Friday, January 18, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Finding Happiness at the Grocery Store, Lost and Found, and Rigorous Collegiate Programs for Kids Who Still Have Their Baby Teeth

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


I was in a bad mood, it was late at night, and I certainly didn't want to go to the grocery store in the dark and the cold. But we were running dangerously low on food staples and unless we wanted to kids to riot over powdered milk in the morning, one of us had to go.

I opted to go shopping while Phillip put the kids to bed, and when I came home he asked, "Did you buy something to make yourself happy?"

Still grumpy, I rolled my eyes and grunted, "They don't sell happiness at Market Basket."

"Not true. It's in the ice cream aisle."

"It's too cold for ice cream."

"...They also sell it in the cookie aisle."

Next time, I'll let him go to the store instead since he knows so much.


Church this week was our bi-annual stake conference, where a group of local congregations (i.e: a stake) gets together for a series of talks/sermons on issues particular to our area.

Stake conference is a little bit of a drive for us and the meeting itself was longer than our normal weekly church service, so I told the kids to pack markers so they could color while they listened.

I kind of doubt my 7-year-old was really listening, though, because I don't remember a single speaker covering bananas and yet that seemed to be her main takeaway from the meeting.

I love Fridays because that means it's time for 7 Quick Takes! With a house full of 6 kids ranging from toddler to teen, there's plenty to laugh (and cry) about here pretty much all the time. #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkablefiles #real #lifewithkids #funny


My 2-year-old was playing on the couch when he suddenly looked up at his 12-year-old sister, who wasn't doing anything to him, and growled "I don't like you, go away!"

"Hey, that wasn't very nice," I told him immediately. "That hurts her feelings. Tell your sister, 'I love you!'"

Putting on a big smile, he said sweetly: "I love you, bye bye!"

Apparently you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him stop telling everyone else to get lost.


This week my 9th grader lost her flute, which was a real dilemma for me. I'm a big believer in natural consequences, but what exactly would that be?

Saying "too bad, I guess you can't play in the band for the rest of high school since you're so irresponsible" seemed a little harsh, but something about shelling out several hundred dollars for a replacement didn't seem right to me, either!

So I turned to Facebook for the advice of the smart parents belonging to the Unremarkable Files page, and let me say you guys are amazing.

One person said she was praying for us to find it, two offered to send us their children's unused flutes, and dozens more gave helpful advice and suggestions, including announcing loudly to the universe in general that we'd bought a replacement so the original would show up (Murphy's Law never lets you down.)

After all that, I'm happy to report that my daughter found her flute! Apparently she left it in a friend's car (a place she'd previously claimed it "couldn't be") and since the flute didn't have her name on it they didn't know whose it was.

As a result, my daughter had to (1) admit that when you don't know where something IS, you also don't know where it ISN'T so just listen to your mother and look where she suggested, and (2) put your name on your stuff.


Speaking of lost things, I've been keeping an eye out for a missing library book called The Big Truck and Train Book. As you can probably guess from the title, it's pretty big, so I was really stumped as to where it could be hiding.

This week we finally got around to taking down the Christmas tree, and as I contorted myself to reach behind the piano and unplug the lights, I saw the Big Truck and Train Book peeking out at me from among the dust bunnies!

I was happy to find the book, and also to get rid of the Christmas tree. Since the back of our property is wooded, we never bother with curbside pickup and just toss our trees back there to decompose and return to the earth.

I love Fridays because that means it's time for 7 Quick Takes! With a house full of 6 kids ranging from toddler to teen, there's plenty to laugh (and cry) about here pretty much all the time. #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkablefiles #real #lifewithkids #funny
This is one of the kids' favorite January traditions, as you can see from them dancing after Phillip like the children of Hamelin to watch him chuck it into the forest.

The funny part is, when we returned the book to the library and went to play in the children's room the next day, my 4-year-old immediately spotted the Big Truck and Train Book on the stack of items to be reshelved and insisted we take it home again.


It's January, which means it's time to plan out the rest of your kids' lives, I guess.

I've already received not one, but two flyers for summer camp in the mail. Including this one, where the theme is certainly not "hey, your parents are at work and/or you're driving everyone crazy so here are some crafts to do and maybe a field to run around in for a couple of hours a day."

I love Fridays because that means it's time for 7 Quick Takes! With a house full of 6 kids ranging from toddler to teen, there's plenty to laugh (and cry) about here pretty much all the time. #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkablefiles #real #lifewithkids #funny
I was just freaking out over how my 7-year-old will score on the SATs, so this is PERFECT.

Kindergarten seems like a totally reasonable time to prepare for college, because I also drive by a local day care with a sign out front that says "Now enrolling children 3-12 months." At the end of the term, students are graded on whether or not they've discovered their hands.

Seriously, though, what is going on here? Is it not okay anymore to just provide your kids with a safe, semi-fun place to go when you can't be with them?


It was my turn to teach co-op preschool this week, so right after we deconstructed colonialist themes in Shakespeare's The Tempest and finished filling out the FAFSA (see Take #6) we did a brief lesson on the letter Q.

I love Fridays because that means it's time for 7 Quick Takes! With a house full of 6 kids ranging from toddler to teen, there's plenty to laugh (and cry) about here pretty much all the time. #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkablefiles #real #lifewithkids #funny

My 2-year-old joined in as usual, which was especially amusing when the kids painted Qs with q-tips.

He kept referring to our painting implements as "earwax sticks," and now I'll never call q-tips anything else.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How to Quit Playing Referee for Your Kids

It was shockingly late in my tenure as a parent (I'm talking 12 years and 6 kids in to the whole business) that I learned a secret that freed me from refereeing sibling disputes forever.

Talk about life-changing.

I came across a parenting meme on Pinterest that said "Teach your child to advocate for herself" and it was like a five-alarm siren going off in my head.

Depending on the situation, that could mean a lot of things, but to me at that moment it meant I needed to stop arbitrating my kids' disputes for them, and teach them how to do it instead.

I can't believe I didn't think of this brilliant parenting idea earlier! Is it driving you crazy being the referee when your kids fight? Straight from a mom of 6, here are some simple parenting strategies to stop sibling fighting and teach children to work it out! #siblingfighting #parentingtips #ideas #kids #brother #sister #siblingconflict #siblingrivalry #unremarkablefiles

My kids get along well, most of the time. They play together a lot, which is incidentally why they also fight. After all, you can't dance without stepping on some toes.

I've always believed in encouraging them to work out their disagreements, but in reality sending them away to "go work it out" wasn't very successful. 

Half the time, the bigger, stronger kid would just get his way while the other cried, or negotiations escalated to a point where I had to take away the toy they were fighting over and say that no one gets it.

I realized it wasn't enough just to tell them to work it out. They were still learning, and they needed someone to teach them.

So now when someone comes running to me sobbing "he shoved me off the couch!" or "she called me mean!" I focus on teaching them to advocate effectively for themselves.

I might ask a few questions to get a better picture of what happened, but I'm careful not to fall into the who-did-what-and-why trap. If I try to get to the bottom of things, fifteen minutes later everyone is mad (including me, by that time) and I still haven't sorted out what happened or who started it.

Instead, I call over the other kid and say "Your sister has something to say to you."

I stand nearby while they talk to each other, occasionally prompting them with a question or saying something to keep the discussion focused.

If someone turns to me and tries to address me, I redirect them by saying "Don't talk to me; talk to your brother/sister."

I'm still entering the fray, so to speak, but I'm doing it as a facilitator, not a referee  and let me tell you, that's a whole lot more freeing.

Go to your room! 5 points to Gryffindor!

You can start doing this when they're much younger than you probably think.

My 2-year-old's first impulse when he sees his brother holding a toy he wants is to snatch it or start screaming. Sometimes both. (But hey, I'll miss this someday, right?)

Instead of ordering the older brother to share or telling the 2-year-old to leave the toy alone, I tell the 2-year-old "If you want to play with that toy, you need to ask for a turn when he's done."

Sometimes he does it.

Sometimes he's too upset so I have to give him the words to use: "Can you say 'Norbert, can I have a turn when you're done?'" (My son's name isn't Norbert, I just think it's a fun name.)

Sometimes he's so worked up he can't even repeat me, so I'll model it for him: "Your brother would like to play with that toy. Can he have a turn when you're done?"

I can't tell you how many times I've watched two toddlers grappling over a toy in the sandbox at the playground when a parent swoops in saying "Look over here, let's play with this bulldozer!" Which I suppose heads off the altercation, but it doesn't teach either kid much about conflict resolution.

If they were focused on teaching, the parent of the snatch-and-grabber could've instead said something like "Right now it's her turn with the truck, but you can ask for a turn when she's done."

Alternately, the parent of the kid who had the truck first could tell the other one: "Emma is playing with the truck right now, but you can have a turn in a little bit" and then turn to his own child and ask "Emma, can you tell him he can have a turn when you're done?"

It may take many times of modeling and facilitating these prosocial behaviors, but eventually, kids will start doing them on their own. 

I promise it happens. Lately, I've even heard my 2-year-old asking for a turn instead of snatching.

Is it sometimes hard for him to wait? Heck, yes. Do I sometimes have to remind the other child to give the promised turn 10 minutes or so later? Also yes. But like I said, they're learning.

Most importantly, what they're not learning is that I moonlight as the referee around here. No way.

I'm here if they need me. But I'm here to help them work out a solution with the other kid, not to solve the problem myself.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Wearing Pants, the Iron Triangle but for Church, and Alternatives to Bookshelves

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


Please tell me that some of you still have Christmas stuff up.

Our tree is still fully decorated in our living room. Part of the reason is that this year, we must have gotten a genetically modified mutant tree because it sheds virtually no needles (I think I've swept under the tree three times since we got it Thanksgiving weekend.)

Do you think your family is the most chaotic, noisy family there is? Then you probably need to read this. Your weekly dose of real life and laughs in this Friday's 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #real #momlife #relatable #lifewithkids #unremarkablefiles
I don't even think we've watered it since mid-December.

Most years I'm so sick of cleaning up fallen needles I'm ready to kick it out the back door first thing in the morning on December 26th. But really, this no-mess tree can stay as long as it likes. I'm in no hurry.


In researching something that ultimately didn't end up in my post TED Talks My Preschooler Could Give, I discovered that there was quite a hubbub on the Internet a few years ago about Daniel Tiger and his lack of pants.

Seriously. Entire articles, open letters, a hashtag, and a petition are out there on the subject of #pantsgate.

Before this week I never noticed that Daniel and his dad wear no pants, but after reading about it... I can't unsee it.

Of course, it doesn't bother me on Daniel because he's a little kid and little kids never wear pants. But I'm unnerved by his dad, and not just because he's a fully-grown man wearing nothing but a sweater, some sneakers, and a smile.

It's also because his dad is standing right next to his fully-clothed mom, so we know there's a J.C. Penney somewhere on Jungle Beach where he could just buy himself a pair of Dockers if he really wanted to!

Someone please explain.


Our ward (congregation) shares the church building with another ward. Every year, we swap who meets in the morning and who meets in the afternoon.

We had afternoon church in 2018 and I have to say I liked it. No getting up and rushing in the morning, and although it interfered with naptime we made it work.

This year we meet at 9 AM and even though it's nice to be home by lunch, it's going to be a struggle to get there on time with 6 kids. Especially since Phillip is in the bishopric and is gone for early morning meetings so it's all up to me.

You know that triangle they show you in economics class with points labeled 'good,' 'fast,' 'cheap' and you can only pick two? This is the 9 AM church version of that:

Do you think your family is the most chaotic, noisy family there is? Then you probably need to read this. Your weekly dose of real life and laughs in this Friday's 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #real #momlife #relatable #lifewithkids #unremarkablefiles
I made this myself. Feel free to copy for your personal reference.


The other reason Sundays are going to be a little different this year is two-hour church.

It used to be that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our church service was followed by two hours of Sunday School classes for both children and adults. But our prophet is shaking things up, and we're now only meeting for one hour of Sunday School afterward.

The purpose, he says, is for gospel learning to become a more home-centered and church-supported endeavor, not the other way around.

We've always been asked to set Sunday apart as a special day to spend time with our families and learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ without the distractions of the other 6 days. Now we just have some extra time to do that, which really does make a difference!

(Also, I work in the nursery with the 18-month-olds and let me tell you, they're bouncing off the walls after three hours. This year is going to be a piece of cake.)


Phillip hurt his ankle playing basketball this fall, and then injured it again a month later. I'd prefer that he just cut his losses and find a new hobby that isn't trying to permanently cripple him, but the best I could do was get him to promise not to play again until the new year.

Once January rolled around, there were some intense negotiations before he went back to playing basketball.

Ultimately we decided that since he took 6 weeks off after the first injury and 3 months off after the second, he'll take 6 months off if he gets hurt again. And every injury thereafter, he'll double his rest time. If he keeps getting hurt, then he eventually just won't play basketball anymore by default.

I suppose that was a pretty good compromise, although that night I did dream he got carried away by a huge kite and I was freaking out thinking he was going to fall to his death. So yeah, I guess you could say I'm still slightly worried.


I've always been of the school of thought that kids are smart enough not to starve, and my job as a parent is not to become a food-pusher but to provide nutritious things to eat at meals and snacks, and how much they eat is up to them.

I know moms who make a dozen separate meals for everyone and fight with their skinny toddlers to get them to eat cookies. Cookies. I do not want to go down that road.

My philosophy has always served me well in the past, but now I have a kid who's apparently falling off their height and weight curve and the pediatrician suggests "encouraging them to eat more." Whatever that means.

Thoughts, anyone? What should I do?


The bookshelf in our dining room was one sneeze away from collapsing entirely, so we ordered a new one. It'll be more aesthetically pleasing and much less likely to kill someone if they happen to walk by at the wrong moment.

When it arrived we took apart the old one and set the boards aside for a fun mid-winter bonfire, and only then did we open the new bookshelf to discover a damaged board.

So for almost a week now as we're waiting to hear back from customer service, we've had no bookshelf and our dining room has looked like this:

Do you think your family is the most chaotic, noisy family there is? Then you probably need to read this. Your weekly dose of real life and laughs in this Friday's 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #real #momlife #relatable #lifewithkids #unremarkablefiles

To be honest, this is only marginally worse than it usually looks. The kids are avid readers and always preferred precariously perching their books horizontally on the edge of the shelf instead of vertically like they're supposed to be, and every now and then they'd go spilling onto the floor.

At least they're stacked neatly this time.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

TED Talks My Preschooler Could Give

I love TED talks. You can find an interesting TED talk on just about anything, and they're the perfect length for listening to while you're hiding in the laundry room from your kids.

And the more I listen, the more convinced I am that my preschooler should apply to be a TED speaker. In fact, he'd be well-qualified to present any one of the following talks:

What Would Happen If We Never Wore Pants?

Pants. They're a constant source of power struggle and misery. We've been told pants and underwear are necessary, but are they? When even beloved children's characters like Daniel Tiger are jumping aboard the pants-free bandwagon, there may be more to that question than Mom lets on.

You Can Make a Gun Out of Anything

Bananas, your fingers, or an expertly-chewed piece of toast — we all know the staples of pretend gunmaking. But think bigger: you can make a gun out of anything! String cheese, drinking straws, vacuum attachments... wherever you are, there's a perfect "shooter" within arm's reach.

I Pretended to Be a Cat for Six Months

For half a year I refused to answer to anything but "kitty" and only took my meals in a saucer on the floor. Here's what I learned.

What Llama Llama Can Teach Us About the Human Condition

Packaged in delightful rhyme, Llama Llama is a masterful microcosm of preschool life. There's intrigue, aggression, conflict, love, and trying our parents' patience. Lots and lots of trying our parents' patience.

But I'm Not Tiiiiiiired 

Go inside the fascinating world of dropping naps and learn why your caregivers are so opposed to it. Popular nap-avoidance techniques include singing to yourself, inventing reasons to visit the bathroom, or quietly slipping out of bed to play with cars.

From the Threenager Years to the Freaking Fours

Being a preschooler is no picnic: you get trapped in your clothes, struggle to catch balls or use scissors, and sometimes you don't win all the games. And just when you think it can't get any harder, you learn that verbs have "tenses" and somehow "I goed to preschool" isn't correct.

The Art of Disliking Food Before You've Tried It 

Professional food critics make a living writing reviews of the food they eat. But what if you don't actually have to taste a food to know you hate it?

5 Creative Ways to Incorporate More 'Why' Questions Into Your Day

Why do we ask 'why?' Child development specialists point to a growing brain and burgeoning language skills. But incessant 'why' questions also serve another important function: wearing down your parents. In fact, historical evidence suggests that the inventor of Chinese water torture was inspired by his 3-year-old asking "Why? Why? Why?"

I could go on, because my preschooler is an expert on quite a lot of things, but I think you get the idea. Who knows, maybe he'll be speaking at a TED event someday, and I'll have something new to listen to in the laundry room.

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Monday, January 7, 2019

What's It Like Being a 2-Car Family?

There's something personally satisfying to me about using all of something. I'd die before throwing away a peanut butter jar without getting out the absolute last of the contents with a spatula.

Likewise, I'm a fan of using things to their maximum capacity. We filled the bedrooms in our house with 5 children, and I was pretty satisfied that when you added Phillip and me, that took up all the space in our 7-seater minivan.

And then we got pregnant.

Our big family of 7 fit perfectly in our minivan, and then we got pregnant. We knew we were going to love having 6 kids, we just didn’t know what to do about outgrowing our minivan! Though it might be a little unconventional, here is the large family car solution that worked for us. #bigfamily #largefamilies #familycar #2carfamily #6kids #unremarkable

Of course we were thrilled about adding to our family, but it definitely made our car situation a problem. We debated for several months about what to do.

I asked my blog's Facebook page for advice, getting everything from buying an 8-seater SUV to installing a bench in the third row to add a seat. I admit spending a few months drooling over the Nissan NV in all its 12-passenger glory.

In the end, though, what we decided to do was: nothing. 

We kept the two cars we had (a commuter car for my husband, a minivan for me) and simply made them work. Our whole family can't fit in our 7-seater minivan, so we're a 2-car family and have been for two and a half years now.

I'm confused. Why wouldn't you want a vehicle that could fit your whole family?

I like to get the maximum value for my money, so going into debt to buy a car with ONE more seat seemed sort of silly to me. Especially since both the commuter car and the minivan were paid off already.

We also toyed with the idea of getting a larger full-sized van, so we'd have room to really stretch out, carry tons of luggage, or give rides to the kids' friends.

But thinking about driving a 12-passenger behemoth around all the time, even when I only had one or two kids in the car, seemed terribly inefficient to me. Also, parking would be harder. And our gas mileage would be terrible.

The convenience of being able to fit us all in one vehicle, whether in an 8-seater or a full-sized van, didn't seem to outweigh the financial and practical reasons not to.

But don't you need a bigger car?

95% of the time we drive the minivan, it's just me and the kids going somewhere while Phillip is at work, and we still fit perfectly.

Oftentimes though, we don't even fill up the minivan. The kids are involved in more extra-curricular activities now, and there are some days when all the kids aren't even home at the same time. Or they're old enough to choose to stay home while I shuttle someone to soccer practice and back.

Even before we had to, Phillip and I usually took two cars, anyway. If the whole family went to the school band concert, we still drove separately because my daughter needed to be there early to warm up. Or we took two cars to church so some of us could stay for choir practice and everyone else could go home. 

It honestly isn't much of an adjustment in day-to-day life.

Is it ever annoying to take two cars everywhere?

At first, driving caravan-style on family outings was weird. I missed sitting next to Phillip on the way there, and if we go anyplace that charges for parking we need to pay twice.

But I got used to it. Most of the places we drive as a family aren't far so driving alone isn't a big deal. Even with driving two vehicles and paying double parking fees, we still spend less in gas than if I drove around a lower-mileage vehicle 24/7.

The only time it's really annoying is when we go on longer trips. Driving an hour or more in separate cars gets boring, but I'll admit when we go camping or on vacation we need the extra space in Phillip's car to pack all our gear, anyway.

The only thing we can't do now is road trips. When the kids were younger drove 25 hours across the country to visit my parents every couple of years, and we're obviously not doing that in separate cars. We could rent a big van, but that costs as much as flying so now we fly.

A few times a year when a parent comes to visit, we have to get creative because we don't always have enough room in the car.

Would you go back and buy a bigger car if you had a do-over?

I suppose if we went WAY back to 2008 when we bought our minivan, getting one that seats 8 instead of the more conventional 7 would've saved us some trouble. But since we didn't have a definite plan for our family size and I was only pregnant with #3 then, there really was no way of knowing.

However, if I went back to a few years ago when we already had the minivan and decided not to trade it in for something bigger, I wouldn't change that decision. 

Our current car situation may not work for us 100% of the time, but it works 95% of the time. Not having a car loan and not driving around a gas-guzzler when it's not necessary is worth the 5% inconvenience to me.

Will you ever upgrade to a vehicle that fits all of you?

When our oldest gets her license, we'll probably add a third car. Most likely she'll be driving Phillip's current commuter car and he'll buy a new(er) one for himself. 

She's only 14 now, but we're already so spread out taking what feels like a million people to a million places at once, she'll need to be able to drive herself (and hopefully some siblings) to school and activities sometimes.

We plan to drive our minivan into the ground, and by the time it dies for good, our kids will have started moving out of the house (don't talk to me about it, I'm not ready) so not having enough seats won't be an issue.

We don't know of too many other 2-car families, but that's okay with us. We don't know a whole lot of other families of 8, either! 

Driving two vehicles around all the time might not be a perfect solution, but it's what we decided makes the most financial and practical sense for our big family, and we're making it work.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

7 Quick Takes about New Lighting, Holiday Traditions Involving Meat Mallets, and Phishing Scams That Don't Seem Very Well Thought-Out

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


The kids are back in school, but I'm still riding the high of Christmas break in all its low-stress glory.

We had very few activities to ferry people to and from. We went on a hike nearly every day.  We played board games. We watched movies and ate every meal together. We had fun.

I feel less stressed out now than I have in a long time, even though we're back to real life. I hope it lasts.


As is our annual tradition, the kids made me a calendar for the new year and did the artwork for every month.

There was everything from a green blob and a blue blob that my 2-year-old insisted were boats (January) to a beautiful watercolor painting from my 14-year-old of a little boy in a raincoat (March.)

And September's illustration made me smile:

Follow along with our family's chaotic misadventures in another installment of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkable files #reallife  #momlife
I really love my blog's logo and I noticed here I'm wearing my favorite sweater in the exact same color. Go figure.

My 12-year-old knew September was the blog's birthday month so she creatively reimagined Unremarkable Files's logo.

Maybe this will help me remember the blog's birthday because I totally forgot last year. Oops.


We installed new light fixtures, something for which I started a Pinterest board in 2014 so we've been meaning to do it for a while.

I guess this is a first world problem, but it's pretty hard to take photos of your light fixtures, because if they're on then they cause too much glare to really see them but if they're off it's too dark to really see them.


Follow along with our family's chaotic misadventures in another installment of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkable files #reallife  #momlife
Our entryway used to look like a portal straight to 1980.


Follow along with our family's chaotic misadventures in another installment of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkable files #reallife  #momlife
Much more our style.

Watching Phillip taking down the hanging light fixture in the stairwell was a little scary, but all's well that ends well.

Follow along with our family's chaotic misadventures in another installment of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkable files #reallife  #momlife


Another Evans holiday tradition the kids really look forward to is making a gingerbread house.

Or more accurately, smashing the house with a meat tenderizer when we're done with it.

Follow along with our family's chaotic misadventures in another installment of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkable files #reallife  #momlife

The smashing is always performed with the utmost ceremony, going in a circle with everyone getting one turn with the mallet. We do it on New Years' Day and record the proceedings. It's all very serious.

Some years, we've done a gingerbread train from a kit, or one big house they all do together. This year, the oldest two collaborated on a big house and the younger 4 each got a mini-house from a gingerbread village kit.

At first they were disappointed with the small size of the houses but put them on paper plates and got really into decorating walkways on the lawn.

Follow along with our family's chaotic misadventures in another installment of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkable files #reallife  #momlife

Next year we're thinking about doing our own village with graham crackers, which sounds good in theory but I think I'll be regretting that decision in December when I've got 5,032 things to do PLUS whipping up a batch of homemade icing for gingerbread houses.


I've also been working on a Christmas music playlist. Most people would consider January the wrong time to do that, but right now is when I'm thinking about it so my choices for getting it done are 'now' or 'never.' I choose now.

Of course we have the radio, but I'd like to be able to throw on our own custom list for background ambiance when we're decorating the tree or whatever come December.

I spent a lot of time on Spotify over the last few days listening to music before I realized that most of the songs going on my playlist are just the ones I hear on the radio, anyway. I'm basically doing hours of work to avoid ever having to listen to Wham! sing "Last Christmas" again.

Which is probably worth it.


I received this spam text the other day and wasn't sure what to think about it.

Follow along with our family's chaotic misadventures in another installment of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkable files #reallife  #momlife

I don't get it. What's in it for them?

Are they sending out a million of these, taking a gamble that they'll actually reach someone whose name is Ashley who has a friend named Emma and will respond, "Oh, Emma! You must be devastated, I can tell by your erratic use of periods  let's meet at the Applebee's on 7th and Washington" and then they mug Ashley when she shows up?

Or are they hoping I'll text back "you have the wrong number" which would then be a perfect segue for them to ask for my bank account information? I just don't understand.

All I know is, Noah sounds like bad news.


At my daughter's last band concert, they played the theme from Ghostbusters and it made me think "we should watch the 1984 original with the kids!" It was even rated PG. What could go wrong?

Well, a lot.

First of all, I apparently never saw Ghostbusters. All my childhood memories either came from Ghostbusters II or the cartoon. Probably mostly the cartoon.

It was wildly inappropriate (on further research, I discovered PG-13 hadn't been invented yet) and other than Sigourney Weaver writhing around nonsensically for the entire movie there wasn't even that much to it. I was so unimpressed.

Apparently it wasn't just us who felt this way, because over the next few days it became clear that the Universe was trying to destroy the DVD.

I'd slipped it back in the bag of library items to return, but it somehow it got dropped off with some things we were donating. I noticed and grabbed it out of the donation drop box at the very last second, only to have my 2-year-old snap it in half on the way home.

Follow along with our family's chaotic misadventures in another installment of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt #friday #unremarkable files #reallife  #momlife
I love how this ghost looks distressed about being decapitated.

On that note, my to-do list for today includes "buy replacement copy of worst movie ever." So excited.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

3 Kinds of To-Do Lists That Will Actually Work For You

This post contains affiliate links, which mean I could earn a small commission for referring you - but don't worry, you're not charged an extra cent for it.

Trying to run a household while simultaneously trying to keep all the people in it alive is no small feat. In fact, it's overwhelming.

I don't know how other people manage it, but I'm an organizer. I have systems for everything, but most of the time it feels like organizing my to-do list is the thing that makes or breaks a day.

I hate to-do lists. Do I have to keep one?

I'm sorry, but yes.

On any given day, there's an infinite number of emails to send, errands to run, paperwork to be filled out, kids' activities to register and pay for, and things to fix/clean around the house.

Simply trying to remember it all causes anxiety. When I feel totally overwhelmed, it's usually because I've been trying to keep it all in my head.

Putting all your to-dos in writing frees up brain space to actually work on those tasks instead of worry about them, and you'll usually find once you write it all down that it's not as bad as you thought.

Do a brain dump if you feel stressed right now, and then every time the thought "Oh, I have to remember to do that!" pops into your head, add it to the list. It doesn't matter if you keep it on your phone or on paper  I use a whiteboard on my kitchen wall.

3 Types of Daily To-Do Lists That Actually Get Done


I used to make that gigantic master list and then work like crazy, picking items at random and checking off as many as I could. I'd end the day exhausted, but even worse I'd feel like I'd wasted time on the wrong tasks while the more important ones were left undone.

After you do a brain dump, you need to prioritize everything into small, manageable chunks you can actually accomplish in a day. Here are my three favorite ways to do that:

Busy moms are often overwhelmed by a mile-long to do list. But did you know there is a right and wrong way to make an effective to-do list? I’ll show you how to make a to do list 3 different ways that will lower your stress and increase your productivity! #timemanagementformoms #todolistideas #stress #overwhelmed #busymom #getorganized

1. Hourly To-Do List

If you're an optimist like me, you'll probably find an hourly to-do list helpful. Research suggests optimists are chronically late because they think they can squeeze in "one more thing" before they leave, which is the same reason we overload our to-do lists with an unrealistic number of tasks.

In the morning, I write out my waking hours for the day and block off time in hour-long increments. You could buy a snazzy day planner for this, or you could just use scratch paper and throw it away at the end of the day.

Either way, writing it down forces you to acknowledge how long things actually take, and you'll be more realistic about your time.

2. Category To-Do List

When I'm particularly struggling with balancing the various parts of my life, I find a category to-do list most helpful.

Think of your main areas of responsibility and write them down. Mine are: God, self, spouse, kids, house, blog, and church. Under each category, I write 1-2 items.

That's it. That's really all I can do in a day.

It's kind of frustrating not to be able to write down 20 things under each heading like I want to, but once I know it's all I can realistically finish anyway, it becomes easier to accept.

3. Contextual To-Do List

This suggestion comes from David Allen's productivity book Getting Things Done, which truly changed my life and lowered my stress level.

The idea behind a contextual to-do list is that you can only do certain things in certain contexts: you can't run errands if you're stuck at home with a napping baby, and you can't talk to your partner about refinishing the deck if he's at work. So why not make a list of things you can do at that moment?

When I make a contextual to-do list, everything gets sorted into the appropriate column:

  • Emails/Texts
  • Errands
  • Phone Calls
  • At Computer
  • At Home
  • To Discuss With Spouse

Now I have a bunch of lists of things I can do right now, whatever "right now" looks like. For example, if the kids are quietly occupied it's a good time to bust through a few items in the"phone calls" column. Before leaving the house, I check at the "errands" column to see what else I can do while I'm out.

Effective to-do lists not only remind you of all the things you need to do, they keep you organized and help you accomplish more with less stress. If your current to-do list is leaving you frustrated, demotivated, or burned out, you should definitely give one of these a try.

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