Friday, September 22, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Changing Table Surprises, Awkward Phone Calls to the Dentist, and More Complaining about Pants

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


When I stopped in the grocery store restroom to change a diaper, I was confronted by an interesting sight:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Tucked in the little built-in pockets on the changing table were a sanitary pad (on the right) and a sock (on the left.)

I'm used to walking into a room and seeing a line of baby dolls tied to the dresser drawer handles with a jump rope, or some other equally elaborate and bizarre toy set up, and asking myself What possible play activity could have led to this arrangement? But that's something I do in my own home, not out in public.

Seriously though, what scenario led to these items being left in the changing table? The free maxi pad could just be a random act of kindness from a Good Samaritan, but I'm at a loss for how that would explain the sock.


Lately, I've been working on putting the house back together. I'd let cleaning go and things were getting really bad. Even the kids had started inquiring about the crumbs sticking to their feet when they walked.

It's just hard not to get burned out when you clean the same thing over and over, not just for a few days or weeks but for years.

And if I'm honest, the real demotivating factor is this: the difference between staying on top of the housework or totally letting it go is NOT clean vs. dirty. When you have kids, it's just always dirty. Maybe it's slightly less filthy if you spend consistent effort cleaning up, but unless you lock the doors and refuse to let any of the kids live or eat in the house, there's just a base level of squalor that no amount of cleaning can get beyond.

If you spent all day digging holes and someone was right behind you filling in the hole as you were digging, you'd probably quit sometimes, too.


My 6th grader came home from school and announced she'd lost a tooth. Which is normally no big deal, but this time I immediately flew into hysterics because the dentist told us she already had all of her adult teeth.

My heart was pounding in my chest as I fired question after question at her: "What happened? How did it fall out? Did you get hit with something? Where were you? Does it hurt? What do you mean, it fell out??" I was talking so fast the poor girl couldn't answer, even if it weren't for the flashlight I was shoving in her mouth to look at the gaping hole.

"Where is your tooth now?" I asked. "Maybe they can reattach it."

"I... I put it in the trash. I thought it was a baby tooth!"

"You did WHAT?" I yelled. "From now on if a part of your body ever comes off, do not throw it away!!!"

After I'd thoroughly traumatized her, I made a frantic call to the dentist.

Aaaand it turns out there must have been some kind of miscommunication, because her chart clearly showed she'd gotten all her adult teeth except for one: the baby tooth that had just fallen out at school.

Meaning that I'd just spent 30 minutes freaking out over a lost baby tooth. I half expected the Tooth Fairy to compensate ME that night for pain and suffering.


It's been really humid around here practically all this week. The keys on our piano are sticking. The salt is too clumpy to come out of the salt shaker. Pieces of paper feel limp and heavy from all the water in the air.

I tend to associate heat with humidity but the weather lately has also been chilly, so I'm really confused. I don't know whether to put on a cardigan because I have goosebumps or go stand naked in front of the A/C unit because I feel sweaty.

I'm trying to find middle ground by turning on the ceiling fans and pacing around in fuzzy slippers muttering to myself.


My closet is in dire straits and I need to go pants shopping. I've just been hoping I could keep putting it off until after skinny jeans aren't trendy anymore, because I don't own a Jaws of Life and I don't think I could extract myself from a pair of those things without one.

But then the whole waist-up-to-your-armpits thing started happening too, so I decided to suck it up and go to the mall before they think of another hideous feature to add.

Ugh. I just can't.

I tried on so many pairs of pants, and I didn't like any of them. I didn't even not hate any of them. I don't want jeans so painted on that everyone in the school dropoff line can read the tag on my underwear. I don't want the zipper of my shorts to be 8 times longer than my inseam. I MISS THE '90s.

I'm one step away from giving up entirely and ordering a lifetime supply of sweatpants from the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
The answer to all my problems was right in front of me the whole time.

Free shipping! Won't pill or shrink! Comfortable and cost-effective! I really see no downside to this. Plus, they'll go nicely with the fuzzy slippers and the muttering.


There's a town-led playgroup near me that I've wanted to try out for a long time, and this week I finally took my 1-year-old and 3-year-old to check it out.

After the kids were comfortable (i.e: they stopped clinging to me like feral cats I was trying to drown) and started playing with the toys, I started talking to a mom next to me.

She seemed cool from the beginning, but when I asked which kids were hers and she pointed to the boy running around the dress-up area in a tutu and a construction hardhat, I knew that this was a person I wanted to keep talking to.


I think it's just a coincidence, but everything around here is breaking at the same time. It's weird.

First it was our computer keyboard and then our mouse. (To be fair, they've both been through a lot. The mouse has been thrown on the floor too many times to count, and I once caught my 2-year-old walking on the keyboard.)

Immediately after that, we needed to throw away and replace a mattress (hint: the reason starts with 'p' and ends with 'ee') and then my curling iron (which I keep mostly for decorative purposes) stopped turning on.

You're lucky I made it all the way to the end of this Quick Takes without the computer exploding, frankly.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What Parents Can Do to Raise Children Who Are Friends

Growing up in the 90s, one of my favorite things on TV was Clarissa Explains It All. As all preteen viewers of the show were supposed to do, I idolized the main character.

Clarissa was designed to be like all of us (except maybe a little cooler.) She was quirky and offbeat and funny, just like us. And her annoying little brother Ferguson made her life miserable. How relatable!

Fast-forward 20 years. I've got six kids ranging in age from 1 to 13, and lately I've been searching for books to interest my 9-year-old reluctant reader.

I check out library books on his reading level, but before handing them over I always screen them first. Of course I have an eye out for things like language and violence. But do you know what I'm really looking for when I screen books? I'm looking for Fergusons and Clarissas.

And they are everywhere.

There's one thing I've learned about coaxing good behavior out of your kids, and it works to help them get along with their siblings like it works for everything else.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Clearly, his two sisters are NOT reluctant readers.

As a kid, I consumed episode after episode of Clarissa Explains It All and never questioned the sibling dynamic, but as a parent it makes me sad to see kids' books, movies, and TV shows perpetuating the idea that siblings are one step away from primates ready to attack each other at the slightest provocation.

Worse still, I'm not so sure it's just the kids who have bought into it.

I know parents who buy doubles of everything, even when it's one child's birthday, so neither of their kids is jealous of the other.

I know a mom who once, when we set up a playdate for two of our girls, declined our invitation for the younger sister to come along and play with my other children because "Hannah* probably wants to have her own playdate." As if the very presence of a younger sister in the same vicinity would've ruined Hannah's day.

(*Hannah isn't her real name, by the way.)

I know parents who read "I'm Going to Be a Big Brother/Sister!" picture books throughout their pregnancy to prepare their preschoolers for a new sibling, and some who even bring home a gift "from the new baby" right after the birth.

Ironically, all of these well intentioned attempts to head off sibling rivalry might be contributing to the very problem we're trying to solve.

What if we, instead of anticipating sibling rivalry and doing all kinds of things to prevent it, simply expected the kids to be friends from Day One?

There's one thing I've learned about coaxing good behavior out of your kids, and it works to help them get along with their siblings like it works for everything else.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Is that naive? Maybe. But maybe not.

I say that because of a poem my 13-year-old wrote in school the other day as an assignment for her language class:

There’s something in the word “hate”
that means bad.
There’s something in the word “kill”
that means wrong.
But there’s nothing in the word “brother”
that means mean.
There’s nothing in the word “sister”
that means awful.
There’s nothing in the word “parents”
that means annoying.
But when I tell you “I have five siblings”
And you say “I feel so bad for you”
There is a whole sea of reasons why that sentence
should make me reply,
“No, I feel so bad for you.”
There’s something in the word “family”
that means wonderful and loving and right.
I’m sorry you didn’t know
that families don’t have to fight.

The media tells us that siblings are natural enemies, but I think we can reject that idea and parent as if we expect them to be friends.

We can refuse to tolerate fighting that goes beyond age-appropriate bickering.

We can encourage a team mentality by having many shared toys and spaces instead of designating ownership of every little thing.

We can seek out books and movies where families work together and siblings are friends who have adventures together.

We can prioritize family time over individual parent-child date night.

We can say good things to our kids about their brothers and sisters, both when they're around to hear it and also when they aren't.

We can praise them for cooperating or helping each other.

One thing I've learned about raising kids is that good behavior starts with the expectation of good behavior. The Fergusons and Clarissas in the media can keep on fighting like cats and dogs, but as parents, we have the power to raise children who are friends.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Things I Manage to Tell My Kids Without Even a Hint of Irony

We always want our kids to do what's good and right, and it's obvious that children learn best from the example of their parents. I know it, and you know it. But here's the thing: adults are big, fat hypocrites.

Kids learn good habits from a responsible adult who sets a good example. Too bad parents are big, fat hypocrites.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
"Do as I say, not as I do, okay?"

And these 6 things I say to my kids all the time pretty much prove it.

1. "We don't have dessert before breakfast."

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That's why we have rules around here. However, I also make the rules and I reserve the right to bribe myself out of bed with the half-bag of chocolates on top of the refrigerator if I deem it necessary.

Especially if I was up all night taking care of one bloody nose, two wet pajamas, three bad dreams, and a partridge in a pear tree.

2. "We clean up after ourselves when we finish an activity."

You know how I fixed that button that fell off your shirt three days ago? My sewing basket is still on the table. I have no fewer than 4 glasses of water around the house at this very minute. Truth is, I'm as bad at picking up after myself as the kids are. I can just get away with it.

Why my kids don't call me out on the fact that my slippers are in the middle of the kitchen floor, I don't know. But then I remember they can't see their own shoes on the floor and it all starts to make sense.

3. "We don't drink right out of the container."

The kids are required to drink from a cup because I still haven't forgotten that one time I found graham cracker crumbs in the milk.

But as the person responsible for doing the dishes, let me tell you that by the end of the day, it gets real old. If a quick swig from the container means one less glass to wash at the end of the day, so be it.

4. "One cookie is enough."

One cookie is really all you need for dessert. Maybe two, if we're feeling particularly celebratory. But pleas for more than that will fall upon deaf ears, because eating too many sweets isn't good for your health. End of story.

That isn't to say I'm not going to inhale 6 of them after you go to bed tonight. Possibly sooner depending on what kind of day we're having.

Kids learn good habits from a responsible adult who sets a good example. Too bad parents are big, fat hypocrites.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

5. "Sorry, you can't stay up late on a school night."

You kids don't appreciate how good you have it. Want to watch a movie on a Tuesday night? Nope, because you have to get up early for school tomorrow. I only wish I had a good judgment fairy hovering over me making sure I get a full night's sleep. (Actually, scratch that, my sweet husband tries to do that and it's super-annoying.)

I stay up late ALL THE TIME when I know it's a terrible idea. Half the time I'm not even doing anything purposeful or fun, I'm just reading stupid articles on BuzzFeed that I don't even care about because I can. When morning rolls around, I regret it profoundly.


The logic goes something like this: The noise level in the house is unacceptable. Therefore, I must tell the kids to keep it down. However, to do that I must raise my voice even louder. I must scream over the screaming in order to put an end to the screams. This is not rational or even particularly effective.

One day I think I'll learn. I'll walk over to the children, take their hands with a smile, and calmly explain to them that my eardrums are bleeding and I would greatly appreciate it if they would use their inside voices. But that day is not today.

Dear children, if you're reading this, I'm sorry. You probably don't understand now, but I'm convinced you'll forgive me 20 years from now when you find yourselves saying these same things to your own children. Because when you become a parent, you earn the right to eat the secret cookies at 7 AM.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Vegging Out at Applebee's, Not Plagiarizing Your Plagiarism Essay, and Things I Don't Want to Talk About

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


I'm proud to announce that I have joined the 21st century and started using my smartphone as an alarm in the morning instead of my bedside clock.

I don't know what happened to my trusty old alarm, it just stopped working. (Luckily, I have little ones that wake me up constantly so I never slept through a bus pickup.)

After I tossed the busted alarm I was a little concerned about not being able to see what time it was (I like to check the clock all night to see how little time I have to sleep until morning) but it turns out that I sleep better in total darkness so it's a good thing after all.

Plus, now the toddler won't be able to mess with my head by sneaking into my room and turning it upside-down sometimes:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Now that I think about it, him playing with it is probably how it broke in the first place.


I took my daughter to Applebee's (ostensibly we were having a mother-daughter book club, but also I needed to stress eat after spending 45 minutes across the street at FedEx trying to get a simple printing job done.)

It's been years since I set foot in an Applebee's so the first thing I noticed was the little tablet screens propped up on every table in the restaurant:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I wondered if it was some fancy ordering system for introverts, but nope, you could pay $1.99 to play video games on it while you waited for your food.

I wasn't sure why you'd go out to eat if you're not going to talk (I don't even like TVs in restaurants because the kids go slack-jawed and glassy-eyed whether it's on cartoons or stock market coverage on CNN.)

Also, why not just play the games on your phone for free? I think I'm missing something here.


This week on the blog, I made my first real video!

It was even more exciting than when I made my first cartoon, most likely because I'm a horrible artist but the video was actually pretty good.

(Which is probably why I decided to outsource the cartooning ideas to someone who knows how to draw and my video got over 100,000 views on Facebook in the first 48 hours.)

On a related note, did you know that it's impossible to get a decent-looking screenshot from a video of you talking?

It's true. Every single thumbnail YouTube picked made me look equally inebriated:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

And when I tried to find a better one myself, I came up with nothing. "I guess any one frame from this video makes me look weird," I concluded to Phillip, the unofficial tech support for Unremarkable Files. 

He nodded sagely. "That's why I try to look away when you're talking."

Ha ha, so funny I forgot to laugh. I only let my tech support guy talk to me like that because I pay him in casserole leftovers.

If you haven't watched my video, "Awkward Things People Say to Big Families," you need to do so right away. What's your favorite part, and more importantly, what should be the subject of my next video?


It's only been a week, but my 5-year-old is already adopting the language from her kindergarten class. The other day Phillip did something and she told him, "That was a thumbs-up decision, Dad."

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
The newly-minted kindergartner on her first day.

Later, she was describing to me how everyone in class has jobs every day, but instead of "the line leader" she called it "the Super Leader."

"Wait, why is it called 'Super Leader?'" I interrupted.

"You get to wear a cape."

"Does it give you super powers?" I asked.


"Well, how do you know if you haven't worn it?"

She looked at me like I was an imbecile and said, "It's just a toy cape."

This is the same kid who has flat-out refused practically since birth to believe in either Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. There is no room for magic in her world.


Meanwhile, my 8th grader is starting a class in creative writing. Their first assignment was to write 100 words about what plagiarism is and why it's bad.

I suggested copying and pasting the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on plagiarism because it would be easier, but she declined.


My 6th grader's backpack zipper broke on the second day of school. But no big deal, it was last year's anyway.

We got her a new one, and it wasn't for another few days that she realized she'd left something inside that she needed. By then, several bags of trash were piled up in the garage.

I don't think of myself as a squeamish person but I really can't even talk about the things I saw (and smelled) as we were opening the bags and sifting through the moldy remains of last week's dinner trying to find it.

Seriously, when someone asks about it I want to light my hands on fire.

It wasn't until I picked up a third bag and a river of liquid flowed out that I dropped it back in the can, yelled "NOPE!" and turned to go back in the house that my daughter met me sheepishly at the door saying, "I found it in my other backpack."

So yeah, I basically dug through the trash for fun.

If this child ever doubts my love for her, I will be directing her to this blog post.


If you follow the blog's Facebook page then you may have already seen this, but go ahead and take a listen. 

And give him time. I wasn't convinced by the first two songs, but when he got to the John Mayer I started laughing and I was practically crying by the time he finished the U2.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I Guess Moms Actually Do Use Everything They Learned in School

Don't worry, that diploma you earned before becoming a SAHM was totally worth it. I think.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Do you ever find yourself on hands and knees with a bottle of carpet cleaner telling a stubborn pee stain, "I have a college education, you know!"

Sometimes you can't help but wonder if it was all a waste. One of my favorite bloggers Six Pack Mom probably says it best: "For sale: Master's Degree in English Education, like new. Barely used."

But you know, the more I think about it, the more I realize: I use the things I learned in school all the time as a mom. For example...

Mathematics: Checking the clock every 5 minutes, saying "If I go to sleep right now, I can still get ___ hours before I have to get up."

Literature: Reading picture books in half the time without sacrificing the basic plot points of the story.

Physical Education: Carrying a baby, a giant beach bag, buckets and shovels, a cooler full of snacks, towels, sunscreen, and floaties to the beach from the car. On the way back, add to that the 56 rocks your preschooler found in the water and can't bear to part with.

Health: Weighing the mental health benefits vs. the physical health drawbacks of hiding in the bathroom with a sleeve of Oreos at 10 AM.

Psychology: Tricking your preschooler into thinking it was actually her idea to put on her pajamas.

Handwriting: Signing the mountain of paperwork your kids bring home on the first day of school. Don't get me started on the PTA checks.

Art Appreciation: Finding something meaningful to say about the latest toilet paper tube craft your 1st grader brings home from school.

Geography: Memorizing the location of every public restroom in every store you've ever visited or may someday visit with your child.

Sociology: Studying your kids trying to figure out why in the world they act the way they do.

Typing: Scouring the Internet with variations of the search query: "weird bumpy rash raised no fever."

Debate: Arguing with a 3-year-old over whether or not birds have legs. (Inexplicably, you lose, even after pulling up a dozen Google images of birds standing on what are clearly legs.)

World History: Regaling the kids with stories about how when you were their age, you couldn't use the Internet and make a phone call at the same time.

Creative Writing: Making it sound like you have your crap together in your annual Christmas letter.

Civics: Constantly explaining that in this house, we pick up after ourselves, take responsibility for our actions, and don't run after our sisters slapping them with a sticky hand we got in a party favor bag.

Earth Science: Raising kids who spend a lot of time outdoors testing the chemical properties of soil. With their tongues.

Statistics: Sizing up a room or situation and knowing immediately how probable it is that your child is going to hurt himself.

Economics: Analyzing whether the financial gains justify digging through the trash to find your kid's lost retainer. Again.

Geometry: Just kidding, you'll never use this. Only when you help your kids with their geometry homework, which they in turn will use only for their kids' homework someday. It's called the Circle of Life.

Don't worry, that diploma you earned before becoming a SAHM was totally worth it. I think.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

So you see, my college diploma and 16+ years of schooling was anything but a waste. Now if you'll excuse me, the kids' toilet isn't going to unclog itself.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Awkward Things People Say to Big Families

After an unpleasant run-in at the grocery store, I knew I had to make this video.

(Spoiler alert: even though you're entitled to have whatever opinion you want about big families, certain opinions are quite rude if they exit your mouth within hearing distance of another human being.)

Enjoy, and don't forget to share it with a friend who can relate!

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

End of an Era: Educational Summer Vacation 2017 Recap

We're already back in school and people are already talking about pumpkin spice everything (but who am I to talk, I just had a cider donut for breakfast this morning.) It's hard to imagine that our pretend trip around the world over summer vacation just ended.

In my mind, the benefits of learning about geography and culture over summer vacation are threefold:
  1. It gives us enough structure to keep the kids from going all Lord of the Flies.
  2. They even learn something (my 6th grader just took a geography pretest in school and she said she knew a lot of the answers because of our imaginary travels.)
  3. We make some good memories and have fun.

Two of them said building a Spanish aqueduct was their favorite activity of the summer (don't worry, it sounds way fancier than it actually was.) The 5-year-old cited making some traditional Greek cookies and the 9-year-old said he liked watching a video about lemurs in Madagascar.

This year's pretend "trip around the world" taught the kids about geography and culture in Austria, Greece, Chile, Madagascar, North Korea, and Spain! Use for your homeschool or just laugh along at our Pinterest fails and highlights from 2017.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

If you want to read about how our weeks went, use these posts as lesson plans for your home school, or just laugh along at our Pinterest fails (I'd say the volcano in Chile was definitely the most epic flop of the year) check out the links below!



Thanks to everybody who followed along, suggested recipes or activities, and commented on the blog. We'll be back at it again next summer.

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