Friday, April 28, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Decorative Tortillas, A Man Who Knows How to Take Orders, and Diagnosing Skin Conditions over Social Media

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


Some people have a welcome mat, other people have a stack of burnt tortillas on the doorstep.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Welcome to my life.

I've told you before that the oven broiler is not my friend. I always try to do one quick thing while I'm waiting, and before I know it there's smoke pouring out of the oven and I'm flying across the kitchen shoving children out of my way and yelling, "Crap! CRAAAAP!!"

Two of these tortillas were literally on fire. I had to blow out the flames like giant birthday candles.

So I mostly threw them outside so they didn't stink up the house. But also because I was having a bad day and it was therapeutic.


My son has become this crazy Rubik's Cube genius. He turns the things so quickly when he solves them he complains about the friction slowing him down by .02 seconds, so he bought some silicone Rubik's cube lubricant on Amazon.

When it came, I heard him opening up the box from the other room and yelled "Make sure you read the directions first so you know how much to use!"

Which turned out to be less-than-helpful motherly advice, seeing as neither of us know Mandarin.

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


While sitting on the sidelines at my son's soccer game, I asked Phillip to take some pictures of me playing with the baby.

Phillip is a great husband but he totally stinks at taking pictures. It just never occurs to him to photograph anything. This used to make me sad because as a result there were no pictures of me, but marriage is all about compromise so now I just tell him when to take pictures of stuff and he follows instructions.

Sometimes too well. I asked him to take pictures, and he didn't stop even when the baby accidentally throat punched me.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Totally going in the baby book.

It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but as far as photojournalism goes it certainly does tell a story.


My kids' school brought home some paperwork about a fundraiser, including this donation envelope with suggestions for bugging every adult you know:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
School fundraisers: not just your parents' problem anymore!

The money isn't for the school, but for the American Cancer Society, which makes it a little better. I think.


As part of her science homework, my 7th grader had to watch a YouTube video on heat transfer. She chose one at random from the list and what did I begin to hear but the theme song to Bill Nye the Science Guy!

I haven't seen Bill Nye in 20 years but before I even knew what was happening I was raising the roof and chanting "Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!" along with the soundtrack like it was 1994.

My daughter wasn't as impressed as I thought she would be.


Sometimes it's a little scary how well Facebook knows you. I was working on the blog's Facebook page when I noticed that off to the side, Facebook recommended that I pay a visit to What Kind of Rash Is This?

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

It's like Facebook knows my un-glamorous life exactly. (Also, that rash is obviously hand, foot, and mouth.)

Other groups I should join include Why Is This Sticky? and How Many Minutes Until Bedtime?


A while ago, my daughter got really into origami and someone had the bright idea to rope the entire family into making a thousand paper cranes for this organization called Cranes for Cancer. This totally sounds like something I would do so it was probably me.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
What have I done...

You'd think the hardest part would be folding all the cranes, but you'd be wrong. It was figuring out how to ship them.

Through trial and error, we finally decided the best route was placing them carefully in Ziploc bags and smooshing the air out.

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

By doing that, we were able to fit all 1,000 of them in a 12"x12"x6" large Priority Mail box. That's not very big. I was quite pleased with myself.

I just hope all 1,000 of them don't explode out of the box and all around the room when the person at Cranes for Cancer opens it.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Mom's Guide to Reading a Novel*

*based on a true story.

Sometimes I see moms in the blogosphere posting monthly reading lists with reviews of the stacks of books they've read in the last 30 days. Usually it's a greater number of books than I've read in the last 30 years.

This 15-step guide might not help busy moms like us to read more, but it certainly will make us look like we do.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
If you have time to read in a meadow, this post is not for you.

If you, like me, have trouble getting your act together and reading a book these days, then this 15-step mom's guide to reading a novel will help.

Not to read more, but to at least appear that you do.

Step 1: Hear buzz about a hot new book. You have no idea what "sus" means and you still wear bootcut jeans, so this might take a while. But eventually popular culture will trickle down to you. Just be patient.

Step 2: Reserve it at the library. The public library is fuh-ree and the plus side of being at least a year behind on all things trendy means there's no longer even much of a wait to get it!

Step 3: Forget to pick it up. By the time you make it to the library, though, the hold has already expired and the book has been sent back. Repeat steps 2 and 3 one to two more times before actually picking up the book.

Step 4: Read the back cover. You get home and start to read immediately, but you don't get past the jacket before someone hits their mouth on the coffee table and starts bleeding.

Step 5: Relocate the book to your nightstand. Where you are totally going to read it without falling asleep. Absolutely.

Step 6: Realize it's been a few weeks and you have no idea where the book is. You've been making slow progress and probably gotten about 50 pages in. If you only knew where it was right now...

Step 7: Keep renewing online at the library, hoping it will turn up. It's got to be somewhere.

Step 8: Find it wedged under the couch while looking for a missing shoe. Figure that when one door closes, another door opens. You do not find the shoe; send your child to school in socks and sandals instead.

Step 9: Carry the book around for 2 weeks. You briefly consider giving up, but decide that 50 pages is too much of an investment. Take it to various appointments in case you have time to kill. When people see the book and ask how you like it, tell them you just can't put it down. Which is technically true since you're carrying it around all the time.

Step 10: Crack the book open while waiting in the school pick-up line. Realize that your bookmark is gone.

Step 11: Flip through the pages looking for familiar words or phrases. Twelve minutes later, school is dismissed and the pick-up line starts moving. You never did find anything you remembered reading from before.

Step 12: Replace the book on your nightstand. Feel guilty about not reading it, but too depressed to start over on page 1.

Step 13: Give up. Suddenly feel the need to purge all excess clutter from your life, including the book that's been sitting on your nightstand for almost a month. Hold it over your head and yell "I'm returning this!!" to no one in particular.

Step 14: Pay overdue fines equaling the approximate cost of the book. Meh. The library isn't so free, after all.

Step 15: Vow never to do this again. And you don't, not for another 3 months when you start hearing about a different great new book you'd like to read. Repeat cycle; move on to Step 2.

If you follow my system you may not get a lot of reading done, but at least you'll always have a book on your nightstand. And that's almost the same thing.

This 15-step guide might not help busy moms like us to read more, but it certainly will make us look like we do.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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Monday, April 24, 2017

That We Might Have Joy

Several Sundays ago, I was having a bad day.

It only took the worst day ever for me to realize that God wants me to have joy.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}I was tired, having a fight with my husband that was like something straight out of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, and feeling totally unappreciated for everything I try to do for my family.

Church had just ended and the baby was D-O-N-E with being awake and wanted to go home, but Sunday school had just begun (yes, we have Sunday school even for the adults) and we had 2 hours to go.

By the time I collected the scattered Cheerios in and around our pew and dropped off the 3-year-old at nursery, the baby was already perfecting his flopping-around-like-a-possessed-mackerel routine and then I realized that I'd forgotten something at home that I needed.

Since we only live 3 minutes away from the church we drove home to get it, but I turned the house upside-down and couldn't find it. This seemed like the perfect way to conclude the worst day ever, except that it wasn't even noon yet.

I wanted to put on my pajamas and crawl into bed to hide, but I had to go back to church, because I was supposed to be doing the announcements before the last class.

I'm glad I did end up returning, though, and I'm glad Heavenly Father didn't give up on me. As I walked into the building just before our class started, and I felt a peaceful feeling wash over me that I hadn't had all day, like I was where I was supposed to be.

When it was time for the lesson, the teacher stopped to thank me publicly for making the announcements (this never happens, by the way) because she knew how hard it was when you're also juggling a writhing baby who keeps trying to eat the microphone.

I'd been feeling so dark and unappreciated, her comment was like feeling the sun on my face for this first time in the spring.

Then she moved on to the topic of her lesson for that Sunday: joy.

I've always known that God knows and cares about what's happening to us at any given moment, and particularly that He wants us to have joy, but I'd forgotten it that day.

It only took the worst day ever for me to realize that God wants me to have joy.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Phillip had to leave for the airport for a work trip directly after church (we were still in an unresolved argument, but Southwest Airlines waits for no man,) leaving me with plenty of time to worry about and obsess over our differences while he was gone.

But through two answered prayers over those days, I felt God's concern for me.

In one particularly angry moment when I accusingly prayed, "How in the world does it make sense for men and women to work together when we are so fundamentally different?" a thought immediately came to my mind: "So you can learn to understand people who are different than you. God wants you to become like Him, and He understands everybody." While that answer didn't change the situation, it did give me peace and helped me feel happier.

The next day yet another miracle occurred, when a friend saw the overwhelmed look in my eyes and offered to take my children, even the baby, so I could have some time to myself.

Another thing that never happens. I don't even remember the last time I asked someone to watch the kids so I could do anything more fun than visiting the dentist. This was like a mini-vacation. And with Phillip out of town and no family within 1,000 miles, I really needed it.

Over the past two days I'd gone from feeling stressed-out and unappreciated to feeling like I was being noticed.

Noticed by other people, yes, but more importantly, I felt noticed by God. For the past three days He had been orchestrating a series of small coincidences for me, all to remind me that it matters to Him that I feel joy.

And no joke, as I dropped my kids off and was driving home along the same route thinking this very thing, I noticed a street sign I'd never seen before. It said, "Joy Lane."

I just started laughing out loud. And then, let's be honest, crying a little.

It only took the worst day ever for me to realize that God wants me to have joy.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I've had many answered prayers and experiences in my life that felt to me like nudges from God, but not quite like this. Not so many of them, spread out over several days, all pointing to the same thing.

It was like a trail of breadcrumbs leading me back to the undeniable fact that God wants me to have joy.

As a Mormon, I believe that God's plan for humankind can be summed up in seven simple words that appear in a verse from the Book of Mormon: "Men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2: 25.)

God wants me to have joy. And you, too. Joyfully connecting with God is the entire point of our human existence.

I don't expect that I'll never again have a bad day. Life has ups and downs, which is the way it's supposed to be. But even on the down days, it helps to remember there is still a loving God in heaven who finds ways to help us feel the joy He wants for us.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Fake Discoveries in Anthropology, Warning Labels That Don't Think We're Total Morons, and Cute Vandalism Caught on Film

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


Merging the holiday traditions of two families after you're married is always interesting. Phillip grew up with his parents hiding his Easter basket so he does the same for our kids. Is that even a thing, though?

Because Easter baskets are huge. They don't "hide" anywhere very well. I really don't think that's a thing.

With a small house and 6 kids, we are running out of places to put them. Every year, the oven is the only hiding place we can think of.

This year we got a little creative and hung one from the ceiling fan in the two-story living room and that was fun. But seriously, next year we've got nothing.


Whenever my 3-year-old's nursery leaders at church give him a coloring page and stickers, he always puts the stickers directly over any faces in the picture.

Every week, he brings home something like this:

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

The fact that this week's stickers were smiley faces only makes this better.


This week has been the kids' spring break from school. To loosely plagiarize a famous novel: it was the funnest of times, it was the lamest of times.

It was the lamest because my mom was going to come for the break, which the kids were looking forward to like Christmas, their birthdays, and a trip to Disneyworld combined. But she had to cancel her trip at the last minute, when she broke her wrist and the doctor advised against traveling (and more likely, against 10 days of having small- to medium-sized children yanking on it and demanding to be picked up.)

Suddenly the most exciting event of the week was going to be Wednesday's orthodontist appointment.

So it hasn't exactly been the Christmas/birthday/Disneyworld they'd been looking forward to, but we've been managing to have a really good time, anyway.

We made cookies, watched some movies, and went hiking. The kids have been exploring the woods behind our house and having some good old 1970s-style fun.

The other day they found an abandoned campfire in the woods and got the idea to mix the ashes with water (which they got from the swamp and transported by soaking it up with chunks of moss) to paint designs on rocks.

On an unrelated note, they also brought home this message they found from our paleolithic ancestors:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Love you!   -The Cavemen

Not the most convincing forgery I've ever seen, but at least they are using teamwork.


My 5-year-old is learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Yesterday we went to the church parking lot to practice while everyone else rode around on their bikes or scooters.

I noticed this warning on my son's scooter and really appreciated its faith in humanity's ability to use good judgment:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
What? Use common sense, you say? I love that idea.

This is in contrast to our plastic Elmo potty which warns us to "NEVER LEAVE A CHILD UNATTENDED."

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Ever. Sounds totally reasonable.

Of course the scooters are several years old and they've probably already had to change the warnings to something more specific. I'm sure it wasn't long before they were sued by someone saying "Well how was I supposed to know 'common sense' meant not riding this on the treadmill?!"


With the weather getting warmer, I'm in the process of getting out the seasonal clothes. I'm not exaggerating when I say we have an entire children's department worth of clothes stacked in boxes in the attic labeled with their size and gender.

I was hefting the right boxes down from the attic when my pre-teen asked, "Mom, where do normal people get clothes?"

I knew this day would come. This is the same kid who used to lavish praise on me for my keen fashion sense when I brought down a new box of clothes that she just couldn't wait to try on.

Oh, well.


I happened to catch this sweet scene between my 5- and 3-year-old in the front yard:

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

About two seconds after I snapped the picture, though, I realized what they were doing: digging a big hole in the yard with a garden trowel.

Nothing brings siblings closer together than collaborative destruction.


In all fairness, they were only imitating Phillip, who was at that moment digging up a small garden bed on the other side of the lawn.

However, I doubt we can even grow anything in our yard without importing dirt and building some raised beds. We have so many acorns on the ground that our soil is basically sulfuric acid.

If nothing else, at least it's good for the kids' microbiomes (they were all covered in dirt after helping and at least two of them looked like they'd been consuming it.)

I'm reading a book right now called Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World and so far, I really like it.

My favorite part is how I can now see my toddler doing something gross, and instead of dousing the house in Purell and lighting it on fire, I can just pat him on the head and chuckle, "Way to add diversity to your microbiota, son."

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

19 More Oddly Appropriate Careers Motherhood Has Prepared Me For

A mom is never "just a mom," and I'm not just talking about the obvious jobs we do like chef, taxi driver, and cheerleader.

No, the list of things I could do with my mothering expertise is as bizarre as it is long.

The list of things I could do with my mothering expertise is as bizarre as it is long.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Right now I'm happy to stick with the job title "mom," but if I decide to do some moonlighting on the side, I might be a:

Flight attendant. I'd be perfect for this, since what I already do all day long is fetch people drinks and give safety presentations that no one listens to.

911 dispatcher. Time has taught me that you can't get rattled every time your kids start hysterically screaming there's been a disaster. Just calmly ask "What's your emergency?" and try to get the details as best you can.

Event planner. Do you have any idea how many kids' theme parties I've put together in the last 12 years? Behind every laughing birthday boy or girl, there's this gal right here, working her butt off behind the scenes to make sure everyone has fun, plays nice, and doesn't lick all the cupcakes before we get to them.

Race car driver. My husband says I drive like a maniac, but if it means the difference between dropping the kids off at school on time or having to go into the office to sign a tardy slip, then so be it.

Dental hygienist. I've handled lost teeth, pulled out wiggly teeth, and by this point in my life, probably flossed other people's teeth more than I've flossed my own. I'll even smell your breath to check whether you've brushed before bed  good luck finding another dental hygienist who offers that kind of service.

Police officer. Even though my children get along really well, I won't lie: a sizable portion of my work day is sometimes devoted to intervening in domestic disturbances before things escalate to violence.

Cruise director. I was born for a job overseeing all activities and entertainment for all my passengers, always ready with a Plan B in case disaster strikes. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off to make sure everyone has a good time is the story of my life.

Wildlife control officer. Compared to coaxing an overtired, manic toddler into his crib every afternoon, trapping stray dogs and the occasional rabid raccoon doesn't seem like it would be that big of a deal.

Hostage negotiator. I'm basically an expert at defusing potentially dangerous situations by talking someone down from the ledge. And anyway, hostage negotiations are just a higher-stakes version of the back-and-forth I do every day with my kids on everything from screen time to cookies.

Personal trainer. To get an idea of my services, please visit during the hours of 3-5 PM when my children are doing homework. I will set goals with you, provide personalized instruction, and offer motivation (usually having to do with how long you're allowed to play Minecraft that day.)

Free sample lady at Costco. My kids may not think much of the finished meals I cook, but every night when I prepare dinner they're at my elbow asking for a piece of this or a bite of that. I should just set up a card table in the kitchen and serve everything on toothpicks instead.

Referee. No matter where I come down on a dispute between my kids, it's going to be an unpopular call with someone. But no amount of arguing, shouting, crying, or eye-rolling can faze me: I'm basically doing the job of an NFL referee, all I have to learn is the hand signals.

Travel agent. With three children in various sports, activities, and clubs, I'm an expert at getting you where you need to go when you need to get there. Sometimes an itinerary looks impossible on paper  like two kids with soccer practice on two different fields at the same time every Wednesday  but I can make it happen.

Paparazzi. I would be the best at ambushing celebrities with my camera as they're trying to go about their everyday lives. As evidence, I can present approximately 400 pictures of my baby lying on a blanket doing absolutely nothing of importance from every conceivable angle. All from this morning.

The list of things I could do with my mothering expertise is as bizarre as it is long.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Bouncer. I metaphorically (and sometimes physically) stand at the door of my home to watch who's coming in, keep order, and make sure everyone's safe. And if you're behaving aggressively or disobeying the rules, I won't hesitate to kick you out on the sidewalk.

Chemist. Every time I clean out the refrigerator, I peer into Tupperware containers full of unidentifiable contents and wonder if I've created new forms of life. The experiments going on in my fridge are really quite impressive, whether or not they ever find their way into a peer-reviewed journal. 

Home stager. When I'm expecting company, the house becomes a clean and tidy bizarro-version of its former self. My small assistants begrudgingly help me do the work.

Radio DJ. I haven't listened to a single thing in the car that I've wanted to hear for the last 10 years. Feel free to put in your request for what song you want me to play next  everyone else does.

College professor. I consider myself one of the chiefest educators in my children's lives. Popular classroom lectures include "I am not your maid," "I'm going to count to 3," and "I brought you into this world and I can take you right back out."

As a mom, I've developed such a diverse set of skills I'm now prepared for practically any career on the face of the planet.

As long as that career lets me take a secret snack break locked in the bathroom when things get really stressful.

(If you loved this, you'll want to read the original list of 19 careers, too.)

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Friday, April 14, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Fun Correspondence with the School Nurse, Learning about Maple Syrup, and Shopping for Taxes

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


It's been a crazy week around here. I've been driving around with a flyer for a weight loss place stuck under my windshield wiper for 3 days, and it wasn't because I didn't see it. I just haven't had time to take it off.

The baby is either teething or possessed, our living room features a dead rose displayed in a vase with water that evaporated a week ago, and just as we were walking out the door so I could drop the kids off and get caught up on things yesterday, my 3-year-old gashed his head on the corner of a piece of furniture and needed to get it glued shut at the pediatrician's.

I have never been so ready for spring break in all my life. (And it starts today!)


One reason I'm looking forward to spring break is no calls from the school nurse. Our nurse is a nice lady, but I never have good thoughts when I see her number pop up on my phone.

It means someone started puking in the middle of math class, or fell in the cafeteria and chipped a tooth, or has an unidentifiable rash covering their entire body (all calls I've received in the 2016-2017 school year.) She never calls just to say, "Hey it's me, everything is fine and your kid is perfectly healthy, have a great day."

At dismissal last Friday she called to give me a heads-up that my daughter was coming home with her coat and backpack in a giant black garbage bag because the kid next to her in class threw up on all her stuff.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
This is how all the cool kids carry their things these days.

So I guess technically, she does call sometimes to say everything is fine and my kids are healthy. And that I have a weekend of laundering foreign vomit to look forward to.


The 5-year-old is losing her first tooth and simply can't stop talking about it. Any topic of conversation, no matter what it is, comes back to her loose tooth.

As I shepherded her and her little brother into the tub the other night, she practically squealed, "This is my first bath with a wiggly tooth!"

"Cool!" I said. "But uh... is it any different?"

She smiled and chirped, "No."


Last weekend we were using the snowblower, and suddenly this weekend it was 70 degrees and sunny. Just like that, spring is here.

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

On Sunday afternoon we took a blanket into the yard and just laid outside in the sunshine, periodically making refreshed-sounding "aaaah" sounds like we were in a Coca-Cola commercial from 1992.

For about 5 minutes.

The next few hours were mostly Phillip trying to talk me down from the ledge while I panicked over all the work that needs to be done on our sad, neglected yard, deck, and home exterior. Then I went inside, drew the curtains, and solemnly vowed never to go out there again.


Aside from nightly tick checks for all the kids, spring in New England means sap. Lots and lots of tree sap.

I took the younger kids to tour a sugar house, where they turn sap into maple syrup. Not sure how much the kids absorbed from the visit, but when asked about it afterward the 3-year-old said, "Talkin' bout cancakes!"

So we had to make pancakes for lunch when we got home.

Also, if anyone in your family gets sap stuck in their hair (don't ask) a little olive oil takes it right out. It will smell interesting, like a tree salad, and your hands will be super-soft afterward.


Our playgroup held an Easter egg hunt, and we were all supposed to bring 12 filled plastic eggs. (Well, 24 for me since I had two kids participating.)

We showed up late because we couldn't find the one million plastic eggs we had stashed somewhere, and then we had to stop by the grocery store to grab a bag of candy and throw a $5 bill at the cashier as we Tokyo drifted past in our shopping cart.

I was hoping we'd still have time to fill the eggs once we got there, and when we arrived it made me smile to see an assembly line of moms at the front of the room tearing candy out of grocery bags and doing exactly that.

Moms: defying laws of time and space to make things work at the last minute since forever.


Speaking of doing things at the last minute, Phillip finished our taxes, which reminded me that I said I'd pay the excise taxes on our cars weeks ago and completely forgot about it.

I went online to pay them and had a good laugh at the way their software was set up.

First I added the taxes to our "shopping cart," and then I could either pay them or "continue shopping." Because I really like browsing around for other taxes I might want to pay when I have extra money just burning a hole in my pocket.

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

I wonder what their return policy is like if I change my mind later on.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Should I Eat This? (A Flow Chart for Toddlers, by Toddlers)

Sometimes I catch my child about to eat a disgusting dust-and-hair-covered raisin he found in the living room carpet, and three things go through my mind:

  1. Gross, when's the last time we even had raisins?
  2. Doesn't anybody ever clean around here?
  3. Exactly what decision-making process led up to him putting that in his mouth? 
I still can't reliably answer the first two questions, but now at least we've solved the third mystery. This handy toddler flow chart explains so much.

I hope that clears things up for us previously clueless parents. And if you don't yet have children but are planning to, please save for future reference. You're going to need it.

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