Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Morocco

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Every summer, my kids and I learn about different countries around the world. Do the kids complain about it sometimes? Yes. But we mix all the education-y stuff with fun activities, field trips, and movies. And secretly, the kids think it's interesting, too.

This week, we learned about Morocco! Did you know that tangerines are named after the Moroccan city of Tangiers, or that the fez (think of the hat Shriners wear) is named after the city of Fez? Follow along with us and you'll probably pick up more facts to impress your friends at trivia night.


We started by putting on some Moroccan music (this week we've been listening to this and a CD I got from the library called The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco) and filling out our passport pages.

After finding Morocco, the kids flipped to a new page in the passports I made and wrote down everything they could learn about it from our giant wall map of the world. You can download the passport pages for free here if you want to try something similar with your own kids.

They also looked up and colored the Moroccan flag, which is green with a red star called the Seal of Solomon in the middle.

The colors are so patchy because my kids divide up every flag so everyone gets their own section to color. They're weirdly militaristic about this. Is that because we're a big family??

While they were coloring, I read from Morocco from the Country Explorers book series. I loved the format of a picture book we read next: Mirror by Jeannie Baker has no words, but it compares a day in the life of an Australian boy and a Moroccan boy by flipping side-by-side pages and looking at the pictures.

The most famous meal in Morocco is probably tajine, so named after the special pot that it's cooked in.

I couldn't afford the beautiful ones on Amazon, so I made do with my crockpot and holy cow, there were some wonderful smells coming out of that thing by dinnertime.

We used this recipe and probably should have tripled it. Everyone except my 6-year-old liked it, and he doesn't like anything. It wasn't much to look at once you layered the potato slices on top like you were supposed to, but it tasted amazing.

After dinner, we watched a 30-minute video about Morocco on Amazon (if you have a Prime account you can watch it for free with Prime Video.)


The official languages of Morocco are Arabic and Tamazight.

In our years of doing The Educational Summer Vacation, we've "visited" quite a few Arabic-speaking countries and remember a few Arabic basics like counting and some common phrases. (Although if we were to visit Morocco for real we'd be unlikely to understand people because I guess the Moroccan Arabic dialect is pretty different.)

In any case, we reviewed how to count to 10 in standard Arabic, as well as how to say "please" and "thank you."

What we spent most of our time on today was Tamazight, which we'd never heard of before today and probably you haven't, either. Past rulers have tried to ban it, but it's spoken by 40% of Moroccans and was made an official language of Morocco in 2011.

Tamazight (tah-mah-ZEECHT) is the language of the Amazigh people, who've lived in Northern Africa since basically the dawn of time. You might have heard of them being called the Berbers or the Moors, but what they've always called themselves is the Amazigh (pronounced ah-mah-ZEER, with a French-sounding 'r.')

We watched this short video explaining the fight for Amazigh recognition in Morocco, and then this longer, more comprehensive one called "Who Are the Berbers of North Africa?" that went a mile over the younger kids' heads but was interesting to my teenagers.

Then we learned to count to ten in Tamazight. It was not easy, probably because it bore little similarity to any of the languages we'd attempted to learn before.

Shifting back to Arabic, I explained that one of the reasons Arabic is so important in Morocco is because Morocco is an Islamic country. And the Islamic holy book, the Quran, is never translated into other languages... so if you don't know Arabic, you can't read it!

We reviewed the pillars of Islam project we did last week, and then Googled some images of Muslim prayer mats and talked about how they are used. We discussed how there is always some kind of point or dome in the design to point to Mecca when you lay it out on the floor, and then each of the kids designed their own.

Mat designed by my 4-year-old. Template is a free download here.

My 4-year-old wanted to know what the words at the bottom said, so I told him "It says 'Karima's Crafts.' Karima is the lady who made this mat for you to color."

Confused, he pointed at the 'www' part of the URL and asked, "But why does it say 'wuh wuh wuh?'"

From top, clockwise: 16-year-old, 12-year-old, 8-year-old, 14-year-old, 6-year-old.


Today we talked about some of the arts in Morocco.

There are a famous styles of traditionally Moroccan music, one of them being Berber music. We listened to a sample, got hypnotized, and woke up three days later.

The other is Moroccan chaabi music. Apparently chaabi isn't the same thing as belly dancing, but it looked a lot like it to my untrained eye. I tried to find a video to show my kids that wasn't too salacious and settled on this one. I waited for their reaction after the video, which was about 4 seconds of complete silence and then one, "That was weird."

I asked if the kids had ever heard of snake charmers. They're a common sight in Marrakesh or wherever you can find street performers in Morocco.

We watched a video of a Moroccan snake charmer at work and then I broke their bubble by reading "15 Things You Didn't Know About Snake Charming." Spoiler alert: the music doesn't actually charm the snakes, and most of them are mistreated and physically altered so they don't hurt the owners. #thetruthhurts

The type of snake most often used in Moroccan snake charming is the king cobra, both because it's the slowest and most sluggish of the big snakes, and because the hood makes it appear scarier. We read about them in King Cobras by James E. Gerholdt, and then my kids especially enjoyed Who Would Win? Komodo Dragon vs. King Cobra because we just learned about komodo dragons last week in Indonesia.

The last Moroccan art we learned about was henna. Dye from the henna tree is applied in an intricate design on women's hands and feet for special occasions, which stains the skin and stays for 2-3 weeks.

(Fun story: when we visited a mosque a few years back, my girls were offered henna tattoos on their hands and I said fine, thinking it would last for a few days. It didn't wear off for A MONTH.)

We watched this video of henna being done (at 1.5 playback speed:)

Then for my favorite part, I let the kids peruse this awesome page explaining the different design elements of henna, and let them try it out.

Some chose to trace their hand on paper and draw a design on it:

Some chose to take it up a notch and use themselves as an actual canvas:

The best part of my 4-year-old's week was getting permission to do this.

Some requested a sibling or mom to take a Sharpie to their hand:

And some of us totally phoned it in because they thought this was a dumb activity and just wanted to go play Minecraft:

For dinner that night we had Moroccan chickpea stew, which I made a ton of and no one really liked.

Leftovers for days.

Tonight's bedtime story was The Storyteller by Evan Turk, about how stories are as vital as water to the life of a desert city in Morocco. Not sure how much of the symbolism got through to the kids, but I liked it.


Did you know there are two Spanish cities at the tip of Morocco? Cueta and Melilla are port cities that are technically part of Spain, so anyone from those cities can just walk (well, take a ferry) right across the Strait of Gibraltar into mainland Spain without a passport. There are some pretty high fences around those two cities.

We found the Strait of Gibraltar on the map, and then we talked about the argan trees that only grow in Morocco at the base of the Atlas Mountains.

I knew my kids would love this video on the famous "tree goats" of Morocco, and we also learned a lot about argan oil and why shampoo that contains it is so expensive.

The Sahara Desert starts in southern Morocco and expands across a big portion of Africa. For the younger kids, I cut out cardboard camels and stuck wooden dowels to the back of them. While they colored blankets for the camels' backs and the older kids tried to make an origami camel, I read them some camel facts from this website and a picture book called Baby Camels.

After the younger kids took their camels out in the sandbox to play "Sahara Desert," and I tried to jump in and do some origami with the older ones.

As per usual, trying to follow origami tutorials online makes me feel like I have two left hands and only half a brain. It's only thanks to the heavy help of my son that I was able to produce the world's wonkiest-looking camel.

At least they can all stand up. Sort of.

I was excited to watch this 26-minute documentary on the Marathon des Sables, mostly because Phillip is a runner and I wanted to see his reaction. The Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) is an ultra-marathon that covers 150 miles over 5-6 days in the Sahara. Oh, yeah, and the participants have to run it carrying all their supplies on their backs.

For dinner we had chicken bastilla, which we billed to the 6-year-old as "chicken cake" so he'd eat it.

Probably the most interest meal I've ever mad, taste-wise.

This was a lot of work to assemble, so I actually made part of it yesterday to cut down on today's prep work. The finished bastilla was kind of savory and kind of sweet... how do you describe a dish that contains both chicken and powdered sugar??

Traditionally, Moroccans would gather around the bastilla and everyone would eat with their hands from their side of the dish. But kids are gross, so we didn't do that.

After the younger kids went to bed, we watched Casablanca, an old classic that I've actually never seen before. But it takes place in the city of Casablanca, Morocco, and that was a good enough excuse for me. I know cinematic history has already decided this, but I thought the movie was fabulous.


Tourists to Morocco often visit the "blue city" of Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains. I read that it's mostly painted blue because it was a Jewish refuge in the 1930s, and legend says blue is the color of heaven. We watched this video, noting the unusually large number of cats:

Apparently, Morocco has a bit of a street cat problem. There are cats everywhere, just google "cats of Morocco" or "cats of Marrakesh." People visit there just to take pictures of the cats.

My kids love cats, so I gave them the books Super Cats: True Stories of Felines That Made History
and Cats: Eyewitness Handbooks (which is 245 pages of pictures of cats of all breeds, my kids were in heaven.) I tried not to dwell on the fact that stray cats are often dirty, diseased, malnourished, or suffering from infections and just let them enjoy thinking about cute kitties.

We learned about the leather tanneries of Fes, where things haven't changed much since medieval times and it looks like hard and smelly work.

We learned about prehistoric rock art in the Sahara that dates back 5,000 years and is curiously not cave painting, but rock carving.

We ended up in the Draa Valley, where dates are grown and there is a date festival every October. Dates are a major crop in Morocco. 90,000 tons of them are exported every year, the most popular and expensive being the Medjool date.

For an activity, we decided to make a date-based treat, and settled on this chocolate milkshake. We actually buy an obscene amount of dates already, because we love them in smoothies and it's one of the few high-calorie foods our 6-year-old actually likes. But I bought the pitted kind this time so the kids could have the full experience of taking out the pits before adding them to the milkshakes.

Tasted just like chocolate ice cream.


You can't learn about Morocco without learning about Moroccan rugs, so that was our final stop today.

We watched this video and this one on the rug-making process for the Beni Ourain tribes of Morocco, who are known for producing the finest Moroccan rugs.

The younger kids wove paper mats while the big kids researched the currency of Morocco. They copied the bills and made Moroccan dirham, figured out the exchange rats for USD, and then set prices for the woven "rugs" the little ones made.

Moroccan dirham, my kids tell me.

I helped the little kids set up shop on the piano bench and encouraged them to play souk, a.k.a. market or store.

We planned to make Moroccan couscous tonight (well, sort of; Phillip can't have gluten so we were going to substitute quinoa for couscous) but ran out of time. It's a lamb dish that has to simmer for a couple of hours so we're going to try it tomorrow, since it really does sound yummy.

Overall, visiting Morocco was pretty awesome! I was surprised by how much I liked the food and I learned some truly interesting facts. Oh, and now the kids have a new life goal to go there and see the cats.
This Morocco unit study is packed with activities, crafts, book lists, and recipes for kids of all ages! Make learning about Morocco in your homeschool even more fun with these free ideas and resources. #Morocco #homeschool
Building the perfect Morocco 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 Morocco activities, crafts, books, and free printables for teachers and educators! #Morocco #lessonplan
Learning about Morocco is fun and hands-on with these free crafts, ideas, and activities for kids! #Morocco #educational

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Friday, July 31, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Water Balloons, How Not to Enjoy a Movie Classic, and Fun Ways to Pass an Hour When You Don't Like Being Comfortable

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


We had our annual Evans family water balloon fight. We only do it once a summer because, like camping, it's fun but requires so much prep work  I can only take doing it once every 365 days.

We make it big, though. We fill about 300 balloons (which probably sounds like a lot but keep in mind there are 8 of us,) put them in buckets on opposing sides of the yard, and split up into teams and launch the water balloons across the divide.

Usually we wait for a Saturday but this time Phillip snuck out of the house on his lunch break to participate, then went back in (working from home is the bessssssst) while the kids and I picked up all the teeny tiny balloon pieces scattered in the yard.

"Why doesn't Daddy have to help clean up?!" my indignant 8-year-old moaned.

I didn't even have to say anything before my older kids jumped to his defense: "Because he's working to buy you water balloons and water."

Well said.


For the first time, I watched Casablanca. The impetus for this was visiting Morocco for The Educational Summer Vacation, where Casablanca is set. The connection may be tenuous, but it's still there.

I loved the movie, even though I had a little trouble following what was going on all the time because I'm not exactly well-versed in my WWII politics. It didn't help that my 12-year-old was oblivious to the fact that talking nonstop over the characters in a movie where literally ALL the action happens through dialogue does not improve the viewing experience.

I missed THE MOMENT, the "maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life" moment because he was talking about the stairs on movie sets. I was so irritated and re-watched the last 10 minutes by myself after everyone went to bed.

Just in case you think you'll get to enjoy movies more when you no longer have to get up to take preschoolers to the bathroom in the middle of it: you won't.


With school out and not much going on, the kids are finding themselves with lots of time on their hands to work on projects of their own invention.

One idea they recently had is to write and record a scene, then do the sound effects separately like Foley artists. One of them may or may not be learning how to use a bow staff in preparation for the scene. I don't really understand what's going on.

If you don't know what Foley is, I highly recommend watching this video. You'll never look at the sounds in a movie the same way again.


The older kids recently binge-watched the entire first season of "The Mandalorian" with Phillip, and now all they can talk about is Baby Yoda. (Now I know what the entire Internet was going nuts over in December.)

Right now they're in the process of trying to convince the youngest to be Baby Yoda for Halloween, and having intense negotiations about which one of them gets to be the Mandalorian.

They've even toyed with the idea of the oldest three being the Mandalorian and the youngest three being Baby Yodas, although the 8-year-old would end up being more of a Tween Yoda and I'm not sure if that even works.


This week we began training the rats to do their very first trick. We're keeping it simple and teaching them to come when we call.

Not only will it be fun to teach Piper and Scout something, I can envision it being useful when one of them escapes from the kids and we need to lure it back to the cage.

Speaking of the rats, the kids continue to invent toys for them. Rats are smart animals that get bored easily and like new challenges, so it's perfect. Their latest is a plastic cup suspended from the cage ceiling with treats in it.

As it turns out, this is every bit as entertaining for us to watch as it is for them trying to figure it out.


Recently our youth organization at church got the okay to hold in-person activities again as long as everyone wears a mask and the group is no larger than 10 people. (I personally am not comfortable with indoor activities so everything I plan will be outside for the time being.)

This week we had an lawn movie night with a projector, and it was pretty great to see all the girls in person instead of just over Zoom or Google Hangouts for the first time since March!


Believe it or not, I'd forgotten how much I hate activity planning. The list of things that can go wrong during any given activity is infinite. So you try to anticipate what might go wrong, but not only does that make you crazy, it doesn't really even help because no matter what you do, there's still something you didn't think of  and that's the thing that happens.


When my teenagers had their dental cleanings, the waiting room was closed because of COVID-19 so I stood and waited in the hallway.

After 15 minutes standing started to get uncomfortable and I thought about going out to sit in the car, but I stuck around because the hygienist always comes out to ask permission to take X-rays or put on fluoride or something.

A little while later, I said to myself, "Well, they're probably close to done now." Ten minutes after that, I was like, "Okay, I guess I actually would've had time to go out to the car before but they're definitely almost done now."

Repeat that thought process a bunch more times and suddenly you've been standing outside the dentist's office for an hour and your back is killing you. What was the most fun YOU had this week?

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Educational Summer Vacation: Studying Indonesia

This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase using them the cost stays the same to you but I receive a small commission for referring you. Thanks, guys!

Every week of summer vacation, my kids and I take an imaginary trip around the world. We learn everything we can about the geography, language, and culture of a place, which keeps the kids' brains active and gives them something to do other than fight over popsicles.

This week, my kids wanted to "travel" to Indonesia. I know basically nothing about Indonesia, so I learned a lot in preparation!

Knowing how my kids will read anything if it's in their line of sight, I left out the nonfiction book Indonesia from the Enchantment of the World series and a semi-educational graphic novel called Carmen SanDiego: The Sticky Rice Caper. I'm sneaky like that.


Indonesia is called "the Emerald of the Equator." Depending on who you're talking to, the country consists of between 13,000 to 18,000 islands. It's the 4th most populated country in the world.

We listened to a traditional Indonesian gamelan orchestra (which my daughter said reminded her a little of Minecraft music) while the kids found Indonesia on our giant wall map and filled out a passport page while I read parts of Indonesia from the Country Explorers series.

Download the Passport Pages

My 6-year-old felt that "Indonesia" contained too many letters to write and did not enjoy this exercise.

Next, the kids drew the Indonesian flag. It's the reverse of Poland's flag, which we did last summer, so the kids have been calling Indonesia "upside-down Poland" all week. I'm worried the younger ones might actually think it's called that now.

National flag of upside-down Poland.

After watching an animated video about Indonesia for the little kids, we watched a longer video that goes over the major islands of Indonesia one by one.

I gave each kid a blank map of Indonesia and had them label the different islands as the video named them. (My 12-year-old turned his into a paper airplane and the 4-year-old poked holes in it with a pencil, but everyone else seemed happy to comply.)

Then it was time to talk about a few parts of Indonesian culture I found interesting. We learned about hombo batu, an ancient ritual in Sumatra where young men jump over 6-foot walls. It was possibly less exciting to those of us who've spent a lot of time binge watching parkour videos on YouTube, but still impressive.

Then we dove into the world of Balinese dance with this video. We watched pendet, a dance done by girls to purify a temple. Then we watched baris, done by men about to go into battle:

Both dances were unlike anything my kids had ever seen before, and just watching the dancers' complicated hand motions gave me carpal tunnel.

For dinner we had tumpeng (Indonesian rice cones) with beef rendang. It wasn't as hard to make as the recipe led me to believe. It was a little bit of a time investment, but well worth it.

Definitely the most interesting-looking thing I've eaten all week.

My husband claims the beef rendang was the most flavorful thing he's ever eaten, which is really saying something because he's a total food snob.


Indonesia's official language, Bahasa Indonesia, is what kids learn in school and what official publications are printed in, but not many people use it as their first language. Most Indonesians prefer their regional dialects or languages instead.

We learned how to say "please" and "thank you" in Bahasa Indonesia and also how to count to 10. We reviewed it with this online Indonesian numbers game. After a few minutes, it really did help us commit the numbers to memory!

(The most widely-spoken language is Javanese, and we took a minute to do a Google images search for the Old Javanese alphabet. Today Javanese speakers use the Latin alphabet, but it really is a beautiful old style of calligraphy.)

We also learned about wayang kulit, an elaborate shadow puppet show accompanied by the gamelan orchestra. (Again with the gamelan orchestra. It's everywhere. I'm hearing it in my dreams.)

We watched a 2-minute documentary on wayang kulit. I intended to only show my kids a snippet of this 10-minute wayang kulit show but they wanted to watch the whole thing so that's what we did.

Then I gave them this list and told them to pick an Indonesian folk tale, and make their own wayang kulit to tell the story. Three of the kids took me up on it and I was truly impressed with the results.

What a mess.

Sheet taped across the doorway equals puppet theater.

I showed them this article to help them figure out how to make the puppets with hinged joints, which the younger kids played with for a ridiculous amount of time afterward.


Indonesia is a "megadiverse" country, meaning that it has not only a majority of Earth's species of plants and animals but also has species that aren't found anywhere else in the world.

Today, we wanted to learn more about some of those endemic species.

We looked up rafflesia, the world's biggest flower. As my daughter typed "world's biggest f-" into the YouTube search bar, the auto-complete feature suggested "world's biggest fart" and the kids had a field day. (We did NOT watch it, by the way, and instead chose to watch this one and this one.)

Then we looked up titan arum, better known as the corpse flower. This is the second Indonesian flower that looks freaky and smells like rotting meat.

We watched another video on the corpse flower, and then it was time to learn about something that would freak out my kids a little less. Or so I thought.

Turns out I didn't know very much about the komodo dragon, which is only found on a handful of Indonesian islands, because it's pretty weird, too.

I read Komodo Dragon: On Location to the younger kids while the older kids went online to research komodo dragons. Then they were supposed to either (1) write a "save the komodo dragons" informational brochure, or (2) write a story about a day in the life of a komodo dragon.

My 8-year-old's "day in the life" story was very thorough.

The 4- and 6-year-old colored pictures of komodo dragons I found online.

I also gave my kids the book How to Babysit an Orangutan by Tara and Kathy Darling, about raising orphaned baby orangutans at Camp Leakey in Borneo (Indonesia.) They loved the baby orangutans drinking out of bottles and acting like toddlers.

For dinner tonight, we had nasi goreng: Indonesian fried rice! I can't take credit for this one, as my husband did the cooking tonight.

Thumbs up from me.


There are 139 volcanoes in Indonesia. It's part of the Ring of Fire, so we read Ring of Fire by Leonard Hort to explain to the younger kids what that was.

My 14-year-old said one of her teachers made the class listen to Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" in its entirety when they learned about it in science, so I spared them that this time.

They did, however, insist that we watch Mr. DeMaio, who is as ridiculous as he is informative. Maybe more.

Then we covered three volcanic eruptions of historical importance that happened in Indonesia: Toba, Tambora, and Krakatoa.

In 70,000 BC, Mount Toba erupted in Indonesia and set off a global volcanic winter. The world's temperature dipped as many as 50 degrees for the next 3-10 years!

In 1815, Mount Tambora erupted and turned the next year into "the year without a summer." The kids perked up and said "Hey, that sounds familiar..." And they were right. A book about our church's history, actually starts with the Tambora eruption in 1815. The "year without a summer" is why our church's founder's family moved to New York, where our church was later organized in 1830. Guess we have more connections to Indonesia than we thought!

In 1883, the eruption of Mount Krakatoa is sometimes called the loudest sound in history. We watched a short video on it here and read The Krakatau Eruption.

As a hands-on activity, I thought it would be fun to make a volcano. But we'd already tried that a few summers ago and it was an abysmal failure. So I thought the Mentos and Diet Coke explosion might be a fun alternative.

Someone is taking a shower after this.


As a mom, my superpower is being wrong about what I think is going to be fun. The kids fought the whole time, got frustrated because the Mentos weren't sliding in right, complained because of the humidity and the bugs, and then it started raining at the end.

I'd been marinating some chicken satay since that morning, and once we were finished with the Mentos explosion Phillip fired up the grill.

While he was doing that, I grabbed a few kids to help me put together gado-gado, which literally means "mix mix" and is a platter of vegetables with peanut sauce.

Clockwise from top right: prawn chips, chicken satay, gado-gado, and peanut sauce.

It tasted divine and we basically smothered everything in leftover peanut sauce for the next two days until it was gone.


Even though Indonesia is mostly Muslim and has the world's biggest Muslim population, it isn't an Islamic state. So things are a bit different there than in many parts of the Middle East.

We reviewed what we knew about Islam with the book Islam from the Eyewitness Books series, and then decided to get more familiar with the five pillars of Islam.

There are five main tenets (called pillars) of Islam: shahada (profession of faith,) salat (prayer,) zakat (almsgiving,) sawm (fasting,) and hajj (pilgrimage.) You can read more about them here.

We decided to make literal 3D pillars representing each one. I printed out five Islamic patterns in black and white that I found with a Google image search, and the kids colored them while we talked about the five pillars.

When they were done, they each labeled their pillar and the sixth kid put 'ISLAM' on top of the pillars.

I had the perfect number of children for this activity.

Not a bad visual representation if I do say so myself.


This morning we played badminton, which is sometimes called the national sport of Indonesia. I'd been wondering if we should get a set so we could have something new to do around home this summer, and then when I learned this I went ahead and bought this net and these rackets.

(The rackets were more expensive than I'd like, but I knew my frustration-prone 4-year-old would have  instantly destroyed the cheap ones by throwing them on the ground.)

After attempting to play badminton, we tried our hand at batik dyeing.

Batik is an ancient method of fabric decoration in Java, Indonesia. It comes from the Javanese word tik, which means "dot."

It's a wax resist method, and if you've ever drawn with crayons on Easter eggs before dipping them in the dye then you already get the idea.

We've actually been doing batik egg dying at Easter for years, ever since we learned about it when "visiting" Ukraine for our Educational Summer Vacation in 2012. So we already had beeswax lying around and more or less understood the principle.

I didn't want to buy batik dye which can be expensive, so I got the cheap Rit all-purpose fabric dye. Or at least I tried to. At JoAnn, the shelves with the fabric dye looked like this:

Nothing but tumbleweeds in the fabric aisle.

I grabbed the few colors they had and decided we'd make do. At least it made for easy decision-making.

Using these instructions as our guide, we laid out our fabric squares, melted wax, painted the wax onto the squares with dollar store paintbrushes (they were a beast to clean off afterward and I probably should've just thrown them away.)

Melting the wax in a makeshift double boiler.

Wax designs on our fabric before the dye. We used black wax and white wax, but they both look the same when they're done.

Dipping the fabric into the dye.

The finished products.

The wax adhered better to some than others and turned out lighter on some of them.

After they dry, we're going to make them into face masks, since we'll need more when/if school starts again in the fall. (I anticipate my children losing their masks left and right, if they're anything like mittens and gloves.)

For dinner, I made soto ayam. That's fancy for Indonesian chicken noodle soup.

I've eaten more hard-boiled eggs this week than I usually do in a month.

It was okay. The spices added a new dimension to regular chicken noodle soup, but this recipe didn't really have any vegetables so it felt like something was missing.

Overall, we had a great time visiting Indonesia. We learned a lot, had some really good food, and did some fun activities. And no one enjoyed it more than my 6-year-old, who pelts unsuspecting people we meet with komodo dragon facts until they are literally searching for an escape route.
Learning about Indonesia and Bali is fun and hands-on with these free crafts, ideas, and activities for kids! #indonesia #bali #educational
Building the perfect Indonesia 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 Indonesia and bali activities, crafts, books, and free printables for teachers and educators! #indonesia #bali #lessonplan
This Indonesia unit study is packed with activities, crafts, book lists, and recipes for kids of all ages! Make learning about Indonesia in your homeschool even more fun with these free ideas and resources. #indonesia #bali #homeschool

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Friday, July 24, 2020

7 Quick Takes about New Minivan Rides, Adventures in Grocery Shopping, and Weird Times in the Animal Kingdom

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


We got a new (to us) van! Our old one, bless its heart, should have been put out of its misery years ago. May it rest in peace.

Saluting the old van as it drives away for the last time.

We traded it in for the new van (and by "traded it in," I mean "got $250 taken off the purchase price because the dealer said he would sell it to a junkyard") and honestly, Phillip and I felt a little sad about leaving it there.

In the 12 years we owned that van, we added four babies to our family, took camping trips and cross-country road trips, and generally just lived a lot of life in that car. Each dent in the exterior had a story, and unfortunately so did most of the stains around the kids' carseats. If you looked closely, you could even see the names of my 16-year-old and her best friend from kindergarten scratched above the driver's side rear wheel.

Circa 2008, when our family looked tiny and the van was new (to us.)

That thing was a workhorse that literally gave its life in the service of our family.


The only catch in getting the new van was that first we had to get there. It was an hour away, on a 93-degree day, and we made the drive in our old van without A/C.

Despite feeling a little woozy from some minor heatstroke (I'm not even joking about this,) we made it, bought the van, and enjoyed a much quieter and cooler ride home.

Our new van!

We've been a two-car family for about 4 years now, and the new van we got is an 8-seater so we can all fit. To celebrate, we immediately piled everyone in the car and went to the beach.


One thing we were unaware of until just recently was that in 2008, a new law was passed requiring vehicle head restraints to be uncomfortable torture devices. Every single car built now is equipped with headrests that slant forward at a sadistic angle.

I get that it's to protect your neck from whiplash if you get in an accident, but it literally prevents me from holding my head up straight which is NOT HOW YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DRIVE.

I didn't notice it at first, but 30 minutes into the ride home my neck started to hurt and I realized it was because of those dumb headrests.

It got worse over the next few days and I was in physical pain from driving the car. I tried everything, including adjusting every possible setting on the seat and headrest, buying and returning back supports and neck pillows on Amazon, and sobbing into my hands crying "What have we done?!?"

After all that, I finally think I found a position that is tolerable (comfortable, even?) as long as I don't have a ponytail or any kind of hairstyle in my hair. Ideal? Not really, since I don't even remember what people do with hair besides put it in a ponytail. But I will deal.

One of my kids also says the head restraints drive her crazy, but says it's okay if she has a pillow to put behind her back. The others are too short to hit the headrests or apparently have awful posture to begin with, which I guess is a separate problem that seems to be working for them in this particular instance.


Remember how we bought a replacement toilet seat last week? Well, we needed a second one for the kids' bathroom, too.

You can't go into your Amazon account and click the "Buy It Again" button on a toilet seat with a straight face. Heck yes, I want to buy it again! Give me more of this toilet seeeeeeaaaaat!

When it came in the mail, one of the kids opened it (probably to see if there was anything good inside) and left it sitting on the kitchen counter, and since I hadn't gotten around to moving it, it was sitting there as my daughter I were cooking dinner.

"I need more counter space," she complained. "I have to set this bowl of food down but I don't want to put it on the toilet seat."

"It's clean," I shrugged, clearly being the orderly, on-top-of-it mom I always dreamed I would be.

She wrinkled her nose. "I know, but you know how 'a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?' It's like that... but the opposite."

She had a point. I moved the toilet seat.


In non toilet-related cooking news, we've been "visiting" Indonesia for our Educational Summer Vacation this week and making a ton of yummy Indonesian food.

More details on that in my Saturday night country update, but in the meantime I'll tell you that I cleared out the Asian section of the grocery store and then made a separate trip to the Asian market in town to get everything else I couldn't find.

I love going to the Asian market. 

I'm usually the only white person there, drifting cluelessly from aisle to aisle and trying to stay out of the way of the people purposefully shopping who actually know what's in half the bottles and boxes on the shelves.

I feel like I'm pulling a fast one over on everyone, because guess what: I can't read any of the signage telling me what aisle I'm in or any of the labels on the products! I'm literally just wandering around pretending I'm supposed to be here!

I bought these and I'm only 70% sure they're prawn chips.

I always feel like I'm getting away with something when I pay for my stuff and the cashier lets me go without comment, as if I know what any of it is or what I'm doing with it.


Over here we 'e really enjoying having pet rats and think they have the most adorable little faces. About 60% of our conversations are about how cute they are.

I overheard this the other day:

12-year-old: [holding Scout and doing an impression of Gollum going "My precious!"]

14-year-old: You know, the rats and the ring from Lord of the Rings are a lot alike. They're both tiny and get lost easily. They also do unexpected things, like turn you invisible or have a bunch of babies.


Speaking of babies, in studying Indonesia we're learning about the komodo dragon.

What. The. Heck.

Komodo dragons are ridiculous. How is this species still even alive? Apparently if they can't find a mate, female komodo dragons can reproduce asexually... but then all the babies are male. So male komodo dragons outnumber the females 3:1.

How does that even work? The animal kingdom is so weird.

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