeff Corwin? Our library had a Jeff Corwin DVD called Panama: Rain Forest Ecosystem, which taught my kids a lot about rainforest animals and confused the heck out of them when he kept making references to 1990s pop culture.

I probably explained "He's doing an impression of a TV character from before you were born" about 20 times. Even though most of the jokes went over their heads, they still thought he was funny.

Before starting the movie, I told the kids to pay close attention because after it was over, we played Who Am I?

I wrote down all the animals in the video and we taped each one to someone's back. They then had to ask the other players questions ("Do I have feathers?" "Do I eat bugs?") to find out which animal name is on their back.

In case anyone else wants to do this but take a shortcut, the animals were:
  • Spider monkey
  • Boa constrictor
  • Rufus-naped tamarin
  • Two-toed sloth
  • Night monkey
  • Anteater
  • Ocelot
  • Bothrops asper
  • Poison dart frog
  • Eyelash Viper
  • Harpy eagle

Then the big kids helped the little kids to make a paper chain snake like the ones here. They turned out so cute!

If only snakes really looked this friendly.


We've talked about Spanish before in other countries we've studied, so today learning the language we decided to focus on something new.

In Spanish, exclamations and questions both have the punctuation mark upside-down at the beginning of the sentence and right-side-up at the end.That makes a lot of sense to me; it seems really helpful and I'm not sure why English doesn't do that. We have opening quotes and closing quotes, after all.

To practice this convention, I told the kids to write 3 questions and 3 exclamations in Spanish. They could be as silly as they wanted, but using Google translate they had to write it down in Spanish and remember the punctuation, too.

I was helping the 3- and 5-year-old. I explained that an exclamation is something you might yell, like 'Yay!' or 'Look out!' I asked them, "What's something else you might yell?" and the 3-year-old immediately shouted "Eyeball!"

It's true. This kid thinks "eyeball" is one of the funniest words there is.

We then watched this numbers video from YouTube, which was long and boring for my older kids, but just the right amount of repetition for my younger kids to learn the names of the numbers 1-10 in Spanish.

I grabbed some flyswatters from Dollar Tree and asked my 11-year-old to write the numbers from 1 to 10 on a piece of butcher paper, which we taped to the wall so we could play Swat the Number.

I called a Spanish number name and the kids would race to swat the correct one.

The younger kids enjoyed it so much we played again several times that week, but mostly to keep them from hitting everything and everyone else in the house with the dollar store flyswatters.

After practicing saying hello, goodbye, please, and thank you in Spanish, we read Conejito: A Folk Tale from Panama.

My kids really internalized the Spanish words the book repeated throughout the story. When I told my 3-year-old it was time to come in for dinner so he could get ¡Gordito! ¡Gordito! ¡Gordito! (quoting from the book) he wrinkled up his nose and said, "I'm not fat!"


I admit it might be a tenuous connection, but the Welsh pirate (or privateer, depending on who you ask) Henry Morgan once sacked Panama City, and who doesn't want to learn about that?

I read selections from the book Sir Henry Morgan from the Pirates Around the World series, and then we watched a video quiz for kids about pirate myths and facts:

We all found our pirate names with this kid-friendly pirate name generator. Unlike most generators, this one didn't go by the letters of your first and last name, which would've been boring since we all have the same last name.

I was One Ear Ann and the kids were Green Bottom Bess, Big Eye Bob, Green Belly Bonnie, Cold Foot Bess, Big Boot Kid, and (my favorite) Stump Leg Bill.

The kids made pirate swords out of cardboard. We wrapped the blades in tinfoil and some of the kids wanted to decorate the handles.

This pirate is looking FABULOUS.

Armed with their pirate swords, they all went outside to the platform over our sandbox, which happens to have a pirate wheel attached and they pretend it's a pirate ship all the time.

One thing I love about having a wide span of ages is that it gives my tweens and teens a reason to go out and do stuff like play pirates.

Of course, they're experiencing it more like a parent or a babysitter, but I think it helps them not grow up too fast or take life too seriously. I feel like having kids keeps me young for the same reason (when it's not killing me via sleep deprivation, that is.)

For dinner that night, I made sancocho and patacones. Usually all the blah blah blah at the beginning of recipes is the worst, but this recipe was really informative and I appreciated learning so much about the ingredients and the food!

Sancocho is a kind of chicken soup which was easy to make, and I was almost going to skip the traditional patacones, fried plantain chips, but decided to make them at the last minute.

Phillip learned to make patacones when he was a religious missionary in Venezuela, and every time he makes them at home none of the kids will eat them. But I figured (1) it's been a while so maybe their tastes have changed, and (2) I don't want to create picky eaters by avoiding everything they don't like forever.

I ran to the store to buy plantains and as it turns out, their tastes didn't change very much. Only one of the kids liked the patacones, but they all thought it was fun making them. So that was something.

Yay for no hot grease injuries!


This was the day we'd been waiting for: Panama Canal day. There is a city near us that has a system of canals and offers boat tours (really the only thing the canals are used for these days,) and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity.

We actually tried to take this tour last summer, but we had to cut the tour short and race back ahead of a thunderstorm, and then the trolley driver bringing us back to the visitor's center slipped in the rain and hurt his knee and we had to wait for the ambulance... it was kind of a disaster.

So anyway, I was excited for this.

To explain for the little kids what a canal was, we read Canals from the Engineering Super Structures series, and then we read sections of Building the Panama Canal by Kelly Doudna.

I also gave the kids What Is the Panama Canal? from the Who Is/Who Was series and Silver People: Voice from the Panama Canal, a historical fiction children's novel written in verse by Margarita Engle.

We watched a basic video of how a lock works (the Panama Canal has three locks) and a short documentary about the Panama Canal, and then we were off to take the boat tour.

Waiting for the tour to start.

Our trolley driver was the same guy, and I was happy to see that his knee seemed okay. Plus, the weather cooperated beautifully for the tour and we got to go through the lock this time (last time they just filled up the locking chamber and quickly drained it again so we could back out and drive away from the storm. LAME.)

Did you learn a lot about Panama? My kids certainly did, and had a good time doing it. Giving them the okay to hit things with flyswatters always helps.

There's lots to learn about the Central American country of Panama besides the Panama Canal! Learning about Panama is fun and hands-on with these free crafts, ideas, and activities for kids! #panama #spanish #kids #educational
This Panama unit study is packed with activities, crafts, book lists, and recipes for kids of all ages! Make learning about Panama in your homeschool even more fun with these free ideas and resources. #panama #spanish #educational #homeschool
Building the perfect Panama lesson plan for your students? Are you doing an around-the-world unit in your K-12 social studies classroom? Try these free and fun Panama activities, crafts, books, and free printables for teachers and educators! #panama #canal #students #lessonplan
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Friday, August 16, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Career Paths That Aren't To Be, Seeing Your Craziness as an Asset, and Trying Not To Kill Anything

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


For those of you who've been waiting in suspense since the last 7QT, I owe you an update on my face.

My third biopsy came back and the results were encouraging. Sort of.

It appears I have lupus, but the type I have is probably the least bad kind.

The bad kind is called systemic lupus, and it can attack your kidneys, brain, heart, and lungs. But the type I have is cutaneous lupus, which can cause rashes or sores on sun-exposed areas of the body.

Cutaneous lupus doesn't sound fantastic, but if I had the choice between damaging my vital organs or giving up the dream of ever playing beach volleyball professionally, I'd go with the cutaneous lupus. Hands down.

That said, having one type of lupus puts me at increased risk for developing others at some point in the future, so prayers are always appreciated.


We finished two weeks of 9 AM swimming lessons, and I'm really enjoying our unhurried mornings.

What I didn't like about the morning swim lessons is that I'd jump out of bed feeling like I got shot out of a canon scrambling to get everyone up, fed, dressed, and ready to go on time... and for all that rushing around, our day still didn't start until we got home at 10:15.

Not saying we get a whole lot more done now, but at least I don't feel as stressed.


There's a pretty posh restaurant near us that I've wanted to take Phillip to for a while, since fancy food is kind of his thing.

Either I mentioned this to his mom at some point or she has amazing ESP, because for my birthday she gave me a gift card to this restaurant and we finally got to go on a date there this weekend.

Fancy cheeses and berries and edible flowers and stuff looking amazing.

It was the kind of place that values presentation and quality over quantity, and as a result you are served extremely beautiful dishes that a normal homo sapien can actually finish in one sitting.

The food was delicious, but the best part was when Phillip picked up the bill and looked at it he said, "Oh, you're going to love this."

It was exactly 49 cents less than the value of our gift card. As a perfectionist who really appreciates that kind of thing, it was the gift that kept on giving.


I've been on the hunt for a new organized activity for my 7-year-old to try.

She was doing gymnastics for a while and said she liked it, but I could tell she didn't love it so we took a year off. (I'll pay for an activity my kids love, but not one they just see as a way to pass the time.)

There's a horse farm just down the road from us, and maybe it's because of the book series about horses she's been reading lately, but every time we drive past she asks, "Can I take horse riding lessons?"

For the first 20 times, I responded with a pleasant "Hmm! That sounds... expensive and involved. Hey look! A squirrel!"

But she kept asking. And asking. And asking.

So I figured if this is something she really wants to try then we will give it a shot. If she loves it, great! If not, we'll keep looking until we find her thing.


I tried to contact the barn several times about lessons but got no response to my emails.

There were other barns, but this one was literally less than 5 minutes from my house and it just had to work.

I can't do through with this crazy riding lessons scheme if it's going to be expensive and inconvenient.

After weeks went by with no response to my emails, I just decided to stop by one day and wander around until I found someone to ask about lessons. Turns out that it was super-easy once I just talked to the woman in person, and we scheduled a first lesson for later that week.

"You just walked in?" Phillip asked.


"Even after they ignored all your emails?"


"See? That's why you're a good mom: you're crazy."


Crazy I might be, but the 7-year-old loved her first horseback riding lesson.

I loved watching her, too, even though I was slightly worried someone was going to find out we didn't belong there and kick us out.

We're not cool enough to be cowboys or sophisticated enough to be English riders.


We're currently pet sitting for a friend's fish and guinea pig.

So far, it's been two days and every waking moment the guinea pig has 6 kids fighting over who gets to hold him. It seems to be making him grumpy.

I think we need to schedule some alone time every day for Cocoa. He looks like he's about to snap.

The award for "beadiest and craziest eyes" goes to...

When I told my 15-year-old we were pet sitting, she gave me a confused look and said "I thought you hated watching other people's pets because you're afraid they're going to die while you're in charge."


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