Avoid Buying Baby Products With These Ingredients

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My blog deals with homeschooling, but part of a thriving homeschool is to keep health and safety at the forefront. Many moms of babies are preparing to homeschool by doing lots of research on the internet. This post is for them.

When it comes to your baby’s health, you can’t afford to make any mistakes. There is a huge industry built around soaps and skin products for your baby and they all claim to be healthy for them. If you’ve ever looked into the dangers of your own skin products, you’ll probably know that isn’t true. Continue reading »

There are all sorts of chemicals found in some of these products that you definitely don’t want to expose your baby to. The problem is, when you read the labels, it might as well be written in another language.

You can’t be expected to know what all of these weird and wonderful chemicals are, so how are you supposed to choose the right products? Here is a handy list of the most dangerous ingredients that you should avoid at all costs.

Talc

Talc is a pretty common ingredient that most people don’t realize is dangerous. It’s added to a lot of baby powders and most parents don’t consider it a problem, but it is. Studies into the effects of talc have shown that it can cause irritation of the lungs and there is a possibility that it might be carcinogenic. Since these findings were released a lot of companies have stopped using talc so if you take the time to look you can easily find safe baby powders.

 

Fragrance

Fragrance of any kind in skin products can be irritating to adults so imagine what they do to the far more sensitive skin of babies, especially during winter. The problem is that lots of companies just list a non-descript fragrance on the ingredients so there’s no telling what it actually is. That’s because most of them are made from petroleum related products which aren’t going to be good for your baby’s skin. The other problem with fragrances is that they’re often used to mask the bad smell of another nasty chemical that’s in there so it’s always advisable to steer well clear of anything with a fragrance. They can also be a cause of asthma in young children which will be a long term health condition. There are loads of good perfume free soaps and skin products for babies on the market so you shouldn’t have trouble finding something that’s good. As well as soap and skin products, fragrances are added to things like diapers and wet wipes so make sure you check anything that touches your baby.

 

Parabens

Parabens are unfortunately one of the most common ingredients that are found in all sorts of things. Soaps, body wash, shampoos, and conditioners all contain parabens a lot of the time so be wary. They are neurotoxins that have been linked to all sorts of problems like skin irritation and hormone disruption which can seriously affect your child’s development. Instead of buying stuff with parabens in, look for things like Mustela face cream that are made with all natural products. They don’t rely on parabens, they use things like Jojoba Oil, Shea Butter, and Avocado which are far healthier for your baby.

 

Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol is often found in skin products because it is an absorption agent. It opens up the pores and helps the skin to absorb all of the other ingredients in the product. Unfortunately, it’s really not something that you want to expose your baby to. There is a chance that it might be carcinogenic so best not to use anything that contains it. The most common place that you’ll find it is in baby wipes so you should either look for ones that don’t contain it or just use warm water and fragrance free soap instead.

 

Mineral Oil

Baby oil is a product that most parents use and it’s generally considered to be good for the skin, but the reality is very different. Baby oil is essentially a mixture of mineral oil and fragrances. We’ve already established that fragrances are bad news, but what about mineral oil? Mineral oil is a cheap byproduct of petroleum processing and it causes problems with the skin. It essentially blocks up all of the pores in the skin, stopping your baby from releasing any harmful toxins. Using oils on your baby’s skin is a good idea because it keeps them moisturized but you should go for a more natural option like coconut oil or olive oil.

 

Triclosan

Anything that claims to antibacterial probably has triclosan in it. It’s tricky for parents because it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that keeping your baby away from any bacteria is a good thing, but it isn’t. First off, Triclosan is harmful to the environment and again, it has been suggested that it might be carcinogenic. On top of that, raising babies in a completely bacteria free environment can actually do them more harm than good. The immune system essentially goes through training when it’s exposed to small amounts of natural bacteria. This is how it becomes stronger as they grow up. If you remove every last bit of bacteria, they won’t build a strong immunity and they’ll be more prone to illnesses. It also increases the chance of them developing allergies which cannot be reversed very easily.

 

1,4 Dioxane

This is a very tricky ingredient because it’s not usually listed on the label, even though it’s present in around 57 percent of baby soaps. It’s usually an unplanned by product of two other chemicals so it’s hard to spot, but not impossible. Anything with polyethylene in is likely to contain 1,4 Dioxane so best to avoid it.

It’s an absolute nightmare trying to find decent, healthy products for your baby. There are so many companies out there and they all claim that their product is the best for your baby, but the truth is, you can’t really trust any of them. What you should be doing instead is checking all of the labels yourself and making your own decisions based on the ingredients alone. Don’t let yourself get affected by marketing, just do what’s best for your baby.   


What Makes a Good Fundraiser?

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Recently, KSYO asked me to join their fundraiser team of parents and staff. I am not looking for things to do, but it was hard to refuse. I like this organization and what they are doing for my children. I accepted and then started researching a bit how I can help.

Fundraisers are notoriously difficult to get right. No matter how hard you work, there is always something waiting to go wrong for you. However, real persistence and a willingness to go the extra mile can pay off big time. You first need to start thinking about what makes a good school fundraiser. When you know what success would look like, you can start putting the right plans in place. Here are some of the things that help make a good fundraiser.

 

Fun

First and foremost, your school fundraiser has to be a lot of fun. Otherwise, why would anyone even want to get involved or play a part? It might seem like an obvious thing to point out, but you’d be surprised by the number of school fundraisers that truly are no fun at all. All that will do is sour the experience and ensure people don’t come back next time. It’s important to think about the long-term, not just the here and now.

 

Something Out of the Ordinary

Most people and most parents have been to a million school fundraisers before. That means they don’t want to be presented with the same old stuff and the same old ideas that they’ve seen a million times before. Do something out of the ordinary if you want to get people talking about your fundraiser and turning up in higher numbers. To put it simply, don’t be boring.

 

Prizes to be Won

No school fundraiser would be complete without a raft of prizes waiting to be given away. You definitely need to make sure the prizes you’ve got lined up are appealing to the kinds of families and parents that are most likely to show up to this whole thing. Head to https://www.the-fund-raiser.com/how-to-personalize-wine-gift-baskets/ if you want some gift basket ideas. Put thought and care into the selections you make.

Science Fair as Fundraiser

Image Source

 

A Strong Venue

You’re going to need to have a good venue lined up for your fundraising event because if you don’t, it might not be suited to what you’re trying to achieve. Make it somewhere that people will find easy to get to. And don’t forget to think about all the logistical things such as car parking. All these things matter a lot, and they shouldn’t be swept to one side. Continue reading »

 

Awareness

Finally, you need to make sure that people are actually aware of what you’re doing and when this whole fundraiser is actually taking place. If they don’t know about all those things, no will show up. It really is as simple as that. Learn how to market an even properly at https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/how-to-market-an-event/. It could turn out to be one of the most important aspects of all because you’ll raise no funds if no one shows up.

 

Clearly, it’s not easy to get your fundraiser right. But it can be done. Make sure that your school fundraiser covers all of these points and gets people out in numbers for the event and festivities.


Stockholm Technology Museum

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Tekniska Museet is the Swedish name for this museum in Stockholm, Sweden, which features a mathematical garden outside, and two floors of interactive exhibits covering physics, chemistry, biology, robotics, computer science etc. In other words, a STEM museum.

Tekniska Museet

One of the installations in the mathematical garden. Preschoolers and their vests in the foreground.

There is also a large collection of early innovations showing the history of technology since the 18th century, e.g. an old printing press, sewing machine, early MacIntosh computer, automobile and so on. All the exhibits have iPads where one can select the language of the presentation, either Swedish or English.

Continue reading »

We spent three hours in there and still felt like our kids could have spent even more time there without getting bored. In fact, they were very sorry that we had to leave.

Moving ball with your brain

If you relaxed enough, you could move the ball with your mind.

The museum is free on Wednesdays from 5pm-8pm. All other times there is a fee for anybody over the age of 6. We did not go there on a Wednesday because we made other plans for our Wednesdays and then it was too late. Oh well.

We saw several groups of preschoolers come in. They would have been free any day. And they were adorable.

Side note: preschoolers in Sweden are super-cute in their fluorescent vests which they don over their rain jackets. They hold hands two by two and usually come in groups of 10-12, accompanied by at least two preschool teachers. It’s a cute, cute sight, let me tell you.

Climbing Wall at Tekniska Museet

Interactive climbing wall

I would have taken pictures of them but I did not know if this were not against the law. Sweden has some pretty strict rules on photographing children. So I settled for taking pictures of my children and, if any preschoolers happen to walk by, oh well. Not my fault or intention.

At the bus stop, one of the little girls looked straight at me and started talking. Unfortunately, I did not understand what she said. I smiled at her and said, “Really?” in Swedish. She nodded.

The Nautilus Slide in the Mathematical Garden

The Nautilus Slide in the Mathematical Garden

When the bus turned a corner and Grona Lund appeared in the distance, they all started pointing and shouting, “Grona Lund! Grona Lund!” Grona Lund is an amusement park in Stockholm and its rides and pointed towers can be seen from this particular boulevard our bus was traveling on.

Here are some of the things our children did there: they smelled different substances; looked through screens to see how different animals see; built virtual garments from vintage fabric within a certain budget; moved a ball with their mind; talked to a robot who talked back; learned about synapses in the brain; climbed a wall and got instant feedback from the computer that was telling them how to change the route; rested in a “resting room” where music and lights change in a certain way, which is supposed to spark creativity and a new thought and too many other things to mention.


Legoland, Billund

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When you think of LEGO bricks and Legoland, you think of toys and playtime, right? Right. But LEGO bricks are so much more than a toy. Children gain a lot of knowledge about the world around them when they play with LEGO bricks.

Legoland Billund

My husband took this picture of us.

A visit to Legoland is always fun, but it can also help you focus your child on building if you have ventured too much into screen time. Many people get lured into “educational video games” and forget all about the box of LEGO bricks they have in the corner of the play room. I say it is time to give LEGO bricks another chance. Your child will find the joy of building and story telling all over again.

Miniland Legoland Billund

My favorite part of the park was Miniland.

I have always wanted to take my children to the closest Legoland to us, which is in Florida. We never made it. Instead, we visited the Legoland Discovery Centery in Atlanta. Continue reading »

It was great, but small and, well, just a Discovery Center.

Dragon Castle Legoland Billund

My husband and children went on rides together. I don’t do roller coasters.

When I realized that we would be in Sweden for 23 days, I knew we should be able to make it to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark, where the LEGO Group got started. Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter and toy maker, realized his biggest success were interlocking wooden blocks. As he perfected his product, with help from his four sons who played with the blocks, plastics were becoming more available. This was happening in the 1930s and 1940s. The LEGO brick went from wood to plastic and the world was never the same.

Legoland Billund Driver's License Course

The first thing they wanted to do was to get their LEGO Driver’s License.

Today, LEGO is the world’s most powerful brand. The company’s motto, created by Christiansen, is “The best is never too good.” He encouraged his employees not to skimp on quality. I wonder what would happen in my homeschool if I took that as my motto.

I am not talking about perfectionism here. Just an insistence on quality. Quality time with the children when they need me, quality books, quality curriculum, quality meals etc. In our quest to “do it all,” I fear that we skimp on quality just so we can get the quantity done.

Girl at Miniland Legoland Billund Boy at Miniland Legoland Billund

I don’t know how that applies in your homeschool, but I have a pretty good idea how that translates for mine. And that, my friends, is why we travel. So that when we come back, we can see our lives in a new light, and challenge ourselves to go to the next level.


Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights

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One of our goals in traveling to Sweden for our family vacation this year was to see the northern lights, or aurora borealis. Growing up with the story of Fram, the polar bear, by Cezar Petrescu, I loved the words “aurora borealis.” I did not know what they meant, but I knew it had something to do with special lights one can see way up there, beyond the arctic circle.

Aurora Borealis in Sweden

The northern lights as we saw them in Abisko National Park.

I wanted my children to understand the phenomenon before we witnessed it, so we read up on it on the internet and saw some pictures. Of course, we had no idea if we were actually going to get to see them. Three factors must be there for you to see them and one of them is a clear sky. Continue reading »

The weather in Kiruna did not look promising during the month of September, when we were going to be there.

Aurora Borealis Sweden

Pictures do not do justice to the dance of the lights we saw that night.

My Swedish friend and I talked it over and we realized it would have taken too long for us to take a train from Stockholm to Kiruna, the most northern Swedish city. So we booked a flight. It cut the travel time down to a fraction, i.e. from 15 hours to 70 minutes. Not bad, especially when you are running out of vacation days and still have so many other things to see. We flew with SAS going to Kiruna and with Norwegian coming back to Stockholm. We would have taken Norwegian both ways, but they do not fly there every day.

We found a company, appropriately called Kiruna Guidetur, which offered northern light tours as well as many other packages. We wanted to see Abisko National Park and the northern lights. Those were two separate tours we paid for and they happened on two different days. However, we ended up in Abisko on both days and here’s why.

It’s a funny thing… When it rains in Kiruna, you can bet it is dry in Abisko, toward the Norwegian border. Something to do with the geography of the land and the currents of air etc. Our tour guide knew how to give us the best chance to see the northern lights: he drove us way out of Kiruna, into the Abisko National Park, where it is always dry. And that is why you pay for a local to take you around.

He picked us up from the hotel where we were staying and brought us back. There were five of us: our family of four and my Swedish friend, Connie. The van could seat nine, so there was plenty of room. Our tour guide prepared an open-fire meal: lentil soup with Gouda cheese sandwiches on Polar bread (a Swedish specialty made of rye, beloved by Swedish children especially) and warm lingonberry juice.

We danced for joy under the northern lights. Our guide was happy for us, as well. He told us many people come chasing the lights and they only get to see them on their fifth or sixth attempt.

Needless to say, we were very thankful and humbled that our prayers were answered that night. We took pictures which do not do justice to the show we saw that night, had our delicious meal, and headed back home to our hotel rooms. Mission accomplished!


Junibacken and Skansen

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We are still in Stockholm. The best activity so far for the children has been Skansen. Then, we went to Junibacken and they loved it just as much. Skansen is the world’s oldest open air museum. You can see Swedish homesteads representing different geographical regions and eras. Like time capsules, these homes and the farms around them have preserved the specific details of Swedish culture. Actors dressed in traditional garb for their period and location will tell you the story of that particular homestead.

Family on the bridge to Djurgarden

On the bridge to Djurgarden

They also have a petting zoo and then another zoo dedicated to Nordic animals like brown bear, elk (or moose), reindeer, lynx, wolf, wolverine, owls etc. The kids spent a lot of time in front of the huge tank for seals, as the seals jumped out of the water a couple of times. For really small children, they have an area called Little Skansen, with indoor-outdoor play zones also filled with animals like rabbits and hens. Continue reading »

Their restaurants offer vegetarian options. We had lunch outside nearby a pond and these ducks came to us and insisted on being fed. A peacock joined them as well. Unfortunately, we witnessed a shocking event: one of the ducks jumped on a sparrow and ate it up. It was incredible. When we went home, we researched this on the internet and found out that mallard ducks in other parts of the world have also been found to eat small birds in an attempt to get a quick bite of protein. Nature lessons abound everywhere.

We took a boat ride on the way back to the metro station. This ferry is called Djurgarden – the island’s name. It is a short 15-minute ride with only two stops, but it gives you a superb view of the archipelago. Your Access card which works for local transportation (bus, metro, tramway) all over Stockholm will also cover this boat ride.

Junibacken is a fun house for children based on classic Swedish stories. The idea is to inspire little children to read. Parents can read stories to their children and then bring them to Junibacken, where they can see certain details from these books as interactive exhibits. Truth be told, I am not too fond of Pippi Longstocking or Emil. They are not good examples, as they are disrespectful to adults and complete chaos-makers. But our children have only been read a short fragment of Astrid Lindgren’s books – enough to give them an idea and a reference point of Scandinavian literature. I believe it is part of the culture of the place and, as such, one should be aware of it.

Playing at Junibacken

No child was hurt in the taking of this picture

They have a Story Train – a 15-minute ride during which you sit on a bench made to look like a train car and it moves through different stories. A couple of them can be frightening for small children. It also gets dark for most of the ride, with the only light coming from the exhibits. The stories you hear can be in English, Swedish, Spanish and 12 other languages. You just tell the attendant which language you prefer. Our children loved it. I found it a bit sad, just as the Junibacken website warned us. I will not spoil it for you if you plan on going there some day.

The restaurant offers vegan and gluten-free options. At Junibacken, they also have plays for children. We saw one. We sat in the back and I translated the main idea of each scene for the kids and my husband. It’s amazing how much Swedish I still remember after 16 years and two children. The bookstore is filled with Astrid Lindgren and Barbro Lindgren titles, but they also have other Swedish authors for kids. You will find books in many languages.


Scandinavian Field Trip

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The magic homeschool airbus took us to Stockholm, Sweden this week. I know. It’s a bit cheesy to call an airplane the magic homeschool airbus, but I just could not resist altering the magic school bus into our own version. If you know me a bit, you know I have lived in Sweden before immigrating to the US. I still have friends there and when one of them invited me to her home, it was very hard to resist.

Changing of the guards at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden

Changing of the guards at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden

We poked around at the idea and when things started falling into place we realized it was meant to be. The idea is to give the children a taste of some of the places that have meaning to their mom, introduce them to some of the friends who have touched my life along the way, but also expose them to the gorgeous city of Stockholm – one of the most beautiful capitals of the world.

We will go to other places as well, chasing the northern lights in Kiruna, for instance, or playing at the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark and even check out Copenhagen for a day. But Stockholm is our base.

Storkyrkan, Stockholm - where royal weddings and christenings take place

Storkyrkan, Stockholm – where royal weddings and christenings take place

We spent Day 1 walking around Gamla Stan, The Old City. Think cobblestone streets, the Nobel Museum, changing of the guards at the Royal Palace, Storkyrkan (the Royal Chapel where Crown Princess Victoria got married), and old buildings dating back to the Middle Ages. It is from this area that the city of Stockholm grew. If you want to be really specific, it all started in Stortorget – the Great/Big Square.

Nobel Museum

At the Nobel Museum

Today, you can have icecream from a street vendor or a wonderful meal in one of the many restaurants with terraces around the Great Square or visit the Nobel Museum. But many centuries ago, this was the trading post which started the city of Stockholm. It all grew from this square where people met to buy and sell goods.

We ended the evening with a walk around the island where we are staying. Stockholm is an archipelago in Lake Malaren and many call this beautiful city the Venice of the North. It was fun to dust off my Swedish vocabulary and interact with the locals in their native tongue, although most Swedes are fluent in English. The kids can already say hello and bye in Swedish.


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 19

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Chapter 19 from volume 3 covered the English in India. Colonialism fascinates me. I realize it is not a very pleasant subject for many and that is an even stronger reason to study about it. We have nothing to fear for the future unless we forget our past.

Sikh bracelet craft

Sikh bracelet craft

And by our past I mean world history. We live in a global village and the culture of one place influences another place more often than 50 years ago. The culture of one place comes from the history of that place. So there you go, we have a connection between your suburban lifestyle and what the English did in India 200 years ago. Continue reading »

Most of the crafts in this chapter have something to do with the Sikh religion, their dress, and their being used as bodyguards by the British. A friend of mine is very proud to say that she is craft-challenged. Well, I am right up there with her.

I have another friend who told me she plans on using Story of the World with her children, but not do the crafts. The Activity Book scares her. She feels she has no talent for crafts. Let me tell you something about that.

I do not thrive on artsy-crafty projects. They are not something that make me want to jump up for joy. I just pick the easiest of the suggestions and run with it. This chapter is no exception. Who has the time or the inclination to make a sun dial or whole Sikh outfit? If that will keep my children from learning about history, then I am in trouble.

You see what I did here: we put some aluminium foil over my Orange Rhino bracelet and we called it a day. History crafts do not have to take over your whole morning (or more than five minutes). If you don’t feel like doing any crafts, so be it. It’s OK not to do crafts for every chapter. I give you permission.


6.5% Rise In Homeschooling, But Why?

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Stats don’t lie. At the moment, they say the number of kids who are homeschooled across the US is 1,500,000. Compare this to 2016 and the number was 1,300,000, a rise of 6.5%. There is no doubt that homeschooling is becoming more popular, but the question is why?

Homework routine

Source: Wikimedia Commons

After all, the majority of parents see education as vital to their kids’ upbringing and rely on ‘professionals.’ The reasons are underneath, just a few of them.

 

Education Inequality

In 2016, theatlantic.com did a bit of digging and found some disturbing figures. On average, the publication concluded that schools in higher income areas spend $6,000 more than poorer schools. Quite simply, there is a huge divide between rich and poor/middle-class kids in America. So even if you put your child in the local public school, if you live in a poorer school district, you will not get the same education as the families from gated communities. Public school does not always mean the same access to the same resources for all children.

 

Cost Effective Materials

Yes, but how can parents bridge the financial gap? Let’s face it – kids that go to public schools tend to come from deprived backgrounds. So, it doesn’t seem that the families who can benefit the most will have the resources. It is a savvy distinction to make, but it isn’t the case thanks to thrifty parents. Moms and dads know that resources like DontPayFull.com are excellent places to find reading and teaching materials. Plus, a single iPad or mobile device is not difficult to find online. Then, there is the personal time, which doesn’t cost a penny.

 

One-On-One Time

Because schools are underfunded, teaching resources are at breaking point. That doesn’t just mean the computers and textbooks. The main resource, the teacher, is in a catch-22 position. They want to improve the quality of the teaching, but it is hard when they have 30 to 40 kids per classroom. As a result, the personal, one-on-one time for most kids need isn’t forthcoming. When they are at home, the teacher only has one or two pupils to educate. OK, maybe four or five. It’s still less than 30. Therefore, there is additional quality time and more opportunity for the children to learn.

 

Curriculum Tweaks

To get results, teachers opt for the tried and tested route. This might sound like a good idea, but one size doesn’t fit all. Indeed, kids are unique in every way, and a teacher needs to make tweaks for this reason. At home, you are the boss and you choose what and how your children learn. The flexibility which comes with homeschooling is something parents and kids alike love. It originates from the fact that you know them the best, so you understand what works.

 

Bullying

School is not only about learning. There is a social aspect, and it isn’t always positive. In the United States, 40% of kids in grades 4-12 say they get bullied at school. As a parent, it is your job to make sure your children are safe and happy at all times, but the stats don’t lie. As a result, it is not rare for moms and dads to take their kids out of school to negate bullying altogether.

 


Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 18

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East and West collide quite literally in chapter 18 as we looked at the Ottoman Empire and its last attempt to conquer Vienna – the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a symbol of Western civilization. Unfortunately, recent terrorist attacks in Europe have reminded us all too often about such chapters in history. It may have happened a long time ago and it may have been a huge army, but the idea is there: East is fighting with West, Islam is fighting with Christianity.

Anachronistic craft

Ottoman tents and modern-day soldiers

Moving right along… we had fun learning about how one of the sultans admired tulips and brought them to the Ottoman Empire. Also, we enjoyed making tents. The craft template provided in the Activity Book seemed so enjoyable to the kids, they made me print a second page of little tents. I printed them on card stock, so they could stand better. Continue reading »

We wondered what kind of people we should put among the tents? Lego people? Duplo people? Math counting bears? They knew it was a chapter about war, so they wanted soldiers. Well, the trouble with that was the grenades and fire arms these soldiers are sporting.

They did not care about anachronism. They wanted soldiers among the tents and that was that. Oh well. What is a mother to do? They were having fun, learning, really engaging with the material we were studying, and I declared myself satisfied with it.

Since Romania was under Ottoman influence and reign for a long time, this was a story that was very relevant to me. Our kings fought a lot of battles against the Turks. It is one of those chapters that stands out for me due to its personal connection with me.