Friday, August 5, 2022

7 Quick Takes about Cute Puppies, Googly Monsters, and Hearing Yourself Come Out of Your Kids' Mouths

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


Recently I got a notification that my Google account storage was almost used up, and I thought that was weird because I keep a pretty clean inbox. 

Then I saw that it included Google Drive and immediately knew that was the problem. Because I have never once cleaned it out.

So I spent some time going through all the random sign ups and teacher information sheets I've accumulated over the years, deciding what to keep and what delete. It was weird when I got to the end of the 2019-2020, when school was shut down and went 100% virtual.

Of course there were normal things like worksheets, but there were also complete lesson plans and videos of the gym teacher demonstrating the games at home with her own kids. And let's not forget the "passing of the torch" video that kicked off virtual Field Day, with shots of all the teachers in separate videos handing a handmade torch and spliced together.

At the time it felt like the only thing we could do so we just kind of took it in stride, but looking back it seemed really strange.


My teenage daughters are pet sitting for a friend. They've got two dogs and two puppies. They stay over there most of the time since the puppies require a lot of attention, but they come over for a few hours at dinner so we don't forget what they look like. 

If they both have work at the same time and the puppies need someone to check on them, I go over there with my little kids (they beg to do this all day long so I don't think they mind.)

The 10-year-old is never without a book in her hand, even when playing with a cute puppy.

The 6-year-old is more interested in their toys, but the puppies are interested in him.

The 8-year-old playing with the dogs.

It's really funny watching how the mother dog watches the puppies. Whenever they're out of their pen, she follows them around and nips them on the neck to discipline them if they do something they're not supposed to do. The family told us she does this but I didn't really believe it until I saw it myself.

One time one of the puppies found a little scrap of paper on the floor and before I could even do anything, her mom came over and grabbed it out of her mouth, then went to the opposite side of the room and dropped it in the corner. It was exactly like a human mom following her toddler around saying, "That's not a toy."


I have been getting the bizarre feeling lately that our family is shrinking. 

We no longer take up a whole pew at church: the 18-year-old goes to a student ward (a congregation with other young adults in the area), my 16-year-old sits up front doing the Zoom broadcast, and my 14-year-old is usually passing the bread and water to the rest of the congregation. 

Same thing at dinner. The kids have so many activities and camps and work now that at least a few times a week, dinner is just me, Phillip, and two kids at this giant dining room table. (I wish I could say it was quieter but it's usually not.)

It's going to be a real adjustment. Every stage of motherhood is so all-consuming that you just can't believe it would ever change, even though logically you know it will.


So my 10-year-old scratched my cornea with an Amazon envelope. She was holding it in her hands and gestured with it just as I turned around, and let's just say it wasn't pleasant.

At first, I wasn't planning to go to the optometrist. About 5 years ago, one of my nursing babies reached up and poked me in the eye, and I rushed to the office worried I was going to be blinded for the rest of my life. They said it would heal on its own, which it did.

So I wasn't going to go in, but it got so intense on Day Two that I started to worry. You know how you feel when a piece of sand gets in your eye and every instinct in your body is screaming, This is an emergency! Do something!  It felt like that, but constantly for every second of the day and there was nothing I could do about it. 

Most of that day I alternated between successfully ignoring it and breaking down weeping when I couldn't ignore it anymore. (I mean, weeping even more than normal because my right eye was already watering so much there were literal tears rolling down that side of my face.)

Long story short, I started to worry I'd done permanent damage and went to the doctor. He looked at my chart and saw the last time I'd come in with a corneal scratch and joked, "Looks like your kids are out to get you!"

I was like DUDE, I KNOW.

Anyway, long story short he said he it looked like the scratch was healing up and should feel better in the next few days. Which it did. 

Ordinarily I would've been upset that I'd gone in again for nothing, but he put in some anesthetic eye drops for the exam that gave me an hour of sweet relief and in my opinion, that made the whole thing worth it.


A neighboring city has a weekly craft-and-a-show event for kids in the summer. I don't think we've been since the start of COVID, but we went this week and it was just like old times.

The craft was designing monsters out of pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and a styrofoam ball. 

The show was a juggling act, with humor incorporated throughout. At one point the juggler needed two people to play catch with a ball with each other. First, he ran out into the audience and grabbed a guy, and then it was a like a slow-motion scene horror movie as I watched him run right toward me.

I do not throw balls. And I do not catch balls. And now I had to do both, on stage and in front of everyone. It was basically the worst. 

I concentrated on that ball harder than I've ever concentrated on an object before, willing my uncoordinated hands to catch it as it sailed through the air. And also to not throw it 10 feet over the guy's head because that's how good my aim is.

Luckily, I only dropped it once and did one awkward throw that the guy still managed to catch. And I don't think I mortified my kids too much. I was glad to sit down, though.


My 6-year-old lost his first tooth! It's my last first lost tooth as a parent. And it just so happened that I remembered to be the Tooth Fairy this time... barely.  

Phillip was out of town so I'd texted him about the lost tooth earlier that day, and he just happened to text me back about it right as I was going to bed which reminded me.

Let's at least let this kid experience the magic a few times before he realizes how things actually work around here.


In the car, I heard my 10-year-old and her 8-year-old brother arguing in the backseat. I didn't catch the beginning of the argument so who knows what it was about, but he was at that point muttering something snarky at her under his breath.

Crossing her arms over her chest she told him, "If you're embarrassed to say it out loud, then you probably shouldn't be saying it at all." 

He defended his snide comment, to which she responded with another one of my all-purpose lines: "Then say it inside your head, because no one else wants to hear it." Using my exact inflection, everything. 

Seeing yourself reflected so accurately by your own child is both glorious and terrifying to behold.

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files
Read More »

Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Colombia

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something using my affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The summer marks the 11th year of The Educational Summer Vacation in our family; we put up the giant wall map, the kids choose different countries, and we spend a week learning about each one. 

If we haven't met yet, I'm Jenny Evans and I take this journey every summer with my six kids, ages 6 through 18.

This week you're welcome to come along with us to Colombia! Borrow, beg, or steal whatever you like from this post to do at home with your own kids... we don't mind.


The first thing we do every week is find the country on our wall map and examine it. The kids filled out a passport page about Colombia, looking at the map and writing down its location, bordering countries, and capital city.

I didn't line them up in height order like the von Trapps, it just happened.

While they filled out their passports, I read Colombia Treasure Quest from the Tiny Travelers series. Don't be fooled by the cardboard pages: it's not a baby book! It's actually a great activity book and intro to Colombia for kids of any age. 

The colorful illustrations remind me of a certain Disney movie set in Colombia that rhymes with "Enschmantro."

Then the kids looked up the flag of Colombia and drew it on paper to add to our wall. 

At the end of the summer, we take them down but keep them and put them all back up the next summer; we've been doing this since 2011 so we've amassed a ridiculously large collection.

We do a little family religious devotional on Monday nights called Family Home Evening and we always have a treat at the end (the kids insist), so that night our treat was Colombian rice pudding, made with a recipe from the book We Visit Colombia.

Bad lighting; good pudding.

If you make rice pudding, be aware that you need to make it in the morning and chill for at least a few hours before serving it.

For a bedtime story that night, we read A Thousand White Butterflies by Jessica Betancourt-Perez. It's a really cute picture book that also incorporates simple Spanish phrases into a story about a Colombian immigrant making her first new friend in the U.S.


The Caño Cristales river is also called "the liquid rainbow" or "the river of 5 colors." But you can only see the colors for a few months of the year, if the water and light conditions are right.

We read about the that make it appear so colorful in this article and then watched a vlog about a photographer who visited Caño Cristales to make a time lapse video of it. 

(I usually can't stand travel vlogs because of the "I just love taking slo-mo videos of myself wearing cute traveling outfits" vibe, but this is not like that.)

And then of course, we had to go watch the finished South America time lapse video that this behind-the-scenes video was about. It was amazing.

Next natural wonder of Colombia: Taryrona National Park. It's the best place in the world to see monkeys, especially howler monkeys, capuchins, and cotton-top tamarins. Cotton-top tamarins are endangered, and in fact the only place they still live in the wild (not in zoos) is in Colombia.

The last natural wonder we explored is called el Peñon de Guatapé, a giant boulder 7,500 feet tall. We watched this video and this one about el Peñon de Guatapé, which people can climb using the 708 steps built into the side for a great view.

The surrounding town of Guatapé is also very colorful and beautiful, as shown in the pictures in this article.

As an activity, I gave the kids two options. They could either:
  1. Make a postcard of Guatapé OR the Caño Cristales river
  2. Write an illustrated guide called "How to Be a Cotton-Topped Tamarin" 
I thought everyone would pick the postcard option, but I was surprised that 3 of them wanted to make the how-to guide.

My 16-year-old made a little booklet filled with hilarious sketches:

I provided the 6- and 8-year-olds with a template like this one and showed them how to do a Google search for cotton-topped tamarin facts. The 6-year-old needed help writing his, so we sat together and I asked him questions to help him figure out what to write.

My 8-year-old took it and ran, and when he showed me his finished guide I was laughing so hard at his adorable illustrations:

Tamarin love.

He read that monkeys will often "present their rears" to rival troops of primates to defend their territory, resulting in the most hilarious picture that's ever been drawn in this house.

My 14-year-old, who wasn't that into this activity, chose to make a postcard of someone being yeeted off the rock of Guatapé.

Boys will be boys.

He's under no illusions about what happens to crafts like this after we're done doing them.

My 10-year-old decided to make a Google docs postcard addressed to her doll, Dolly.

That night, we read the picture book Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter. It's the story of Luis Soriano, a man in rural Colombia who started a traveling library in 1997 to bring books to kids in rural Colombia with his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto.


Cumbia is the national dance of Colombia, and I'm kind of glad that my teenagers were all out of the house this afternoon, because I've heard that after a certain age it's not cool to dance with your mom anymore or something.

We watched this instructional video to learn basic cumbia steps, and I loved that they do it in both English and Spanish. It's not the easiest to follow if you've never danced before, but I used to swing dance in my life B.C. (before children) and it's very similar, so I was able to help everybody follow along. 

After practicing with each kid, we played some cumbia music and tried it out. Later that day, my 6-year-old even approached me and said, "Can we do the dance again?" (He's pretty good, although a little short for spinning me around.)

As a bedtime story, we read Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown. It's another story about the traveling donkey library like last night, but less biographical and more about the wonder of books.


Colombia has lots of exports: coffee, flowers, and unfortunately, drugs. 

First, let's get the bad part out of the way. Colombia is recovering from a 50-year civil war that made for some really hard times in the country. 

Colombia is unfortunately informally known as the drug cartel capital of the world. It stems from the 1960s when guerilla groups like FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) started fighting the government, and funded their activities by exporting illegal drugs. Other paramilitary groups opposed FARC, but they only made things worse for the average Colombian. This is a really heavy subject for kids, but to help introduce it we read the book A Refugee's Journey from Colombia by Linda Barghoorn. It does a fantastic job at explaining the conflict in kid-friendly terms and doesn't take long to read.

With that out of the way, we moved to a few less controversial things. Colombian coffee, for example, is famous all over the world. Although my family and I don't drink coffee, I thought it would be really interesting to find out how it grows so we watched this video and I was surprised to realize the brown beans I see in the grocery store aren't how coffee starts. I had no idea.

Flowers are another big export of Colombia. In fact, in the town of Medellín, Colombia there's a famous flower festival that happens every year. Flower growers decorate these giant boards called sillaterras with colorful flower arrangements (some in the shapes of pictures or words) and strap them to their backs to parade down the street. 

We watched this video about making a sillatera and then tried it out ourselves.

Each kid got cardboard from the recycling and went outside to collect flowers (being mid-July, it's not the best time for flowers so they were allowed to use any natural materials like grass and leaves.) They arranged everything on their cardboard and hot glued it on. 

My 8-year-old made a smiley face:

My 10-year-old made a pretty arrangement in the shape of a heart:

I told the kids they got bonus points if the sillateras were wearable, so my 6-year-old wanted to attach a string. He explained to me but then stopped as he searched for the right word: "I want the string to go across my forehead so it can be more..."


"No," he said. "More like it's supposed to be."

The 14-year-old made more of a modern art sort of sillatera, which I thought was cool:


I've been learning Spanish for the past several months and the younger kids have been begging me daily to teach them Spanish words, but one of the basics we haven't covered yet is las partes del cuerpo, the parts of the body. Since Colombia is a Spanish-speaking country, this was a perfect day for them to learn.

We watched this video a few times (even I learned some new vocabulary words), and then played a game. If your kids are younger you can just call out "la nariz!" and have them touch their noses, for example, but if they're older you could play Simon Says but do it all in Spanish: "Simón dice tocar _________" (Simon says touch _________).

We followed along with this Spanish version of Head, Shoulders, Knees, and ToesMy older kids buried their heads under the sofa cushions and wished for a meteor to strike the earth, but my younger kids seemed to enjoy it.

The last thing we wanted to cover today was the national sport of Columbia, tejo. It's like cornhole, but with explosives. Instead of aiming for a hole in the middle of the board, you're aiming for the packets of gunpowder in the center. You earn points for getting near them or hitting them (and making them blow up.) Here's a visual.

Had I known, I'd have picked up some extra firecrackers on the 4th of July and saved them for this week, but I don't plan that far in advance so maybe we'll do it next year. We attempted it with a homemade gunpowder recipe, but it didn't work. I don't know the details because explosives are my husband's department, not mine.

As a bedtime story, we read Digging for Words by Angela Burke Kunkel. It's a true story about a Colombian garbage collector who started saving books from the trash and created the first library in his neighborhood in Bogotá.


On Saturday for dinner, we had ajiaco soup. It's an easy soup to make (with one ingredient I had to buy off of Amazon ahead of time.)

My 10-year-old even found avocados marked with a "product of Colombia" sticker. Unfortunately, I have a chronic problem with judging the ripeness of avocados and by the time Saturday came around, most of them were overripe to the point of being unusable. 

Oh, well. We were able to salvage a little bit.

Then we watched Encanto, which I knew was set in Colombia but watching it a second time after doing this week I realized there were a lot of little things we hadn't picked up on. The kids kept yelling out, "Hey, there's the river! There's the flowers! There's tejo! There's the soup!" Almost everything we covered this week was in the movie, in one form or another.

We had a really fun week in Colombia. We broadened our horizons, learned some new words in Spanish, ate some different food, and read a lot. The failed tejo experiment was disappointing for the kids (especially the ones that spent all that time grinding up the gunpowder ingredients with their dad) but they're all holding me to my promise of buying extra firecrackers next 4th of July and trying again.

Learning about Colombia is fun and hands-on with these free crafts, ideas, and activities for kids! #country #educational
Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files

Read More »

Friday, July 29, 2022

7 Quick Takes about Fuzzy Friends, Packing at the Last Minute, and Adventures in Tie Dye

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


Who else toured an alpaca farm over the weekend? This place has been on my radar for a while but we just haven't gotten around to booking a tour, but we finally made it happen.

The tour guide took us right inside the alpaca pen and we got to pet them. They are so soft. Unfortunately, alpacas don't really enjoy being petted, they just tolerate it briefly until they walk away. 

Although they do like it when you give them treats.

Alpacas are the most bizarre-looking animals up close. Their necks are so pencil-thin and flexible, it looks like you put the head of a mammal on a snake. And the ridiculous haircuts they get don't help.

I informally named this one "Señor Muttonchops."

They also had a baby alpaca at the farm, about three months old. It was simultaneously cute and unnerving how skinny and spindly it was.

My 16-year-old came home with a stuffed animal alpaca made with alpaca wool from the gift shop, polled her friends, and named him Linus.


This week is youth camp week at church for my teenagers. For the first half of the week, the girls from our congregation and a number of surrounding congregations went to a rustic camp and spent several days doing archery, rifles, sunrise kayaking, making bracelets, staying up WAY too late, doing skits and silly camp songs, reading their scriptures, and meeting for spiritual devotionals.

My 10-year-old, who will be old enough to go to camp next year, wouldn't stop grilling them when they got home and can't stop talking about it now.


The girls were at the camp for the first part of the week, and they traded places with the boys halfway through the week. They're not back yet so I have no idea how it went. Hopefully fine.

The boys' packing list was prefaced by the specific reminder that there was to be "absolutely no climbing on roofs" so that's reassuring. 

It hadn't been necessary to say that on the girls' packing list.


The night before he left for camp, my son had a busy day and was super-tired so I told him to wash his clothes and he could pack in the morning before he left.

I meant that he should pack first thing in the morning when he woke up, but he took it to mean "10 minutes before leaving." I guess I should've been more specific.

His clothes were still wet, because the heat in the dryer had gone out,  and they were just tumbling around in cool air for a while when he ran the dryer the night before. We quickly grabbed out a few things and hung them in front of a box fan to get them at least mostly dry, threw them in a suitcase, and he was off to camp.

Best case scenario, he will have remembered my extremely-patient-and-not-angry-at-all advice to hang the clothes up when he gets to camp to dry the rest of the way. Worst case scenario, he'll forget and be stuck wearing smelly clothes for three days and learn from experience not to leave packing until the last possible second next time. 

Either way, it works out, I guess.


For weeks, my 6-year-old's swim teacher has been trying to get him to swim in the deep end, but we might as well be asking him to walk over a bed of hot coals. He flatly refuses to go anywhere he can't touch the bottom, and no force on earth could convince him to do otherwise.

But at his last lesson, his older siblings came along and were messing around on the other side of the pool, and that changed everything. 

The 6-year-old got curious and wandered over to watch them after his lesson, and by the time we left he was literally diving headfirst through a floatie tube in the deep end and telling me how fun it was.

And that's the power of older siblings. I really enjoy having kids in a variety of ages and stages, because they're all uniquely positioned to help each other in ways that I just can't, and I think that's a beautiful thing.


My 10-year-old recently tie-dyed a shirt at a church activity, and she wanted to make an extra for her 8-year-old brother. (She probably just wanted to make a second one, but she explained to me it was because the 6-year-old has a tie-dyed shirt already and now that she made one for herself she didn't want the 8-year-old to feel left out.)

My 8-year-old loves his new shirt because "it looks like an explosion in space."

Unfortunately, they'd run out of gloves by the time she decided she wanted to make a second shirt so she just did it with her bare hands, and came home looking like Veruca Salt up to her wrists. In retrospect, I wish I'd gotten a picture but I was too busy shoving her toward the bathroom sink, terrified she would touch anything in the house and ruin it forever.


In other news that's not really news, I've killed some more plants. I often remind myself of this meme I once saw of a smiling lady buying plants at a nursery, with an added speech bubble that says "Hey baby, want to come back to my place and die?"

This time, I acquired some free cilantro seeds and decided to try planting them didn't get my hopes up. When I started to see some little green sprouts in the dirt I was thrilled: I'd done it! The next day, though, they withered up and basically disappeared. Maybe I didn't water them enough, maybe I should have brought them inside. Maybe it was too hot, or too sunny, or not hot and sunny enough. Who knows. 

I still have some more seeds, so I think I'll try again but indoors. I'm always encouraged by my friend Valerie. I always think of as an amazing plant lady, but when I mentioned to her once how I can't grow anything she immediately empathized "Oh yeah, I kill so many plants. I just don't know when to quit, though." So maybe that's the secret.

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files

Read More »

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Zimbabwe

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something, I may receive a commission for referring you.

The Educational Summer Vacation is all about giving my kids and I some structure during those long summer days. 

Since 2011, my six kids (ages 6-18) and I have been learning about different countries in the world every summer. The little kids love quizzing each other on the flags we've hung up on the wall, and the teenagers say their heads are now full of random facts about faraway places that come in handy at unexpected moments.

This week, we learned all about Zimbabwe! If you homeschool or are just looking for a fun craft, recipe, or activity to do with your kids for an afternoon, please use anything you like that you see here.


I {heart} YouTube; we watch so many educational videos on there. This beautiful 4K intro to Zimbabwe had my kids spellbound. Me too, if I'm honest.

First, we located Zimbabwe (which until 1979 was part of a country called Rhodesia after British colonialist Cecil Rhodes) on our big wall map

I printed out a bunch of these blank passport pages for each kid, hole-punched the corner, and hold them together with a binder ring. We fill one out for every country we "visit," and the kids always like designing their own visa stamp in the little blank area.

Printable blank pages are here

After reading Count Your Way through Zimbabwe, the kids looked up the flag of Zimbabwe and copied it down on paper to color and add to our wall of flags. 

They also looked up the symbolism of the flag: green is for agriculture, yellow is for minerals, red is for the blood shed during the war for liberation, and black is for the black majority of the population. The white triangle represents peace and the red star symbolizes the country's aspirations. The bird is the national emblem, found in ancient Zimbabwean ruins we'll talk about later this week.


After reading a little bit from the book Zimbabwe from the Exploring World Cultures series, we focused in today on Zimbabwe's language.

Zimbabwe has 16 official languages. Most official government business is in English, but the most widely-spoken language at home is Shona. Since we already know English pretty well, we turned our attention to Shona.

We watched a TikTok on counting to ten in Shona a few times, and then practiced by playing number bingo. 

You could print out some cards here, but it was faster to have my kids make their own so that's what we did.

The caller draws a number card, says its name in Shona, and then everyone works out which number it is (teamwork is allowed) so they can put a candy on it. The game ends when all the M&Ms are eaten or when the youngest player runs away screaming because he didn't get a bingo, whichever comes first. It'll probably be the running away screaming one.

So maybe the 6-year-old didn't have a great time playing bingo, but he really did enjoy a cute picture book called Party Croc, which is adapted from a Shona folktale, which made up for it.

For dinner that night, we had nyama (Zimbabwean beef stew) with sadza (thick cornmeal porridge). I knew the kids would like the nyama and hate the sadza, but told them they had to try at least a bite of everything.

I was right about both things. 


Where Are You Going Manyoni? is a beautifully illustrated picture book that was a perfect introduction to today's topic: the natural wonders of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is home to Victoria Falls, which isn't really even a waterfall but an insanely wide sheet of falling water. It's known to locals as "the smoke that thunders" because of the mist that floats up from the bottom. 

We watched this compilation of 4K shots of the falls and then stumbled across this 360° video. Have you ever seen one of these? You can move around within the video like virtual reality, it's pretty crazy.

Zimbabwe is also a popular safari spot, home to the "Big 5" animals people want to see on a safari: African lions, African leopards, African elephants, Cape buffalo, and rhinos. 

I cut up a list of 10 facts about the Big 5 and asked my teenager to hide them around the room, then sent the little kids on a safari to find them and read each one aloud.

Then we went nature watching in our yard, taking turns with a binoculars and a magnifying glass to see what wildlife we could find. 

We checked our birdhouse (plenty of fresh nesting material so we know there were some chicks there in the spring), filled up our bird feeder, and each kid got a copy of a printout of common birds in our state in case they saw anything.

We didn't see many birds just then, but after we were done I taped the bird identification sheet to the sliding glass door by the feeder and my 8-year-old correctly identified his first bird by the next morning.


Right now, $1 USD equals around $361 Zimbabwean dollars. The country's annual inflation is at a staggering 190% (up from 66% before the Russia-Ukraine war), and that's still better than it was during the unbelievable hyper-inflation of 2008. (By contrast, inflation in the US is usually around 2%, though because of the upheaval of the last year it's gone up to 9%.) 

I admit the video was a little over my younger kids' heads, but it was a great place to start. I adapted this candy bar inflation activity to have a basic economics lesson, using Hershey Kisses.

I asked "what is money?" and was pleased none of the kids mentioned bills or coins. Money can be anything we agree to trade for other stuff: shells, jewels, etc. For the purposes of our demonstration, our money was going to be dried beans.

I gave each kid six beans and we bid on Hershey's Kisses for three rounds. I gave them three more pie weights each round, so by the end they were going for a little more than they were at the beginning, but not much.

Then I asked "what is inflation?" My 6-year-old knew inflation was blowing up a balloon, and that was a good place to start. Inflation means the balloon gets bigger, and when you're talking about money, inflation means you need a bigger amount of money to buy something than you needed a little while ago. A little bit of inflation is okay, but when a government keeps printing money like Zimbabwe's did in 2008, you get runaway inflation.

We did three more rounds of bidding, but each time I kept throwing in larger and larger amounts beans, until each Hershey Kiss cost 10x more than it had in the beginning, even though it was the same Hershey Kiss.

Regardless of how much they understood, everyone enjoyed all the chocolate.

That night, the teenagers and Phillip and I watched the first half of the documentary President, about the 2018 election against a corrupt dictator who'd been in power for 40 years. Unfortunately it was late for us old people, and we'll have to finish the rest soon!


Today you can visit stone ruins there of a walled city called Great Zimbabwe, which was once a major stop on a trade route in the 11th century.

We learned about it from the DVD Ancient Africa from the Arizona Smith series. Basically Arizona Smith is the Bill Nye of archaeology (Arizona Smith = Indiana Jones, get it? Womp, womp.) 

The stone structures of Great Zimbabwe were all built without mortar. There were no right angles  everything was round  and each precisely cut stone was a little recessed from the ones below it for extra stability. 

The younger kids took out our giant building blocks (best Christmas gift ever) and did their best to recreate Great Zimbabwe:

It looks like his structure is smoking and possibly on fire, but I think there was just water on my camera lens.

In Great Zimbabwe, there are also eight sculptures of birds carved from soapstone (you can see one on the country's flag).

Using a bar of soap and a handful of implements like butter knives, pencils, paperclips, and toothpicks, the kids tried out carving the Great Zimbabwe birds for themselves:

The younger kids preferred to sketch their designs on paper first and then trace them onto the bar of soap:

The 6-year-old accidentally broke off the beak, but he worked with it and didn't run away screaming, which was progress.

The finished products:

The older kids were groaning because we were carving the soapstone birds out of soap, and the soap was Ivory just like they traded ivory out of Great Zimbabwe... between that and Arizona Smith, I guess it was a really punny day.

To end the day, we read a nice picture book that was a true story about the value of education called The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can, and that was the end of our week in Zimbabwe.

We learned a lot this week, from Shona to sculpting to economics. Visiting Zimbabwe was a lot of fun, although if you asked the younger kids about it they'd probably cite playing with all the soap scraps from their bird carvings in a big bucket of water outside afterward was the funnest part of the whole thing. 

It certainly was the messiest.

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files
Read More »