Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Acceptance Speech for World's Meanest Mom

This is an amazing moment for me.

Out of all the mothers that populate this vast planet, you've chosen me - ME! - to carry the title of World's Meanest Mom.

I'm overwhelmed at this recognition of my life's work. There are hardly words to express the gratitude I feel for the many people who made it possible for me to receive this honor.

First and foremost, I'd like to thank my children for their unwavering support. 

Every time I made them carry their own belongings, every time I said no shorts in the winter, every time I refused to buy them plastic garbage at the checkout: they let me know loud and clear I'd won their vote.

I'm thankful for my predecessors, Mom and Dad. 

Not only would I literally not be here without them [pause for audience laughter,] I owe much of my success to the one-liners they taught me like "because I said so," "you'll understand when you're older," and "there's a Mother's Day and Father's Day but no Kids' Day because every day is Kids' Day."

I'd also like to thank the parents of my children's friends for buying them cooler stuff than my kids have and letting them do whatever they want.

I wouldn't have even been nominated for this award had my children not been able to compare their sad lives to that of Trevor who doesn't do chores and gets to stay up until 11 every night watching cartoons on his iPhone.

Last but not least, my undying gratitude goes to my husband.

When I require the kids to eat a bite of something green or orange, he backs me up. When I say no to the seductive song of the ice cream truck, he does, too.

Without him the kids' demands would wear me down like the steady drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture, but he enables me to be the meanest mom I can be.

At this point, I must stop and confess that I feel somewhat inadequate to receive this great honor.

After all, what have I done to be World's Meanest Mom besides trying to get my kids eat something other than bread and use soap when they shower?

And yet, I think it's the continued striving for greatness that counts.

I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, "Do one thing every day that scares you," and I can't think of anything that fits that description better than my experience with motherhood.

On behalf of mean moms everywhere, I accept this award and promise to do everything in my power to live up to the title of "World's Meanest Mom."

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Friday, July 12, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Good Old-Fashioned Games, Things I Have in Common with a Garden Gnome, and Things Creative People Can Do

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


We went to the ocean over the holiday weekend, timing our visit so we could both get in for free and hit the beach at low tide, when there are lots of tide pools and rocks for the kids to explore.

I loved it except for the constant sucking-air-through-my-teeth-because-I'm-certain-someone-is-going-to-split-their-head-open-running-on-the-rocks feeling.

I hate being the mom who hovers and/or tells her kids not to do something because they "might get hurt," but I've also been the mom who has to cut short a perfectly fun day for everyone so we can go sit in the E.R. for two hours getting someone's head glued shut, and that's no fun, either.

So far the only solution I've found is turning around and telling Phillip to make sure no one gets hurt because I can't bear to watch. Seems to be working so far.


With everyone home from school on summer vacation, the kids have more time to play all together now, and one of their favorite games is something they call "helicopter."

It's a street game where the kid in the middle holds a jump rope in one hand while rotating around, and the other kids leap over it when it comes their way. If they touch the rope they go to the middle and become the next helicopter.

I don't know why, but it makes me so happy to see them play this low-tech game in the driveway. I guess it's because it's like a good old-fashioned 1920s childhood but without the measles, scarlet fever, or tuberculosis.


Speaking of a 1920s childhood, I'm reading a book right now from the library called Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood. It's all about how people have popularly viewed childhood and everything surrounding it, starting with the Puritans who came over from Europe in the 1600s.

The book touches on everything through the next several hundred years of American childhood: child labor laws, schools, playgrounds, juvenile courts, the foster system... I think it's fascinating, but today two different people asked what I was reading and went into a coma when I was telling them about it, so maybe it's not as interesting as I think it is.

Or maybe I just have a really soothing voice, I don't know.


My kids don't watch a lot of TV (we don't even own one) but we happened to see a PBS Kids show called "Pinkalicious and Peteriffic."

In this episode a garden gnome was explaining to Pinkalicious and her brother Peter that gnomes need to take a "big sleep" every hundred years and he wanted to take his, but was worried about critters destroying the garden while he was asleep.

"Oh, well," he sighed heavily (and perhaps a bit passive-aggressively,) "I guess I'll have to just take a big sleep in another hundred years."

I'd only been halfway listening as the show played in the background, but now I really started to pay attention because I feel for the guy! In fact, I think that's going to be my new go-to phrase in life when things get really busy.

The really funny part was that after he said that, Peter turned to his sister and exclaimed, "Oh no! If he doesn't get his big sleep, he'll be grumpy for another hundred years!"

Dude, you and me both. I have never felt such solidarity with a garden gnome in my life.


Recently I switched to another dermatologist's office to get a second opinion about some weird blemishes on my cheek that my previous office was neither able to diagnose or get them to go away.

The doctor put me on some antibiotics that came with all-caps instructions to TAKE ON AN EMPTY STOMACH and then says right below that: "take with food if doctor advises to avoid upset stomach."

Well, that's pretty clear, thanks.

The antibiotics totally do make me nauseous (yay!) but I Googled it and apparently your body doesn't absorb the antibiotic as well with food, so I'll just put on my big girl pants and stick it out for another 3 weeks until I go back for my follow-up.

Until then, I will just complain about it a lot.


My 15-year-old downloaded a drawing app on her phone that I think is pretty stinking amazing, and she's been using it a lot. Mostly to recreate scenes from Marvel movies.

Some poignant scene involving Iron Man, I guess. I don't do superhero movies.

She did this from scratch with her finger, people. Her finger.


In the car, Phillip lamented, "I wish I'd remembered to bring the charger cord for my phone!" As it just so happened, I had it in my purse.

"I thought of that before we left," I said, taking it out. "See? I'm not as dumb as I look."

"I don't think you look dumb," Phillip told me lovingly. Then he added, "So that might technically mean you're dumber than you look."

Just in case you wondered what it's like to be married to an engineer.

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Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Poland

FYI: Some links here are affiliate links, so if you use them to buy something a small portion of your purchase price goes to me for referring you. Thanks!

This week of our educational summer vacation, my kids wanted to learn about Poland. If you search for "Poland" in the library's catalog, you'll get books about (1) Polish fairy tales and (2) the Holocaust. But there's more to Poland than that, as we learned this week.


While the kids found Poland on the wall map and filled out the passport printable I threw together several years ago, we put on some Polish folk music and I read Poland from the Country Explorers book series. The kids were ridiculously preoccupied with a spider they saw on the ceiling, so I hope they got something out of it.

The Polish flag isn't hard to draw (much to my kids' disappointment, who like the challenge of copying complicated crests.) The white symbolizes a hope for peace and red is in remembrance of their many struggles.

We also discussed the white eagle, which is Poland's coat of arms and sometimes appears on the white portion of the flag.

We then turned to YouTube to enlighten us generally about Poland. We watched this animated 3-minute video that I knew would hold everyone's interest, and then we watched this longer video (1 hour.)

As I suspected, half the kids gradually drifted out of the room and by the time it was almost over I was truthfully becoming a little restless, but we all learned a lot.


We started out today by reading P is for Poland by Agnieszka Mrówczyńska, and trying to figure out how to pronounce her name was actually the perfect introduction to what we were learning about today: the Polish language.

The Polish alphabet has 32 letters, which I printed out and made into one long strip, then I asked my littlest kids to drive their Hot Wheels cars to the letters that were different from English. (I used an all caps alphabet because my 3-year-old can't recognize all the lowercase letters yet.)

Great idea, but it quickly just turned into driving up and down the road regardless of what letters were where.

That morning I'd made Play-Do with the little kids, because my 3-year-old recently mixed all the colors together and then left them out overnight. (I'd never made homemade Play-Do before, and I don't know if I ever will again because it was a lot of work to knead in all the colors.)

By the time they finish this, they will all be too old to play with Play-Do.

Using our freshly-made Play-Do, the big kids and little kids worked in pairs to make letters from the Polish alphabet. After reviewing the letter sounds, I used this chart to read one and then the big kid identified it and helped the little kid roll it out with his dough.

This took up most of the time we had today, but we also briefly reviewed how to count from 1 to 10 in Polish and how to say "please" and "thank you." Because I require them to at least try to say it in Polish at meals for the rest of the week.

I also pointed my language-loving teen to this more in-depth article on Polish to read on her own.
more in depth for my language-loving teen to read on her own.


Throughout history, Poland has been occupied, invaded, and sometimes even disappeared from the map entirely. We talked about why that might be and what effect location has on a country.

One of the most well-known occupations as far as the rest of the world is concerned was by Germany during WWII. The Germans then proceeded to build Auschwitz and Treblinka there.

I left out a copy of a book on Auschwitz from the Place in History kids' series in hopes that my big kids will pick it up and thumb through it later this week (they usually do if I leave it out without saying anything) and then read two picture books to the kids: The Cats in Krasinski Square and Irena's Jars of Secrets.

I also checked out a copy of  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas to start reading as a read-aloud with my 11-year-old. I already read it with my 13- and 15-year-old when they were younger.

For lunch, we made Polish pierogies with this recipe. It took a long time and was a lot of work, and by the time we'd finished putting the pierogies together and had to freeze them before boiling the kids were so hungry they fell on the leftover filling like ravenous wolves and ate it right out of the pot. (Full disclosure: they also do that when they're not starving.)

Making pierogis.

Dinner that night was kielbasa cabbage skillet, which was a lot like a meal I used to make but everyone stopped eating for some reason.

Phillip claims this was better, and I told him it was because of the added sugar (if you follow the recipe I did, do not put all that sugar in there! I used 1/10th of what the recipe called for and it was fine.)


Today was our day to learn more about the culture of Poland. We started by reading Cultural Traditions in Poland by Linda Barghoorn, which contained mostly Catholic holidays we were at least sort of familiar with.

But the kids were baffled and horrified at the Drowning of Marzanna, a Polish tradition of pagan origin that involves making a straw effigy of a human figure that is then lit on fire and drowned to welcome spring. It gave us an opportunity to talk about the traditions we have that must seem really weird (even if slightly less violent) to other cultures.

Then we watched this short documentary on the mazurka, a traditional Polish dance:

Then we learned about an old Slavic form of papercutting called Wycinanki. Polish peasants cut out the designs on colorful paper and used them to decorate the walls and windows of their houses.

We Googled Wycinanki and looked for commonalities in the designs: they most often featured roosters and flowers, and they were all symmetrical.

My older kids designed their own, the 7-year-old copied one from a Google search, and I cut out hearts with the 3- and 5-year-old to demonstrate what symmetry is.


Famous Polish people in history was our focus for today. We were going to talk about Marie Curie, Frédéric Chopin, and Copernicus. Short biographies of each can be found here.

To learn about Marie Curie, we read Marie Curie by Demi, who is one of my favorite nonfiction children's authors in the world. I told the kids they could either do a handlettering print of a Marie Curie quote they found online or they could draw a picture of her doing something we read about in the book.

My 5-year old chose to draw Marie teaching her husband's classes in college after he passed away:

My older daughter claimed that the slanted letters in her quote were symbolic:

And this quote seemed pretty weighty for a 1st grader, but she did a nice job anyway:

Then we read this biography of Frédéric Chopin and did the associated word search. I liked it because (1) it had a YouTube video of a Chopin song you could listen to while you did the word search (I told the kids whoever completed theirs before the end of the song won) and (2) it didn't tell you which words were in the word search so it was more of a challenge.

We never did find the seventh word, though. Anyone know what it is?

While the older kids were working on the word search, the younger kids colored a piano-themed coloring page.

I found a few ahead of time and let them pick out what they wanted, and they each chose a different one. I used this, this, and this (the octopus playing the piano was my favorite.) 

He is probably playing the mazurka.

Lastly, we learned about Copernicus. Copernicus was born in Poland in in 1473 and is most famous for formulating a model of the solar system that was heliocentric. Before that, it was commonly accepted that everything revolved around the earth.

My older kids helped the younger ones label this diagram of the solar system with the names of all the planets in order, and then we went outside to do a sort-of hands-on demonstration of how planets orbit the sun.

With sidewalk chalk they drew the sun and some (slightly wonky) orbits going around it. I told them each to get a ball and walk around the orbit while spinning it in their hands.

If I'd thought of it at the time, I probably would have taped a picture of a person on the ball so they could see how we experience night and day when we're facing the sun or turned away from it.

It got a little hilarious when my older two wanted to be a planet and a moon orbiting that planet (I may or may not have been overheard saying "Don't trip over each other because I'm not paying for new front teeth for anyone today!")

I'd also checked out a few library books of Polish fairy tales: The Glass Mountain: Tales from Poland by Jan Pieńkowski and Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Poland by Virginia Haviland. I cleverly stuck them in the car right before we drove an hour to the beach, so the kids had no choice but to read them or die of boredom.


I left today mostly open
to finish anything we still needed to work on, but we didn't have much left except for a short YouTube documentary on the Wieliczka salt mine and this 4k drone video of Warsaw:

Yesterday we made dough for Polish cream cheese cookies called kołaczki. We were going to make them but we ran out of time before going to the beach, so we left them in the fridge, made them this morning, and we ate them after lunch.

Everybody really liked the kołaczki, and I think with a little more practice on our technique we could start making some really pretty ones at Christmastime.

For dinner we had these cabbage rolls, which definitely tasted better than they looked. (The recipe said to saute them on the stovetop but I baked them in the oven, instead.)

I really liked the taste of the filling, I'm just not sure that the kids could get over the looks of the cabbage it was wrapped in so I don't think this will make it into our regular meal rotation.

Overall, visiting Poland was a success. I know because my 5-year-old now points it out every time we walk past a map and I heard my 7-year-old say several times she wants to go to Poland for real. And for us, that's kind of the whole point of the educational summer vacation.

Teaching your kids about Poland is fun and hands-on with these free crafts, ideas, and activities! #poland #polish #learning #kids #educational
Planning the perfect Poland 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 Poland activities, crafts, books, and free printables for teachers and educators! #poland #polish #kids #students #aroundtheworld #lessonplan
This Poland unit study is packed with activities, crafts, book lists, and recipes for kids of all ages! Make learning about Poland in your homeschool even more fun with these free ideas and resources. #poland #polish #geography #aroundtheworld #homeschool
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Friday, July 5, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Slightly Patriotic Battles, Learning How Scary My Kids Think I Am, and How Poop Is Apparently in the Eye of the Beholder

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


To celebrate the independence of our country, for the 4th of July this year we decided to have a water balloon fight.

Actually, we were just hot.

We got a regular assembly line going for filling the balloons and we didn't count, but we did a lot..

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This is probably 1/3 of the finished balloons, but keep in mind we had 8 people throwing them so they didn't last as long as you'd think.

In the past, we've given everyone an equal number of balloons and had a free-for-all that ends with everyone crying, but this year we tried dividing the family up into two teams and having them throw balloons at each other across a line in the middle. It went so much better than all our previous attempts.

Fifteen years into this parenting thing and I am still learning stuff.


At night we went to a fireworks show which I enjoyed, but my favorite part was getting there.

After parking in a big lot, you could either take a shuttle over to the field where the show was or you could take a 10-minute walk on a path through the woods. We opted for the walk, which was so pretty. They had strung up lights all along the trail so everyone could see.

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Pictures don't do it justice, but it was pretty.

It almost made it worth the 30-minute wait to get out of the parking lot with a car full of tired, grumpy children complaining they were thirsty.


I introduced my kids to West Side Story, and their commentary on the show was really funny.

When Tony, the former Jet who'd gone straight and become gainfully employed, showed up at the rumble at the end, my 5-year-old pointed and shouted out "Oh, he should not battle! He has to go to work!"

And when Tony was swooning over meeting his soulmate and singing, "Maria, Maria, Maria... I'll never stop saying Mariaaaa!" I heard one of the kids mutter "Apparently not."

Also, my 11-year-old now calls to his sisters using the same whistle as the Jets. So there's that.


In other movie-related news, we showed the first movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy to the oldest three kids. It was for educational-ish purposes.

The 11- and 13-year-olds' takeaway from the movie? "Those screaming orcs wouldn't stand a chance against Mom."

"What?" I asked. (I'd been upstairs for a large chunk of the movie putting the little kids to bed and must've missed that part.)

The kids explained there was a scene with a big, terrifying hoard of orcs surrounding the heroes in a mine, when at the last second somebody appeared and all the orcs started screaming and scattering in every direction. At this point, the kids started laughing and said, "That's like when Mom comes in and says, 'WHO DIDN'T DO THEIR KITCHEN CLEANING CHORE?'"

Honestly I tried to be offended, but I was mostly just flattered.


My daughter found a mole on the sole of her foot and asked Phillip and I about it.

"That looks like a blood blister," said Phillip. "Are you sure you didn't just step on something?"

She said no, so I called the dermatologist to make an appointment. The receptionist seemed really concerned ("A female with a mole on the bottom of her foot or between her toes should always be seen right away!") and got her in on a cancellation the next day.

On the way to the appointment I asked, "Is your mole still there?"


"And you're sure it's not a blood blister?"

"Actually... I do remember pulling a thorn out of my shoe... on that foot.... in that exact place."

Oh, good. Because I love those doctor visits where you're like, "Hi, I'm an idiot who's here for no reason" and they're like, "That'll be $160, please."

To add insult to injury, I was the only one in the car who was alive in the 90s so no one even got the reference when I yelled, "Once again, things that could have been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!"


I love our stove, but it has some weird display abbreviations.

When you turn the burner to the highest heat setting it says "PB." It stands for 'power boost,' but I can never remember that so I always think in my head that it means 'pot boiling.'

After you remove a pot but the burner is still warm, it says "HE" for 'hot element.' Meaning that if you're using both burners on the right-hand side and take them off at the same time, the display sounds like it's laughing ("hee, hee!")

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When I heard my 7-year-old telling my 5-year-old he shouldn't draw pictures of houses with poop in the yard, I had to stick my head in the door and ask what in the world she was talking about.

Evidently she disagreed with his rendering of the landscaping bushes on either side of the walkway:

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Evergreens or poo? The debate rages.

"Oh, come on, they're obviously bushes," I said. "They look just like the wooden ones in the train table set at the library!"

But she was having none of that argument. She was so adamant about it she even drew me a labeled diagram to prove her point.

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Hmm, she does present a pretty persuasive case.

This is why I never win arguments around here.

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying New Zealand

This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you use them to buy something the price remains the same for you but I'll be compensated for referring you.

Every summer, my kids and I do an educational trip around the world, learning about different countries. Is it because can't afford to take a real around-the-world vacation? Yes.

But it also adds us some structure to our summer vacation (which could otherwise quickly devolve into a Lord of the Flies-type situation,) and my kids have grown to and really look forward to it. For this week, the 5-year-old chose New Zealand!


We always start a new country by finding it on the giant laminated wall map I bought here. It's held up well since I bought it 8 years ago and that's saying something because my kids are NOT gentle with it.

Yes, I know he's holding a fork here. My kids do their best paying attention when they're also eating.

After locating New Zealand, they each got a "passport" (which in this case means a stapled-together booklet of these free printable pages I made, which you're welcome to download and use however you like:)

Download the Passport Pages

They filled out the first page of their passports and then looked up and colored New Zealand's flag. As is my children's tradition, they were extremely equitable and divided it up into equally-sized sections for everyone to color. They like to fight over whether everything is equal, actually.

While they were doing that, I read interesting facts out loud from the Country Explorers book series: New Zealand and then we watched a 25-minute World Odysseys DVD from from the library.

Even though it's not the capital anymore, Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand so we went to YouTube to watch this 4k drone video of Auckland. The 11-year-old liked learning about the construction of the Sky Tower (kind of like the Sky Needle of the southern hemisphere) and the 5-year-old liked this video of people bungee jumping off it.

Since my 15-year-old loves languages and accents, we also watched a few fun YouTube videos here and here about the differences between a Kiwi accent and an Aussie accent (we learned about Australia a few summers ago.)

For dessert we made a pavlova, which is a cake we'd also made when "visiting" Australia but this time we topped it with kiwis, because New Zealand.

Feeling on top of things because I have a theme, but just wait for it.

As I remember it, our pavlova from Australia turned out pretty well, but I must have done something wrong this time because it came out of the oven resembling a pancake more than an actual cake.

Not at all what it's supposed to look like, not even a little bit.

So we did what Evanses do: shrugged, topped it with whipped cream, and ate it, anyway.

Tasted better than it looks.


The idigenous people of New Zealand are called the Maori. The rest of the world says "may-ORE-ee," but if you talk to anyone from New Zealand they'll tell you it's pronounced like "Mao" in "Chairman Mao." (I kept attempting to correct my pronunciation and half of the time ended up pronouncing it "Maury" like the 90's talk show host. At least I tried.)

We learned about the Maori people and culture with a book called The Maori of New Zealand and this NPR video of a Maori dance called the haka:

Facial tattoos were once a really important part of Maori culture, so after learning about who got tattooed and why, we looked at examples of what the tattoos looked like and designed some of our own.

(The more I look at this guy, the more sure I am he models for Abercrombie & Fitch.)


I gave the older kids a face without features so they could draw them in:


This one from my 11-year-old even captured the bug eyes and the snarl from the haka:

11-year-old (this one is definitely my favorite.)


After that, we watched Whale Rider, a movie set in modern-day New Zealand about a group of Maori struggling to keep their culture alive. (I was actually shocked to find out this was rated PG-13, I watched it with all the kids and it was totally fine.)

It was a gray day outside, and learning so much about Maori culture and thinking about colonization and assimilation all day made me a little gloomy, as you can see when Phillip texted me from work:

I wanted to try a traditional Maori meal for dinner, but since I didn't feel like digging up a 3' by 6' pit in our backyard for a hangi, I made pork and puha (sweet potato) and a loaf of Maori bread called rewena paraoa instead.

The bread is made from a fermented potato starter, which my daughter informed me smelled "like weird barf" as she was kneading it to get it ready for the oven.

I was proud that I even remembered to get the starter going a few days beforehand. Barely. I didn't remember until about 10:30 P.M. and I only had one potato instead of the three the recipe recommends, which I accidentally burnt while boiling because I was on Pinterest being extremely productive, but it turned out okay in the end.

A little helper of mine may or may not have dumped WAY too much salt in the pork and puha, so maybe we'll try it again sometime with the correct salt-to-broth ratio.

In a book called Land of the Long White Cloud: Maroi Myths, Tale and Legends, my 13-year-old reports finding a story that sounds like it was the basis of Moana.

I also gave my 15-year-old the novel I've been reading called Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All by Christina Thompson. It's half history lesson and half memoir, and it was really well done.

Fun to read in public so strangers ask what your book is called, then awkwardly move away slowly and avoid eye contact.


We started out by reading New Zealand ABCs by Holly Schroeder. According to the book, 'O' is for 'ocean,' so that's what we decided to focus on today.

We did the experiment detailed here to show the kids that saltwater is denser than freshwater.

The younger kids were too little to understand what density is, but they liked dropping the jewels in so at least they were occupied and happy for 10 minutes.

Then we watched this YouTube animation on just how deep the ocean goes, which was pretty cool.

Lastly, I wanted the younger kids to practice naming the oceans. The 3- and 5-year-olds played this free online game with the help of their older siblings to learn the names of the oceans and continents, while the the 7-year-old set herself up in front of the wall map and played this game.

I didn't know she'd want to keep playing it for so long, but it really held her attention.


One unusual thing about New Zealand is its wildlife. Most of it isn't found anywhere else in the world, and up until a few hundred years ago it was all just birds (many of them flightless) and the only mammals were two species of bats.

The kids liked this video about birds of New Zealand. Not only was it was narrated by a little boy, but they enjoyed his New Zealand accent:

The kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand, and it's one crazy animal. The nocturnal bird runs instead of flies, and its eggs are humongous in comparison with its body size. (Just Google "kiwi egg x-ray" and you'll see what I mean. I will never, EVER complain about being pregnant again.)

We watched a few mini-documentaries about the kiwi here and here, then watched another short video on Tiritiri Matangi, a predator-free island off the coast of New Zealand to protect endangered species.

After reading a picture book called Charlie and Kiwi: An Evolutionary Adventure that explained how kiwis evolved into what they are today, the kids were assigned age-appropriate kiwi activities.

The older three worked together to make a brochure about the kiwi for tourists:

The back of the pamphlet.

The 3- and 5- year old each made paper kiwis with the help of this template from Activity Village and some Googly eyes:

I can't handle the cuteness.

My 7-year-old is about at the age where I should teach her to sew, so we followed these instructions and she made her own stuffed kiwi with felt and buttons.

Again: stinking cute.

She was so proud of the finished product, it almost made me want to become a mom who regularly does crafts with her children. Almost.

Then I remembered what the table looked like after we were done.

Spoiler alert: no one wanted to help clean up afterward.

I also gave the kids the book Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot by Sy Montergomery. I'm not sure if any of them read it, but I think I get points for leaving it out for them, anyway.


New Zealand is covered with volcanoes, some of them still active. We checked out this map of NZ volcanoes and then headed out to the sandbox to make a volcano of our own.

We followed this tutorial, and had only slightly more success than we did last time.

The kids had fun, but our eruption just sort of bubbled over the top in slow-motion and was kind of... boring.

For some reason, pulling off a baking soda volcano is, in my mind, the benchmark of parenting success. It just seems like a classic thing to do with your kids.

But I've tried and failed enough times now to realize: I have many talents as a mother, but this isn't one of them. Embrace and accept.


When I woke up this morning, my head was throbbing and I was losing my voice. I'd planned to play some sports today (the most popular in New Zealand are rugby and cricket) but I could barely breathe through my nose, letalone run around tackling people.

Luckily Phillip stood in for me and read A Kiwi Year: Twelve Months in the Life of New Zealand's Kids. Then he showed the kids this video on the rules of rugby and this one on cricket and took them out to the backyard to play them.

Sort of. We modified the rules and played with whatever materials we had on hand, so what we did in no way resembled actual cricket or rugby.

Are we the first people ever to play two-hand touch rugby? Because that's what we did.

But the kids had fun and it turns out that Phillip was better suited for sports day than I would've been, anyway.

That night we put on a movie for the little kids and watched Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with the big kids, because it was filmed in New Zealand. If you visit New Zealand you can actually take a tour of the Hobbiton set, FYI.

Our library copy of Lord of the Rings wasn't working, and by the time we finished monkeying with it, giving up on it, and renting the streamed version from YouTube, it was 45 minutes later than we wanted to start.
Please note the March date on this note I found inside the cover. Thanks for fixing it, guys. NOT.

So this article on the 23 New Zealand locations used in filming Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit) and this map of where in the country they are will have to wait for another day.

All in all "visiting" New Zealand for the first week of our educational summer vacation was a success. With a lot of little fails rolled up in the middle. But that's life.

And if you're looking for an interactive short story for kids, I recommend checking out Kiwi Cannot Reach! by Jason Tharp. It's a fun book for beginning readers and makes a nice bedtime story, too.

Learning about New Zealand is fun and hands-on with these free crafts, ideas, and activities for kids! #newzealand #kiwi #maori #kids #educational
Putting together the perfect New Zealand 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 New Zealand activities, crafts, books, and free printables for teachers and educators! #newzealand #kiwi #maori #lessonplan
This New Zealand unit study is packed with activities, crafts, book lists, and recipes for kids of all ages! Make learning about New Zealand in your homeschool even more fun with these free ideas and resources. #newzealand #maori #kiwi #kids #homeschool
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