Friday, November 24, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Hiding Our Hallway Chaos, Places Not to Draw Cheese, and Things Moms Do When They Have the House to Themselves

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

1


Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. readers!

You are looking at the most delicious turkey ever, so tender it fell apart into bite-sized pieces when you looked at it:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I just now noticed that a Beanie Boo apparently joined us at the table for Thanksgiving this year.

Phillip is our holiday cook around here, and he's a complete food snob which is why our turkey turned out like it did. The man doesn't take shortcuts.

I did, however, offer earlier this week to pick up anything he needed at the store. I was thinking he'd rattle off a handful of ingredients, but he came back half an hour later with a 2-page list.

And you guys, it was so hard.

"Carrots." Okay, like how many? The big bag or the small one? "Pumpkin." Do you mean a pumpkin pumpkin, or the canned stuff? If so, is that pumpkin puree or pumpkin pie filling? "Dried Cranberries." Are you aware of the metric ton of Craisins already in the cupboard or did you have something else in mind?

That day, I walked a mile in the shoes of the clueless husbands wandering the baking aisle calling their wives to ask basic questions, except I wasn't smart enough to even bring my cell phone so I just had to do my best and hope I didn't ruin Thanksgiving.

2


I love this Thankful Turkey my kindergartner made at school.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
The gibberish ones you can't read are "toys" and "friends." Written backwards, naturally.

It really makes me wish I could be a kid again. If "balloons" comes in at #7 on a list of the top 8 things you're most thankful for, you are leading a charmed life, my friend.

3


I'm not sure how it happened, but November really snuck up on me and I'm sort of freaking out.

Phillip started talking about going to get a Christmas tree this weekend, and I'm over here practically breathing into a paper bag because all I can think about is the fact that I still have the kids' shorts and flip-flops still in piles all over the house needing to be boxed up and stored in the attic.

I'M NOT READY.

4


In the entryway by our front door, we have a really cute console table. I love the styling, and it looks so pretty in a hallway.

That is, in the product images in the catalog.

In reality, it became a dumping ground for junk and the place where everyone scatters their scriptures. I think there is some decorative stuff on top but you can't even see it because of all the clutter surrounding it.

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

It was time to embrace the fact that we aren't in the phase of life where decorative furniture serves its intended purpose, and so we decided to upgrade (downgrade?) to this functional buffet table that has doors to hide what pigs we really are.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Mess contained! For now...

Because nobody needs to see that the second they come in the front door.

5


My 4th grader brought home a stack of completed school papers and this one caught my eye. He's been doodling Swiss cheese on things lately and I guess the teacher didn't like it.

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

I thought her response was a little extreme (it was just a single tiny sketch of cheese, after all) but then I turned to the next page of the assignment.

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

Okay, I guess she has a point.

6


Phillip's been traveling a lot for work lately and my stress level as been pretty high, so last weekend he took the kids to a hotel overnight to give me a break. And it was awesome.

I read parts of several books, took a bath, watched some old episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond, slept the whole night long and woke up by myself in the morning, went out for breakfast, and most of all just enjoyed everything staying exactly where I put it for almost a full 24 hours.

In short, I tried to do only self-care stuff that was enjoyable and relaxing. (I admit that I did clean one toilet, but it only took 5 minutes and it was really dirty and had been bothering me for weeks.)

7


I realize I could have been the one to go to the hotel but honestly, I must be more introverted than I thought because I kind of recoiled at the idea. I wanted nothing more than to be in my own house, sleeping in my own bed.

Which worked out great, because the kids had a blast at the hotel. They went swimming, ordered pizza, watched a movie, had hotel breakfast in the morning, went swimming again, went to the library, and went out for lunch before coming home. Best time ever for them.

But Phillip was pretty frazzled by the time they came home.

When I asked how it went, he just shook his head and said, "I don't understand how you're not crazier than you are."

Me, either.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Types of Service Animals All Parents Need

On the way out to visit us, my mom told me she noticed something weird at the airport.

It wasn't the fact that a granola bar costs $5 (although that's true.) She noticed a suspiciously high number of service dogs accompanying flyers, including some that were pretty obviously pets wearing a vest so their owners could bring them on the plane for free.

And that made me start thinking: if everybody's got a "service animal" now, why not parents, too?

If you think outside the box, you'll see that you need these service animals every bit as much as I do.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The more I thought about it, the more I realized there are all kinds of unusual service animals I'd like to employ that might help me out as a parent.

1. Fruit-sniffing dog for the van. The back half of the car is like another dimension. I have no idea what's back there and frankly, sending the kids to the backseat with fresh fruit as a snack can only end in disaster. Disaster that smells bad and attracts fruit flies. My daughter just informed me her sister's cupholder has "hard, black stuff at the bottom" so I'm super-excited to go find out what that's all about.

2. Parrot to fly after the kids repeating my instructions. What I wouldn't give to take a few days off from repeating myself ad nauseum. I tell the kids to go upstairs and put a towel away. I make eye contact. I repeat the instructions. I ask them to say it back to me. All seems to be well. And then I notice a few minutes later that the towel is at the foot of the stairs and they're in their room building a rollercoaster out of K'nex. Why do I even bother?

3. Groundhog to remind the kids of the weather. There can be four feet of snow on the ground and my kids will still come downstairs for school dressed like they're going to a beach party. I've heard groundhogs can sense when spring is coming; maybe they can somehow convey that information to my children. Because apparently, I can't.

If you think outside the box, you'll see that you need these service animals every bit as much as I do.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Don't roll your eyes at me, Emma: I said NO SHORTS!

4. Herding dog for when it's time to go.
Wouldn't it be nice if, when it was time to leave, I could just give a whistle and my trusty sheepdog could round up the kids and chase them into the car? This would come in handy in so many situations. Maybe we'd even eat family dinner before it got cold for once!

5. Homing pigeon to bring things to my kids'school. You name it, I've brought it to school. Whether it was too bulky for the bus or they forgot it or I was sending it in for a class party, I've delivered lunches, instruments, science projects, permission slips, paper plates, Halloween costumes, tubs of ice cream, and giant Ziploc bags full of bottle caps. I exchange pleasantries with the lady in the administration office more than I talk to my own mother.

6. Elephant to help me never forget. Before I had school-aged children, I underestimated the sheer work of remembering where everyone's supposed to be all the time, who doesn't like what food, which day is crazy hair day at school, and when basketball tryouts are. I've got a great system for getting all that information on the calendar; now I just need a system to remind me to look at it.

7. Pack mule to carry in the groceries. Every Monday, I'm shocked anew as I unload our grocery cart and try to figure out how we eat so much in a single week. And by the time I get it all in the car and bring it home, I barely have the energy to bring all 1,345 bags into the house. What I wouldn't give to be able to load up an animal who can carry it all in a single trip.

8. Rescue dog for bad days. Think of the rescue St. Bernards in the Alps, but instead of whiskey in a barrel around their neck it's a thermos of ice cream with hot fudge drizzled over the top. Maybe a sleeve of Thin Mints, if the collar is big enough for both. They can rescue me in the bathroom, because that room has a door that locks.

Parents have a special set of needs and honestly, who better to help them than these 8 service animals? And who know— maybe they could even go with you next time you have to wrangle your kids onto an airplane.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Gifts for Girls Who Love Fashion and Design (That Aren't Totally Annoying)

Do you have a kid who loves fashion and design? We do, and over the years our family has been the recipient of lots of design-related toys, games, and activities for holidays and birthdays.

Some have been hits, and some mostly sat gathering dust until heading to Goodwill. Want to know the kid-tested favorites in our family? 

Here they are, the best design and fashion toys we've seen over the years, in terms of how long they held our kids' attention and the annoyance level they were to parents (because let's face it, the kids get a lot of annoying toys this time of year and you don't need any more of those.)

Reviews of 7 amazing fashion- and design-related toys and activities that have been my kids' favorites over the years (and I give you the scoop on whether they were annoying to clean up or use, because that kind of thing matters to parents!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Klutz Paper Fashions


Using the provided stencils, kids mix and match to create and cut out hundreds of tiny paper outfits. This set came with lots of patterned paper, real trim, and little wire hangers to display the finished products. Because some intricate cutting work is involved, I'd say it's good for ages 7-13. 

What the Kids Liked: Our girls could play with this for a LOOOONG time. I was surprised at how much creativity they could use, even combining different parts of different stencils to create all-new pieces. They briefly glanced at the instructions and ideas in the attached book, but mostly just dug in and started making outfits on their own. They liked gluing the finished outfits in a notebook, so I took the cute little hangers and used them for cardmaking.

Parental Annoyance Level: Low! This toy is geared toward kids old enough to clean up after themselves, so there was little mess and it entertained them for hours. Plus, you can save money on the paper refills buy just getting regular scrapbook paper with small patterns when you are running low if you don't want to buy the Klutz brand refills.

Reviews of 7 amazing fashion- and design-related toys and activities that have been my kids' favorites over the years (and I give you the scoop on whether they were annoying to clean up or use, because that kind of thing matters to parents!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Interior Design Lightbox Studio Set


Comes with a lightbox, a bunch of room templates, and outlines for over 100 pieces of furniture and room decor to trace. (Somehow all pieces appear in the correct perspective, no matter where you place them in the room which I thought was cool.) After stenciling in the features of the room, they color and give realistic textures to all the furniture. Good for ages 5-12.

What the Kids Liked: This was awesome for teaching art fundamentals like perspective in a fun way; my kids didn't even know they were learning. Guided enough so that even young kids and poor artists could produce amazing drawings but still freeform enough to hold their attention for a long while. They loved this toy so much that even when the lightbox was broken in a freak elbow-drop incident (not the product's fault, it was ours) they would still painstakingly hold the pieces up to the windows and trace them until we got a replacement lightbox.

Parental Annoyance Level: Low! No small pieces and no mess, but if younger kids were using it we had to make sure they remembered to turn off the lightbox. The 50 sheets last a long time. As an aside, I loved that it hooked my fashion designer daughter but broadened her horizons beyond just drawing girls in pretty dresses all day.

Reviews of 7 amazing fashion- and design-related toys and activities that have been my kids' favorites over the years (and I give you the scoop on whether they were annoying to clean up or use, because that kind of thing matters to parents!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Origami Chic: a Guide to Foldable Fashion

Origami Chic is a super-creative, original idea. Instead of the standard origami animals, this book shows you how to fold origami clothes and accessories. It comes with paper and a book of instructions. Appropriate for ages 9 and up. 

What the Kids Liked: We got this when our 9-year-old was in her origami phase and we were looking for something different. She had no idea you could make this stuff using origami and was really excited to try it. It's a little hard to learn origami from a book, so sometimes she needed to ask for help. Other times she did it herself and was happy with the end result (even if she did it slightly differently than the book told her to.)

Parental Annoyance Level: Medium. If you don't mind being on-call to help with instructions when needed, this is a great and entertaining activity for your kids.

Reviews of 7 amazing fashion- and design-related toys and activities that have been my kids' favorites over the years (and I give you the scoop on whether they were annoying to clean up or use, because that kind of thing matters to parents!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

My Style Studio


Kids mix and match different outfit combinations (and hairstyles) on a female figure, but instead of drawing them with stencils they trace them on tracing paper included in the kit. The outfit pieces are bold outlines on clear window cling-like material so they are easy to trace. Very easy to use for ages 7-12.

What the Kids Liked: They took this one and ran with it. They liked creating the outfits and enjoyed that they were drawing them on a person whose appearance they could also personalize.

Parental Annoyance Level: Medium. The one thing I didn't love about this kit is how all the little outfit pieces tended to show up on the floor afterward. They are small and clear so they were easy to miss when putting away. I probably threw some away by accident (and maybe a few on purpose, if I'm being honest.)

Reviews of 7 amazing fashion- and design-related toys and activities that have been my kids' favorites over the years (and I give you the scoop on whether they were annoying to clean up or use, because that kind of thing matters to parents!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

20 Ways to Draw a Dress

This is a really fun sketchbook. The name is misleading because it doesn't actually give step-by-step instructions for drawing clothing 20 different ways; it gives you a few basic pictures for ideas and room to sketch 20 more from your own imagination. Good for road trips and kids who like to doodle. Ages 6-12.

What the Kids Liked: If you give my kids a blank sketchbook it will probably stay blank. This one gave them just enough direction and inspiration to get them started. The sample drawings are fairly simple line drawings, so your kids should get the sense from looking at the sketches that they don't have to be amazing artists to enjoy this book.

Parental Annoyance Level: Low! This was a great toy and I loved everything about it. It reminded me of Usborne Doodle Books but with a fashion slant for kids who are into that kind of thing.


The Fashion Angels line has lots of themes, but I personally thought Pet Fashions was the cutest  especially if your child is an animal-lover. The book comes with 40 sheets of outlines of a girl walking her pet (there are sheets with dogs, cats, and horses,) and the attached stencils allow kids to draw outfits on both the girl and her animal. Great for ages 6-11.

What the Kids Liked: They loved that the book was spiral bound, so it stayed open easily for drawing. It was a fun twist on the standard fashion drawing activity to have a matching pet to dress up in addition to the model.

Parental Annoyance Level: Low! Easy clean up. The stencil pages come out of the spiral binding but tuck right back in for cleanup, making sure they stay with the book.

Reviews of 7 amazing fashion- and design-related toys and activities that have been my kids' favorites over the years (and I give you the scoop on whether they were annoying to clean up or use, because that kind of thing matters to parents!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Creativity for Kids Fashion Headbands


This kit combines fashion and creativity with hands-on crafting. Kids use the ribbons, flowers, and accessories provided to create up to 10 wearable headbands, and a booklet comes with the set to give them ideas for getting started. Good for kids ages 4-9.

What the Kids Liked: My youngest daughter was totally wowed with how many cute things she could create and wanted to put them all on one headband. My older one was a little more conservative and created some very elegant-looking ones using the ideas provided in the instructions. The style of most of the headbands is probably more geared toward kids at the younger end of the 4-9 spectrum.

Parental Annoyance Level: I personally would say medium to high because I don't like doing crafts and this set requires help from a parent practically the whole time. If crafts are your thing, though, you and your child will love this set. (Tip: use a hot glue gun instead of the included craft glue. It works better, and if you're going to be helping anyway, you might as well.)


I hope this list helps with your holiday gift-giving and allows you to find some quality, enjoyable fashion and design toys and activities for your children this year!

Reviews of 7 amazing fashion- and design-related toys and activities that have been my kids' favorites over the years (and I give you the scoop on whether they were annoying to clean up or use, because that kind of thing matters to parents!)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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Friday, November 17, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Unrealistic Time Frames, Slowly Allowing Amazon to Control Every Aspect of my Life, and the Problem with Bouncy Balls

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

1


A friend gave me three big buckets full of apples and I thought, "Great! Let's can some applesauce! I'll crank this out in the morning and still have time to go to the grocery store before lunch."

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

It's like I've never even been to my life.

I guess I forgot that not only do I have to cut up and core all the apples (Pampered Chef peeler for life,) I also have to cook the apples, mash them up, sterilize the jars, fill the jars, process them 5 at a time in a boiling water bath, mop the floor, and bathe the kids who've been rolling around in the sticky apple pulp all morning and touching everything like it's their job.

It took all day.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
It really seems like I did more work than this...

The kids are expressly forbidden to eat any of the applesauce now because it took me so long. We will just look at the jars and appreciate them.

2


Our kitchen counters are a lovely forest green formica courtesy of 1995 (we are legally required to start singing TLC's "Waterfalls" every time we look at them.) Anyway, the strip on the side fell off and has been sitting in our when-I-get-around-to-it pile for a while.

The other night Phillip finally got around to it while I was finishing something up on the computer. I was vaguely aware that there was a lot of noise and goings-on in the background but not really paying attention, and then I turned around and saw this:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Modern art installation right in the middle of my kitchen.

I guess I hadn't thought about how you were supposed to put a clamp on the side of the counter after gluing it... but not to worry, Phillip's an engineer and he had it covered.

3


Check out this fear-mongering piece of propaganda advertisement that came in the mail:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Logo of sneaky summer camp blacked out because I don't want to give them free advertising.

So if I'm reading this right, and I think I am, the only way to combat my kids' inevitable mental self-destruction is to send them to summer camp. And not just any camp  it has to be this specific one because it's THE LAST SAFE PLACE. Seriously. They would for sure be kidnapped and murdered at literally any other place.

What a relief to know! Where is my wallet?!

Also, who is put together enough to be making plans for summer vacation right now? I don't even know what we're having for dinner tonight.

4


Speaking of being totally on top of things, I dug out our fall decorations and realized once I went outside to put them up that the front porch area needs a little TLC.

Our spring wreath of fake forsythia blooms was still hanging on the door. Sitting on the porch was a decorative gourd covered entirely in blue paint, for purposes still unknown to me. And our door is full of dents and dings because a few weeks ago the 3-year-old whacked it senseless with a tennis racket for no discernible reason.

We don't even play tennis.

5


I'm a die-hard Amazon shopper, but I always hesitated to buy clothes online. It just seemed like it would never work.

My daughter needed some clothes for her orchestra concert, and instead of driving around to a couple of different department stores I decided to give Amazon a shot and only buy things with free returns, just in case.

And now I'm a believer.

Online shopping is infinitely faster, and if you have to return something you can print off the return label and have your kids run it out to the mailbox for the mailman to pick up. I think the second half of my life has begun.

Once I embrace online grocery shopping, (which may take a while because I'm still fighting it,) I may never leave the house again.

6


As we finished dinner, Phillip and I were leaning back in our chairs and talking about what we should do with our evening now that soccer practice is over and we have our weeknights back again.

Luckily, my son answered that question for us a few minutes later when he put his bouncy ball through the living room ceiling.

You kind of have to fix a gaping hole in your ceiling ASAP in the cold of November in New England.

(As I lay down to get a picture, my little boys tackled me because hey, Mom's on the floor and it must mean she wants to play.)

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

The really annoying thing is that our living room ceiling happens to be two stories tall. I have bad balance (like, really bad) so that rules me out on the ladder, and Phillip is afraid of heights so it's not exactly an ideal situation.

He patched up the hole, but now we need to do texturize and repaint so it matches the rest of the ceiling.

Given our to-do list and how much Phillip enjoys the ladder, I figure we'll probably be pointing out the ugly patch to our grandchildren thirty years from now and saying, "Your dad did this when he was your age, way back before we had flying cars you could control with your mind!"

7


We're having a problem with the 1-year-old right now. He sneaks off to quietly poop in his diaper and tries not to let us find out. Then he gets a diaper rash, and by the time we discover he needs a change it hurts him, which reinforces his desire to hide it from us next time.

It's a vicious cycle.

So we've asked the other kids to be on high alert and report back to us if they suspect a dirty diaper. We like to remind them about their new responsibility by quoting a variant of the Department of Homeland Security's motto: "If you smell something, say something."

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Why Moms Are Crazy

Heaven forbid that your husband or anyone else you know ever points it out, but did you ever notice that since you had children you're a little... crazy?

Of course we moms are crazy. The billion tiny socks on the floor have driven us there.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

It's not your fault, though! Here are just a few of the reasons moms have one foot practically in the loony bin.

Tiny socks. They're everywhere. The kids could be barefoot 98% of the time but your house would still be coated in a thin film of child-size socks.

Remembering everyone's likes and dislikes. Child 1 will only eat ham sandwiches with the crusts cut off while Child 2 hates ham and doesn't like bread with seeds in it. Or is it the other way around? Oh, and every couple of weeks they randomly change their minds just to mess with you. Good luck packing lunches.

Washing clean dishes. My kids do this cute thing where they get a new cup, take a single sip of water, and dump it in the sink for me to wash about 12 times a day. #blessed

Toys that sing annoying songs. Even though the song makes you want to poke your eardrums out with a chopstick, somehow you'll still catch yourself singing it in the shower. And it will make you question every life decision you've made up to this point.

Re-folding clothes. I live for that glorious 5 seconds between finishing a huge pile of laundry and watching a child come barreling through it like a linebacker.

YouTube videos of people playing video games. Or "unboxing" anything. Or singing annoying songs about ducks and lemonade stands that you're going to find yourself humming in the shower later.

Murphy's law. You mop, the kids spill milk all over the floor. You wash your hair, someone pukes in it. You stop carrying around a change of clothes after your kid is potty trained... I think you get it.

Hand towels. By 10 AM you're ready to nail all of the hand towels to the wall. You're pretty sure your kids don't even wash their hands when you're not there, so it's a real mystery how they get pulled off the rod in the first place.

Blankets everywhere. My kids come downstairs every morning wrapped in their blankets from bed, and then they shed them on the floor wherever and whenever feels right to them. And then they leave for school and I can't even see the carpet.

Listening to kids describe their dreams. I'm all ears when it comes to their dreams and aspirations for the future. But I'm talking about when they come downstairs saying, "Mom, I dreamed I was at Grandma's house, but it wasn't Grandma's, but it kind of was like Grandma's house except the stairs were different and for some reason my teacher was there, too, but then she turned into someone else but I still knew it was my teacher and..."

Finding things in your shoes. Kids play with everything. Everything. They enter your closet and take out pairs of your shoes and fill them up with travel-sized lotions from your bathroom. Because that is a completely logical thing to do.

Port-a-potties. It's gross enough to use one yourself. Try maneuvering around in there with a kid or two, especially one with no qualms about touching everything or making 100 disgusting observations about the potty's contents while you're trapped in there with them.

"Hand wash only" items. You have got to be kidding me.

Plot summaries of kids' movies that are longer than the actual run time of the film. Well, there went two days of your life you can never get back again.

Pinterest. Are you telling me that in addition to getting the kids up on the first day of school, feeding them breakfast, packing lunches, and getting them to the bus on time, I'm also supposed to hand-paint a chalkboard sign with their autobiography on it and take a picture every year? No wonder we're all basketcases.

Throw pillows. If Target wanted to showcase how they'd actually look in your house, they'd be scattered all over the floor of the home decor aisle, along with all the couch cushions from home furnishings.

Kids waste everything. Entire rolls of floss unrolled for no reason. Boxes of Band-Aids used to cover invisible wounds. Food dumped on the floor. Doors and windows left open to heat the neighborhood. Welcome to parenthood: hope you like throwing money down the toilet.

Of course we moms are crazy. The billion tiny socks on the floor have driven us there.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Mom guilt. Let the kids sort out their own problems, or you're the helicopter parent of a dependent slug who's going to live at home until they're 45. But also don't do that, unless you want your neglected youth to seek love and acceptance leading a gang in prison.

Nothing stays where we put it. Parenthood is a magical realm where scissors, phones, wallets, and any other object we put down can (and will) just grow legs and wander away. Logic is useless in figuring out where the missing object could be. It could be literally anywhere. If I were you, I'd start by looking in your shoe.

Clothes on the floor beside the hamper. No matter what kind of receptacle for dirty laundry you have in your kids' rooms or where you place it, there will always be piles of dirty clothes sitting 2" from it.

Changing the toilet paper roll. I cannot count the number of times I've walked into a bathroom to see a new toilet paper roll on top of the empty one still on the holder. It's like I'm the only one who can see it.

Automatic flush toilets. If your child has ever suffered from PTSD after an auto-flush toilet went off while she was still sitting on it, you know exactly what I mean. Other things that drive us crazy are the deafening super-sonic hand dryers and the feminine hygiene boxes in the stalls... pretty much everything about public restrooms is the worst.

Having things shoved in your eyeball. I'd love to look at the thing you're so excited to show me, kids. Which I will, as soon as I dislodge it from my cornea.

How we literally can't have anything nice. My kids have broken full-length mirrors, drawn on computer monitors, dented walls, stabbed the table repeatedly with a fork, peed on mattresses, run through screen doors, pulled down the living room curtains, and broken a hole in the ceiling with a bouncy ball. And these are generally well-behaved kids we're talking about.

People hurting themselves doing the exact thing we told them to stop doing. It's not even gratifying to say "I told you so." Okay, sometimes it kind of is.

Glitter. I think scattering glitter all over the house when doing craft projects is a kindergartner's way of establishing dominance. I really do.

Bedtime. Why does bedtime come at the end of the day, when you're already frazzled, fried, and exhausted? Under those circumstances, you can't really expect a person not to totally lose it when someone pops out of their room for the 15th time after lights out to ask if there are boy ladybugs, too.

Being the finder. Not only are you expected to know where everyone's belongings are at all times (usually, you do), but when you suggest places to look, those same people will argue with you as to why their things couldn't possibly be in any of those places (and usually, they are.)

Accommodating requests while driving. Kids could really care less if you're a tad occupied with, say, merging onto the freeway in a snowstorm. They want some water and a new radio station, and they want it now.

We love our kids and wouldn't give them up for all the brain cells in the world which is a good thing, because motherhood is making you lose your mind.

One unmatched sock at a time.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Good Reasons to Pause a Soccer Game, Raising a Courteous Young Man, and Being Sick of Making Cake

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

1


Well, we're on Day 6 of finding clocks around the house that still are an hour off and I'm never sure what time it is. How is post-Daylight Savings time going for you?

I'm pleased to say we were actually on time for church last Sunday, although we needed every second of that extra hour to pull it off.

2


Saturday morning was the kids' last soccer game of the season! I feel like I should've brought some sparkling cider or firecrackers or something to celebrate the occasion with the other parents freezing their butts off of the sidelines.

As we strapped on her shinguards to get ready, my kindergartner asked, "Who's coming to my game?"

I knew what she was thinking. Phillip's mom has been staying with us this week and my daughter was hoping she'd come to her game. Unfortunately, my son was also playing across town at the same time and Grandma already promised him she'd be there.

"Me!" I said.

She sighed. "Only you?"

"Well, don't sound so disappointed about it!"

Obediently, she immediately adopted the cheeriest inflection in the world and asked "Only you?!?"

That's more like it.

3


The soccer game was a good end to the season and a fairly typical representation of every pee-wee soccer game everywhere.

When the coach knelt down to tie someone's cleat, a bunch of other kids with undone laces came over and the poor guy was stuck in the middle of a bona fide mass shoe tying emergency for several minutes.

At one point, they had to stop the game because the kids all stopped to look at a worm someone spotted on the field. The coach had to come over and move it off to the sidelines because the kids were worried it was going to get hurt.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Game? What game? Can't you see THERE'S A WORM HERE???

In the middle of all that I think there was at least some soccer being played, but I can't say for sure.

4


My 1-year-old went to the pediatrician for a checkup, but I had to wake him up from a nap so he was pretty crabby. Worse yet, he had to get an immunization after the visit.

He didn't cry, but he was highly suspicious of the nurse who vaccinated him and practically jumped out of my arms when she came close to put on the Band-Aid.

Right up until she walked out of the door he was giving her the stink-eye. I'm not sure what exactly was responsible for the change of heart, but at the last minute before the door closed behind her he called out clear as a bell: "Thank you!"

She came back in and gushed about how cute and polite he was. (In retrospect I realize he may have been thanking her for leaving. Either way, it seemed like it made her day.)

5


Usually when people consolidate and celebrate multiple birthdays at the same time, they do it to make things less work.

We did that this week but somehow made it more work. I need to figure out what we're doing wrong.

First, my 6-year-old had a party with her friends and chose a dog theme. (I don't know why she picked that theme. We've never owned a dog or even talked about owning a dog.)

We made little dog bone-shaped Rice Krispies and guess who helped open the box:

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

I had to eat the leftover cereal myself just so I could throw away the box, it was driving me that crazy.

At the party, the girls enjoyed having a scavenger hunt in the house to find the Rice Krispie bones...

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

...aaaaand then they decided to eat them off the table with their mouths like dogs.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Looking at this picture, I realize I could have at least gotten them napkins or something.

As you can see, they really got into character at this party.

6


The 1-year-old loved, and I mean LOVED, the party balloons. Whenever he saw one, he would squeal and throw himself on it like he was actually trying to pop it.

And then I realized that he was.

He was copying a party game the girls played that involved popping balloons to get the pieces of paper inside, and now he thinks the object of balloons is to just pop them as quickly as possible.

7


The next day was Phillip's actual birthday, which for me meant that I'd be making two cakes in two days.

That wouldn't have been a big deal if they'd both been as simple as my daughter's dog cake:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Cute but not complicated.

But I wanted to make something a little more special than a boxed cake mix with Duncan Hines frosting for Phillip.

And let me tell you, I have birthed entire humans in less time than it took me to make this triple chocolate layer cake from scratch. Not even exaggerating.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Strategically positioned so as not to show how lopsided it actually looked.

I found two recipes online and let my daughter choose between them. Of course, she picked the fancier one. It didn't even use cups as a form of measurement like a normal person. It measured everything in grams (read this in a snobby British accent with your pinky in the air.)

I dirtied every bowl in the house and stress-ate cake batter the whole time. I used a kitchen scale and a flour sifter for the first (and hopefully last) time ever.

I take that back, I used the kitchen scale once to calculate postage for a letter.

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

Fancy baking is stressful for me in the first place, because my spirit animal is less Julia Child and more prison cafeteria lady.

But what makes it even worse is that Phillip is a very good cook, so baking for him feels like performing a solo for Pavarotti. Even if he's gracious and genuinely enjoys your song, he's still freaking Pavarotti.

However, Phillip said the cake was the best thing he's tasted since our wedding cake, and he's been talking about that thing for 13 years.

And I sincerely hope he enjoyed it, because I'm not doing it again.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

An Accurate Hot Toy List for 2017

It's that time of year, when Toys R Us and every other retailer in the universe releases their "Hot Holiday Toy List" and we are all supposed to stampede each other in the aisles for them (or pay quadruple on Ebay later.)

But here's the thing. Most of the toys on the list look like more expensive versions of stuff my kids already don't play with. So I've compiled an actual Hot Toy List that will clue other parents like myself in to what your young one might like this holiday season.

Along with these nominations for Best Toy of the Year, here are 10 items that have been played with practically non-stop at our house since I started having babies over a decade ago.

10. Toilet Plunger


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

My youngest is a ninja when it comes to sneaking in the bathroom to grab this curious piece of equipment. If I leave the door open for even a second, he's walking around somewhere with the toilet plunger giddy with excitement. I read a blog post by a mom who decided to stop fighting it and just bought her son a brand-new plunger at the hardware store... I'm not sure if the article was serious or joking, but either way it's the most brilliant thing I've ever read.

9. Light Switch


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Best case scenario: you can pull a chair up to the wall and let your child stand there flicking the switch and giggling for 20 minutes while you eat a sleeve of Oreos in the other room. Worst case scenario: they're not old enough to reliably stand there without falling so you have to hover within arms' length without blinking the whole time, or skip the chair altogether and stand there holding them like you don't have anything else to do today.

8. My Earrings


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Another fun cause-and-effect toy! Pull the dangly loops and get a gasp, scream, or expletive from mom every time! It's basically a newer version of those dolls from the '80s where you'd pull a string to make them talk. Talk about a classic.

7. Junk Drawer


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}


When a child gets tall enough to reach the junk drawer, the second half of his life begins. Rubber bands, tape dispensers, random writing utensils, a pad of Post-It notes, a fingernail clippers... the funnest substances known to man, hitherto off-limits, are all jumbled up in one drawer of wonders. Some kids pick through it cautiously, others dig in like a starving man at a Golden Corral; either way, the household junk drawer will entertain them for hours.

6. Flashlight


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

These are great for carrying around the house and wedging beneath the couch. Left on, of course. I have replaced the batteries in our flashlight a dozen times and I don't think I've ever used it. The underside of our couch, however, has been well-illuminated for most of the time we've lived here.

5. Remote


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Next to an airliner cockpit, you really can't find more buttons in one place than a remote control. (The one with LOTS of buttons in our house isn't pictured here because, ironically, it went missing after the kids played with it.) When you walk around with a remote in your hand, you walk around holding power. Until they reach a certain age and realize there's a difference, remotes can also double as pretend phones.

4. My Keys


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I'm starting to suspect the nurses in the maternity ward of teaching babies to tell real keys from fake ones. We have a pair of baby toy plastic keys that look just like real ones, they're not those fake chunky ones, and none of our kids has even feigned interest in it . My keys, on the other hand, are a hot commodity. It probably helps that there's a red button specifically designed to send the car into a delightful panic mode.

3. My Shoes


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I have no nice shoes anymore. The backs have all been smashed flat by small people who help themselves to my closet and wear my shoes around whenever the mood strikes. The fact that I may not want them to clomp around in my footwear for fun never seems to occur to them. I know because I just found my only pair of dressy flats on the counter in the kids' bathroom filled with Shopkins.

2. Pots and Pans


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

What makes a fantastic noise and is super-fun to drag out of the kitchen cabinets 42 times a day? Why, pots and pans, of course! You can use them to booby trap the kitchen in the dark, cook up some fake food in your room, or just do gross things like put your dirty bare feet in them for absolutely no reason at all so mom has to wash them again. Those are all popular options around here.

1. Empty Cardboard Box


Who needs hot holiday toy lists when every toddler's deepest desire is to play with the toilet plunger?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

One of the biggest surprises I've had in motherhood is how old kids can be and still have fun with a cardboard box. The fun can be anything from hiding inside it to jumping around with it on your head to simply ripping it apart with your bare hands (yes, that has actually happened and I still don't get it.) The best boxes, according to my kids, are the ones I'm saving for a specific purpose and would like to use in the future. Those are destroyed pretty much immediately.

Armed with this knowledge, I wish you the very best of luck holiday shopping for your children this season. Of course every child has their individual likes and preferences, but if you stick to time-tested favorites like these you really can't go wrong. If all else fails, just tell them it's yours and they're not allowed to touch it.

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