Friday, May 26, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Art That Takes a While to Finish, Surprise Cakes, and Why Mopping is My Love Language

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


When I went to pick up my 5-year-old from her Sunday School class, she was the last kid left in the room, furiously drawing stick figure after stick figure. Her teacher and I were both tapping our toes, making helpful suggestions like "You can finish at home," which she completely ignored.

Finally, she filled up the page and agreed to leave, and it wasn't until I asked later who all those people were that it dawned on me she was drawing a family picture.

This was one of those times I don't realize how big our family actually is until I see a picture. This is seriously us? It looks like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. No wonder people stare at us when we pile out of our clown car at Safeway.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8... yep, that's us, alright.

Since my daughter was still working on her drawing and all her classmates were long-gone by the time I came to pick her up, I can only assume the other kids have smaller families.

Or maybe they just left out the details like crowns on the heads of all the girls.


A big thank you to everyone on the blog's Facebook page who gave me some great advice on a crazy cake to make for my son's birthday. It was a success.

When we asked what kind of cake he wanted, he just said "Surprise me." And he was pretty surprised when we gave him this normal-looking cake...

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

...with M&Ms spilling out.

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

Although if I'm honest, the best part actually came before that, when Phillip and I were assembling the cakes the night before.

You cut out the middles to fill the insides with candy, and guess what? Each cut-out is the perfect size to frost and eat yourself as a secret dessert.

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

You know how the Book It! personal pan pizzas were the highlight of your childhood? You should try a cake version of that sometime.


Once upon a time, I would have attempted baking these cakes with my kids "helping" me. Now I know better, and dropped them off at a friend's house so I could do the whole thing myself.

Instead of trying to keep the 3- and 5-year-old from fighting over whose turn it was to pour in ingredients while flour flew everywhere and the screaming baby kept grabbing my legs, it was actually quite enjoyable. And not only were there no arguments over who got to lick the spoon, but I GOT TO LICK THE SPOON.

When I saw the bright yellow health claim on the frosting canister, I decided what the heck, I'd just help myself to some of that, too.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
No high fructose corn syrup? Why, it's practically a vegetable.

Because it's health food, basically.


This week also marked my 35th birthday. Phillip made apple pie, which is my favorite and his absolute specialty.

At dinner he went around the table asking the kids "Why are you glad Mom was born?" and they all answered with some variation of "Because otherwise I wouldn't be eating pie today."

I couldn't even be mad, because I had to agree. His pies are that good.


I'm such a practical person that it's really hard to buy gifts for me. People want to get you something "fun" for your birthday, but all I really want is boring stuff I actually need. Sorry, friends and family.

I've been looking forward to my birthday so someone could finally get me this wallet:

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

It replaced this 15-year-old black leather behemoth (please note the ripped-off snap so I couldn't fasten it shut anymore, and the hole in the coin portion so pennies and dimes literally spilled out of it whenever I picked it up:)

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

I also got a bunch of new kitchen implements and a swimsuit cover-up that I'd requested, and all in all it was everything I could ask for.


I have really wanted this spray mop. Ever since I helped a friend clean her house and used her mop, I've been raving about it. One reason I don't mop nearly often enough is because after I sweep all the floors I'm totally out of energy to fill up the mop bucket and do a whole separate chore... having that spray mop would make my life easier and our floors less sticky in the process.

I knew that Phillip knew I wanted that mop. I'd thought he was going to get it for me. But all the presents were opened, and that was it.

No mop.

I tried not to be disappointed, I really did. I'm sure Phillip meant well. I mean, most wives would be offended by a mop on their birthday. He'd probably intended to get it for me, and then ended up second-guessing himself. Maybe he thought it wasn't a good enough present. Maybe he was convinced by the voices out there saying, "Are you crazy? You can't get your wife a mop for her birthday!"

And then Phillip told me, "Jenny, I think there's one more thing on the porch."

In a scene exactly like that one in A Christmas Story, I ran to the porch and there it was, my official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle spray mop!

I love Phillip. Of course he knew me better than that. How could I have ever doubted him?


One afternoon, I came upon my daughter on the computer playing a game with a little dinosaur jumping over cacti. It was black-and-white, pixelated, and looked a lot like an Atari game from the '80s.

"Hey, Mom? The Internet's out," she said.

"Then how are you playing that game?"

"This? This is the dinosaur game when you're not connected. Didn't you know about it?"

Well no, Smartypants. But now I do.

If you have Chrome as your browser and you're suddenly offline for some reason, you too can play this high-tech game. Apparently you just need to press the space bar to start it.

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

So if you're worried about being bored when the Internet goes out, don't. Google has got your back.


I love almost everything about babies. Even the parts that annoy some people like the diapers and spit-up don't really bother me. But there is one part that drives me crazy: trying to figure out when they're sick.

This is because every infant illness has the exact same symptoms.

If your baby has a low-grade fever, doesn't want to eat, and is irritable, he's probably just getting a tooth. Unless he's actually dying from one of several identical-looking medical emergencies. Or maybe it's just Tuesday and he feels like it. No one knows.

Lately the baby has been cranky and has some suspicious-looking welts on his forehead, so after a lot of Googling I've concluded it's either something life-threatening or an itchy mosquito bite. Love you, WebMD.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It's My Birthday: The Presidential Edition

(Note: Since Unremarkable Files is a politically-neutral blog, and in the current political climate you can hardly say the word "president" without people around you breaking out in hives, I hesitated to even write this. Please remember as you read and comment that this is just a fun post meant for fun on my birthday. You can do it, Internet. I believe in you.)

Yesterday, I turned 35 years old, which we all know means I'm finally old enough to be president.

This has never been a particular aspiration of mine, but it's a good idea to keep my options open.

Although I've never wanted to be president, I might be tempted to run for office just so I could do these 35 things.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

If I were president, these are the first 35 things I would do:

1. Mother's Day once a month.

2. All napkin dispensers replaced with wet wipe dispensers nationwide.

3. Public restroom babysitters (so you don't have to pee while holding a baby and trying to keep the toddler from licking the stall door.)

4. Court-ordered community service for asking an overdue pregnant woman when she's "finally going to have that baby."

5. Legal amnesty for any pregnant woman who was just asked when she's "finally going to have that baby." At that point, she can't be held responsible for her actions.

6. Ice cream and Girl Scout cookies are now tax-deductible business expenses for parents.

7. Every store of every kind will be required to have a drive-thru. No exceptions.

8. A strictly-enforced page limit and a word-per-page limit for children's picture books.

9. Effective immediately, all sleepers will have zippers instead of snaps. Anyone found to manufacture onesies with real buttons faces jail time.

10. Unlawful for bank tellers to ask moms "Can he have a sucker?" when their child is right there. An elaborate series of hand signals, like the ones used in baseball, will be developed for that purpose.

11. Recorders in the 4th grade will be replaced with air guitar.

12. Kitchen implements will be sold in toy aisles, because that's what they become when they get home, anyway.

13. New moms leaving the hospital receive a rubber stamp of their signature for the next 18 years of paperwork.

14. All battery-operated toys must be equipped with volume controls and an on/off switch.

15. There will be a new NC-MOM rating for movies, allowing mothers to easily identify and avoid films where a kid gets hurt.

16. The food pyramid will be updated to include a new "It's Been One of Those Days" food group.

17. Candy will be moved above a child's eye level at the register.

18. Ditto for the mostly-naked people on the magazine covers at the checkout.

19. Groups of inmates doing community service not only pick up trash along the roadside, they would also offer to clean up the trash inside minivans at approved checkpoints.

20. Establish a national art gallery where parents can send their kids' billions of art projects that they are forbidden to throw away.

22. Special recognition for moms who save water by showering every three days.

23. Curtain rods required to be made of titanium so as to withstand the full weight of a child swinging on them like Tarzan.

24. All moms are now eligible for service dogs to clean up kids' food spills and pick up things they drop in the back of the car.

25. Ice cream trucks will instead carry pizza and paper plates, and drive through neighborhoods at dinnertime every night playing top 40 music from the '80s and '90s.

26. Air a series of PSAs on how to change a toilet paper roll.

27. Acorns and small rocks found at the bottom of your purse count as legal tender.

28. The day after Halloween declared a national holiday. (Because trying to get kids up out of their late-night-and-sugar-induced comas the next morning for school is the worst.)

29. Parents no longer responsible for leaving money in exchange for lost baby teeth. A new Tooth Fairy General will be appointed.

30. Soundproof, floor-to-ceiling walls between restroom stalls to prevent toddlers from commenting on what you're doing, commenting on what they hear other people doing, or peeking underneath at the neighbors.

31. Instituting an official "no shave November" for moms. (Although they can file for an extension.)

32. No more pre-boarding for families with young children. Families get on the plane last, leaping off the edge of the jetway as the plane pulls away so they don't have to spend one extra second trying to entertain their child in a cramped metal tube from which there is literally no escape.

33. Issue a special-edition postage stamp that says "RSVP or I will cut you." (Ideal for mailing out children's birthday party invitations.)

34. Crib railings and baby gates outfitted with an improved design, like the angled chain link fences you see surrounding maximum-security prisons.

35. Children's shoes must be shaped in such a way that they can fit on either foot. And they come in sets of 3.

Some people might say that turning a year older is sort of depressing, but I choose to look on the bright side. I can be president now!

And if I can run a household of 8 by mostly yelling commands from the bathroom, I can totally run a country, amiright?

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Friday, May 19, 2017

7 Quick Takes about More Chocolate Strawberries Than You Can Shake a Stick At, Branding Fails, and the Fear of Missing Out

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


Well, this wouldn't be Unremarkable Files if I didn't start off my telling you about my Mother's Day breakfast from Sunday, would it?

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

Wait, I don't think you got a good enough look at those chocolate-covered strawberries.

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

That's better.

Those three big breakfast Croissant sandwiches looked like enough food to fuel me for the entire day. Yet I ate them all and somehow still made room for the chocolate strawberries.

Which just goes to show that with enough determination, you can do anything.


Our family has the best Mother's Day tradition: first Phillip, who's a spectacular cook, brings me breakfast in bed. Then the kids come in to show me all their cute cards and crafts. Third —  and this is the most important — he herds everyone out and they're not allowed back in until I open the door.

I can hear them screaming out there as he's getting them fed and dressed, but on Mother's Day morning it's officially Not My Problem. I just leisurely eat my breakfast and maybe read.

Church this year starts at 9 AM (last year it was 1 PM) so things were a little rushed. And by 'a little rushed' I mean that we absolutely showed up late.


My 5-year-old was being super-secretive at the library earlier that week and presented this handmade card to me Mother's Day morning:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
That spelling. I die.

"Thank you," I said. "Did you write this yourself?"

"Yes, but I didn't know how to spell it so I copied Ruth's."

In case you're wondering, Ruth is 6.

I asked my daughter if she'd ever heard the phrase "blind leading the blind," but she said no.

Another one of my children made me a coupon book for various chores and services around the house, including a blank one in the back. I can write in whatever I want. The power is going to my head.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
This is the written version of a trust fall.

My 13-year-old made me some bath bombs, which I won't share a picture of because they looked like moldy biscuits. But they did smell like Froot Loops and turn the water blue with sparkles, so what more could I ask for?


Our church had a talent show, and my all-time favorite act was twin brothers in our congregation doing the song "Agony" from Into the Woods.

They were so good, you guys, and it was hilarious. I haven't seen Into the Woods, so I came home and watched the song on YouTube.

(If you haven't seen it either, this is a song between Cinderella's prince and Rapunzel's prince, waxing melodramatic about who's got it worse.)

My kids asked to watch this video about 12 times and I laughed at the "if there only were doors" line every time.


Possibly this is a little TMI for my male readers, so all three of you might want to skip ahead right now while I talk to the ladies about something funny.

I'll wait.

Okay girls, so I was shopping online for a menstrual cup, and honestly, I have never seen a product that has spawned so many truly awful brand names.

Of course I'd already heard of the Diva Cup, which is a terribly flamboyant name for what it is. But I discovered so many worse ones on Amazon.

There's the Athena Cup, which was dreamed up by a bunch of bald guys around a table in the boardroom to make us feel like mighty women.

Then there's the FemmyCycle Cup. To me this has sort of a 1950s ring to it, when women called periods their "monthly" and everyone was collectively mortified  by the very idea.

And lastly, I challenge you not to groan out loud at the gross name of the Bloody Buddy. That's a real product, cross my heart.

Honestly, people. I am so disappointed in the human race today.


The Internet is a weird place, since you blog about something and you never know what's going to be popular and when it's going to get that way.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how we are collectively suffering from parenting FOMO, and it exploded on Facebook.

If you feel the constant pressure to provide your kids with "experiences," you need to read it. Take your pick, because it's at For Every MomScary Mommy, and the Huffington Post as of this week!


Lastly, if you ask for a dessert menu at a restaurant and the waiter hands you this, you know you're in the right place:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Not just for breakfast anymore, you say?

And the menu wasn't kidding. The desserts were about as large as my Mother's Day breakfast.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Like the Hurricane Classification System, But for Household Messes

Every mom knows that there are messes, and then there are messes. Am I the only one who thinks there should be a standard classification system for them, just like there is for hurricanes?

All I'm saying is that when I'm calling in reinforcements to help with a clean-up effort, it would be way more efficient to yell, "We've got a Category 4 in here!" 

Then everybody would know exactly what we're dealing with.

If parents ranked household messes like meteorologists ranked hurricanes, our standard system would look something like this.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Here's what the Mess Classification System might look like, for the layperson.

Category 1: Minor Damage

These are your run-of-the-mill, everyday messes. Most often scattered toys or average-sized juice spills. They require little to nothing in the way of cleaning materials, other than possibly a paper towel. Most of the time, you can simply instruct your child to pick it up or clean it up by himself.

Category 2: Moderate Damage

These cause a small hiccup in your day, mildly irritating because you have to drop whatever you're doing to spend 8-10 minutes cleaning it up. You'll need to get cleaning supplies that are out of reach and beyond your child's capability to use safely. The mess may be spread over multiple surfaces and cleaning it up may be a multi-step process.

On the plus side, Category 2 messes may become amusing anecdotes later on.

Category 3: Significant Damage

Category 3 messes are easy to identify because of their frequent appearances on Facebook and Instagram. The three stages of encountering this type of mess are:
  1. Anger
  2. Expressing disapproval while photographing the mess for social media
  3. Googling how to clean it up
In addition to the basic cleaning supplies, you'll need assorted random substances from your kitchen cupboards that some mom on a BabyCenter message board claimed worked for her. These messes take considerable time and usually multiple attempts to clean up, but rarely result in lasting destruction.

Category 4: Extensive Damage

These messes take a fair amount of time to create, so they're usually found after you realize your child has been very, very quiet for a long time. S/he may have collaborated with a sibling or friend to make this mess, which generally involves one or more of the following:
  • permanent markers
  • nail polish
  • scissors
  • flour and/or baking cocoa
  • copious amounts of styrofoam
  • economy-sized tubs of Vaseline
Unfortunately, something is usually broken, stained, or vandalized beyond repair with a Category 4 mess, making it potentially costly in addition to time-consuming. Your child will also need a bath.

Category 5: Catastrophic Damage

Upon finding a Category 5 mess in their home, many people report having an out-of-body experience, losing feeling in their extremities, or the sensation that their stomach has fallen into their shoes. They cannot fathom what possessed their child to do this, and most in fact wonder if their child is actually possessed.

Very little can be salvaged, and clean-up might include throwing away ruined linens, patching drywall, replacing carpets, or renting a dumpster. It would be much easier to abandon the entire house and live in your car from now on. You will have a mental/emotional, if not a physical, need to shower afterward. In a few years, this will become a story that is told at family events for the rest of the child's life.

It's my hope that implementing the Mess Classification System in your home can help you keep things running smoothly. And now I need to go, because while I've been writing this my kids are somewhere out of sight being very, very quiet. Which we all know is a Category 4 waiting to happen.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Q & A: What's It Like To Be the Oldest in a Family of 6 Kids?

With a 8 people living together in our small house, daily life is kind of like an ant farm. One of my favorite things to do as a mom is to just sit and watch.

Right now my two oldest are drawing and talking about a story one of them is writing while the baby is babbling and whacking their papers with a ladle.

The 9-year-old is in the basement working on a remote control car with his dad.

And the toddler and the preschooler are upstairs doing... actually, I have no idea what they're doing. (I just went to check, and they've tucked all the American Girl dolls in sleeping bags and the 5-year-old is currently tying a blindfold on the 3-year-old. I'm guessing it's their rendition of a sleep mask.)

Ten minutes from now, we'll all be rearranged, doing different things with different people. And it's fascinating to me to watch all these interactions and relationships within the family.

But when I write about our big family, I can only write from observation. Even when I write about how I think the kids benefit from having a lot of siblings, I can only write my perception of how they feel.

So I decided that it was time to ask my 13-year-old daughter what she thinks of being the oldest of 6 siblings.

I put her under strict instructions not to give me answers she thought I wanted to hear, but just to share her honest thoughts. And of course I wouldn't publish anything before she read and okayed it. (She didn't end up asking me to delete anything from our interview, but I would have if she'd wanted me to.)

As a mom of 6, I write a lot about why I like my big family, but what about my kids? Do they feel jealous of each other? Wish they had their own rooms? Want more time with mom? I decided to interview mine and find out.   {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Q: How would you describe our family?

A: There's a lot of craziness and yelling. Most of the time it's just "I don't know what to do so I'm just going to run around screaming" yelling, but it's also "yelling because you're mad for a stupid reason" yelling. 
The elementary-age kids fight with each other but the little kids don't and I don't, so I think it's an age thing. 
I really like playing with the little kids.

Q: What's it like having 5 younger siblings?

A: Normal. One thing I do notice when I walk into the houses of people that don't have a lot of siblings is "Wow, why is their house so weirdly quiet?"

Q: How do you get along with your siblings?

A: Pretty well. I mean, [the 11-year-old] and [the 9-year-old] are probably better friends with each other than I am with them, I don't play with them as much as they play with each other. But I'm friends with all of them. I don't really yell at them much or get mad that often so I don't think I have any bad relationships.

Q: What do you like to do with your siblings? 

A: I don't have a lot of time because of school stuff, but a lot of the time I'll just do what they're doing. Make-believe games and stuff like that.

Q: What do you like about sharing a room? What do you not like?

A: I like that we can talk to each other after lights-out even though we're not supposed to.  
I don't like that [the 5-year-old] likes the door wide open and the night light on and she also sleeps in the doorway sometimes, which is annoying because I have to sleep in complete darkness. 
Other than that, I don't really think about it that much.

Q: When is it hard to have 5 siblings?

A: When they're all having stupid arguments about nothing and they're all getting really mad and calling each other mean names, but if I tell them that's stupid then they'll say "You're stupid!" and "Hey, don't call people 'stupid'" and then keep calling each other stupid. 
[Author's note: apparently the kids view our house rule about not saying 'stupid' as more of a guideline than an actual rule.] 

Q: Any other times when it's hard?

A: Not really. I guess sometimes when you're trying to do things little kids will bug you but that's just a kid thing, nothing to do with big families.

Q: And when do you like having 5 siblings?

A: I like seeing the little kids grow up. 
There's a lot of games where it's easier to play with multiple people. We can have a game of tag or hide-and-seek and I don't think most families can do that. 
They're all different because of the different ages, so there's always someone you want to do something with.

As a mom of 6, I write a lot about why I like my big family, but what about my kids? Do they feel jealous of each other? Wish they had their own rooms? Want more time with mom? I decided to interview mine and find out.   {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Not our family. I just thought it was funny that the only stock photo of 6 kids I could find was a Boy Scout troop in Thailand.

Q: How do people react when you say you have 5 siblings?

A: A lot of the time they'll just say "That's a lot of siblings." 
One time a kid was like, "I feel so bad for you." Kids that don't get along well with their siblings will say things like that, although maybe not that strong. 
Generally, they just seem shocked.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: I think that a lot of kids don't get along well with their siblings, maybe partly because they wouldn't be friends anyway but maybe also because all you see in TV and books and stuff is siblings not liking each other. So they've just been kind of taught that that's what happens. 
And I think a lot of kids' parents are more lenient so they allow more fighting and stuff.

Q: What do you say when someone's like "Woah, that's a lot of siblings" or "Wow, I feel sorry for you?"

A: I'm like, "No, I like my siblings! My siblings are awesome. The little kids are really cute." I try to tell them it's positive. They don't really listen, but I say I like having 5 siblings.

Q: And then what do they say?

A: They're like "Still... I wouldn't want 5 siblings. My sister is evil." Or "my brother is insane" or whatever. I hear "my sister is evil" a lot. 
[We both laughed at that.]

Q: How many siblings do most of your friends have?

A: One.

Q: Do you think you get along with your siblings better than they get along with their siblings?

A: Sometimes. Some of them are really close. [My friend] V and [her sister] M are really close, they're like best friends. Some of my friends don't get along very well with their siblings.

Q: Have you ever heard of 'sibling rivalry'? What is that?

A: The theory that siblings fight with each other all the time.

Q: Do you think that's a real thing?

A: Well... to some extent. I mean, when you put a bunch of people in the same living space for a while they'll fight no matter who they are, but that's more of a matter of how often they see each other. I don't think there's anything about being siblings that makes 'sibling rivalry' happen.

Q: What do you think that people don't understand about big families?

A: They think that you're either fighting all the time or you don't like each other very much, or you just don't talk to each other all that much, I guess. Some of my friends, they don't not like their siblings but they're not friends with them either. 
They don't understand that the more siblings you have, the more normal it seems. It doesn't seem like that many.

A: If we didn't have a big family, if you had one or no siblings, what do you think we'd be able to do that we couldn't do now? What do you think you would miss?

A: I would probably want siblings. When my siblings find out things that I wouldn't have thought to do, I think that's cool. Like I wouldn't have found [my sister's] piano songs on my own or done Rubik's Cubes when [my brother] started obsessing about them. There would be things I wouldn't find out that I like if my siblings hadn't done it first. 
I guess I would spend more time just doing my own thing. I would miss having a little baby around all the time saying cute things and learning how to be a mom. I think having lots of siblings helps you become a better mom.

Q: Anything else?

A: I guess I wouldn't have the feeling of "Mwahaha, I have more siblings than you!" 
In school, we were discussing things as a preview for this book; Mrs. T asked questions and we had to stand in a different corner of the room depending on how strongly we agreed with them. 
One of them was "Siblings can be best friends." I was on the 'agree' side and most people were on the 'disagree' side, and I was like, "I have more evidence than all of you, because I have more siblings than all of you!"

As a mom of 6, I write a lot about why I like my big family, but what about my kids? Do they feel jealous of each other? Wish they had their own rooms? Want more time with mom? I decided to interview mine and find out.   {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Q: Do you think there's an ideal number of siblings to have?

A: Not really. I think more than one, but it all depends on the parents and the siblings themselves and what the family is like. 
I mean, I like having siblings of a lot of ages and I think that's important that they be close in age because [my friend] A and her brother are 6 years apart and they like each other, but they're not very close.

Q: Do you personally feel like you wish you had more or less or is 6 kids good?

A: How many siblings I have is always good, and then I get another one and that's good, too. I can't really imagine having another sibling or not having one of my siblings. 
A baby isn't exactly like a sibling for a while, it's just a cute little baby and by the time the baby's grown up then we either have another one or I guess you'll be done having babies and I'll probably feel like that's the ideal number.

Q: Do you feel like you get enough of your parents' time or do you feel like they're too busy with everybody else?

A: No, I feel like I get enough time. 
I've always been confused by that because in books when there are a bunch of siblings they always say they don't get enough of their parents' time, but especially if you stay at home all day, the little kids take naps and there's plenty of time. 
There's always somebody doing something. You talk to all of us and still have time to go on your blog all the time. There are 24 hours in a day.

[I asked which books she was talking about, and she named some titles and said "I noticed that in books with a lot of siblings the parents aren't very important characters, which I thought was weird."]

So then I asked who the most important person in a big family is:

Without hesitation she replied, "Me."

That's my girl.

Q: Do you have anything else about big families that you'd like to add that I didn't ask you about?

A: If siblings are fighting that doesn't mean they don't like each other. That is a big misconception, I think. 
The other one is that siblings don't have to not like each other. However well you get along with your siblings is entirely up to you. 
Like, with siblings that don't get along with each other, I don't hear "I don't get along well with her." I hear "my sister is evil," so they blame it all on their sibling and not on themselves.

I have to be honest, in my interview with my daughter I didn't learn anything I didn't already know. Our family is loud. People are surprised by how many of us there are. Sometimes she gets annoyed with her siblings. Most of the time she's glad they're around. Being in a big family is part of who she is and she's proud of that.

I think it sounds like we're doing alright.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Prison Rules Soccer, Questionably Educational Toys, and Paying to Cut Your Own Hair

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


Having a lot of kids is funny because you feel like you've read certain books or watched certain movies, and it's not until the younger ones ask what Charlotte's Web is about that you realize they weren't born yet so you need to do it again.

That may have been our impetus to re-watch The Princess Bride this weekend, and it was as cute and goofy as ever.

As we watched the final credits roll, the 3-year-old sat deep in thought and then gave me his take on the movie:

"The big boy got a big rock," he said.

"Yeah? And then what happened?"

"He threw it at the wall."

"And then what?"

"The queen jumped out the window."

So I think he got all the crucial plot points.


Pee-wee soccer is always lenient on the rules because of the age of the players, but when it also started pouring rain during my daughter's game on Saturday the coaches just let the kids do whatever they wanted.

Literally whatever they wanted.

There were kids running on and off the field in the middle of the game, kids playing through the legs of spectators on the sidelines, kids dribbling the ball around behind the goal, and one kid who decided to go shirtless for some reason.

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

Needless to say, it was a pretty crazy game to watch. I was so caught up in the energy I didn't even pay attention to whether shirts or skins won.


My toddler has been enjoying this cute little bath toy from his grandparents:

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

And then my 8-year-old pointed out something:

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
The hexapus in its native habitat.

That's right, it's an octopus with only 6 arms. If my kids end up not getting into college, I'm going to assume this is the reason.


Mid-May is always the point in the school year when my kids' lunches begin to look pretty sad.

The shiny new lunchboxes we bought in September are stained, zipperless, or broken. The insides aren't much better. The kids pack their own lunches so I can't take full responsibility for the contents, but it's theoretically my job to buy the food and I'm not doing so hot in that department, either.

As far as I know, my 10-year-old hasn't had any problems with kids stealing her lunch. But then again, I guess you can never be too careful.

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


One night I was playing with the baby on the floor while the older 5 kids were getting their pajamas on upstairs.

My 13-year-old came down first and sat with us, coaxing the baby (who is almost walking) to take a few tottering steps over to her. Then she turned him around and sent him walking back to me.

One by one, the other kids finished putting on their pajamas and trickled downstairs to join us, until there was literally a circle of 6 people around the baby, calling him and holding out their hands for him to walk to them next.

Sometimes people look at our big family and wonder how the heck we can have time for everyone, and it's true that sometimes it's a challenge when everybody needs something at the same time.

But there are also plenty of moments like this, when I look at the baby surrounded on all sides by people who love him to pieces and I know he's actually the luckiest kid in the world.

(Eventually things devolved into a cage match over who got to have the baby walk to them next, but it was sweet while it lasted.)


I dropped the kids off at a church activity and took myself to get a long overdue haircut (we're talking a year plus, people.)  I was anxious to make it back in time to pick them up, so I wasn't thrilled that there was a wait.

Until I realized that I was by myself, for half an hour, with no responsibilities and no kids. 

In retrospect, I probably should have gone and taken a nap in the car. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
And they're running a special? Somebody pinch me.

As it turned out, though, what I really should have done instead is just stayed home saved myself the $5.99 (plus tip) because I hated the haircut I walked out of there with.

It didn't even slightly resemble the picture I brought in, even after the stylist redid the cut twice. I won't even post pictures for comparison because I don't want to besmirch Great Clips' good name.

I got out of there just in time to pick up the kids, go home and let Phillip put them to bed, and lock myself in the bathroom for an hour to give myself an all-new haircut. I have no idea what I'm doing, but I was happy with the way it turned out.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Self-haircut success. I think.

(If you know hair theory or whatever, it's possible that your eye is twitching from looking at these pictures. Sorry about that. My entire education consists of watching a YouTube video one time on how to cut hair.)


I saw an article on the front page of a couponing blog I follow that claimed you're supposed to replace your baby's pacifiers every 2 to 5 weeks.

You heard me.

According to the article, the latex breaks down quickly and can harbor germs.

I guess most of our pacifiers are lost well before the 2- to 5-week mark so the point is moot, but the ones we hold on to are in use for years. Sometimes they're even handed down to the next baby.

Once again, it's a miracle that any of my kids have survived.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Potty Training Tips and Tricks from a Mom of 6

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Recently I mentioned that we potty-trained my son with a one-day method, and lots of people were curious about that. Probably because potty training can be a horror show scarier and longer than anything Alfred Hitchcock could possibly dream up.

I have a friend whose child refused to poop on the potty to the point of fecal impaction (don't look it up, it's exactly what it sounds like,) and another who carried a potty chair around with her everywhere (and I mean everywhere) for over a year because it's the only place her daughter would go.

As a mom of 6, I wanted to share what's worked for us when potty training. (I feel like I should insert a disclaimer here about how my advice shouldn't replace the advice of your child's medical professional, but duh. I'm not a doctor, just a lady who has taught a lot of kids to use a toilet.)

Parenting 6 kids, you learn a thing or two about how to potty train (and how not to.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Potty Training Tip #1: Learn to recognize when they're ready.

In my experience, kids don't necessarily have to be keeping their diapers dry for long stretches of time or showing any particular interest in using the potty. (Our most recently-trained child resolutely told us he was not going to wear underwear, ever. He trained in two days and has been accident-free ever since.)

I've found that the only reliable measure of readiness is whether they can recognize when they're about to pee or poop. If you're not sure, watch them at bathtime or let them run around without a diaper for a while: if they look surprised when they pee or don't really notice, they aren't ready. If they freeze, make a face, or look down before peeing, they're probably ready.

Potty Training Tip #2: Fully Commit (i.e: No Pull-ups)

When I was new to potty training, I introduced my daughter to Pull-ups as "special underwear." She looked at me like I was a moron and said, "That's a diaper." You know what? She was right. We never used Pull-ups to potty train again.

Just like with anything else, kids need 100% consistent follow-through. Training is going to take longer if they're expected to use the potty most of the time but not all of the time. I think it's a better idea to choose a week when you can deal with accidents and go all-in with potty training.

Potty Training Tip #3: Teach Them To Do It By Themselves

In my opinion, having a kid pull on my sleeve to take them to the potty 347 times a day is not an improvement over diapers. When we train, I teach them to do the entire sequence by themselves: deciding when they need to go, pulling down their own pants, using the potty, wiping, emptying the pot in the toilet, flushing, replacing the pot in the potty, and washing their hands.

During the first week or two, I'll stand nearby but out of sight if I hear my kid using the potty, just to make sure they're remembering all the steps and to clean up any pee splatters from emptying the pot on their own.

Potty Training Tip #4: Use a Boot Camp Method

My personal potty training Bible is Toilet Training in Less Than a Day by Nathan Azrin. It's a little dated so feel free to laugh at the funny passages, but it tells you exactly how to set up a morning boot camp that will have your kid doing the entire potty sequence by themselves by lunchtime.
Parenting 6 kids, you learn a thing or two about how to potty train (and how not to.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
(Click image to buy on Amazon.)

Some things I like about it:
  • Kids start out by training a doll, and everyone knows we learn best when teaching someone else
  • Boot camp involves drinking a lot of liquid so there are plenty of opportunities to practice
  • Appropriate rewards for using the potty and consequences for having accidents (more on this in a minute)
  • The emphasis is on kids doing it all by themselves

I'm kind of in love with this book and have to hold back the urge to stand on street corners handing out copies like religious tracts.

Potty Training Tip #5: Reward Them for Staying Dry, Not for Using the Potty

Promising kids an M&M every time they poop on the potty might work in the short-term, but I know kids who totally game the system by squeezing out a teeny, tiny turd every 10 minutes for 2 hours to maximize the number of treats they get.

Of course I use little candies as rewards when they use the potty at the start. But using the method from Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, I phase out the candies so that by lunchtime I'm only giving rewards for passing periodic "dry pants checks." Because that's the goal, right?

Potty Training Tip #6: Accidents Should Have Appropriate Consequences

By 'consequences,' I don't mean punishment. I just mean making peeing/pooping in their pants a more annoying option, since most kids (in my experience) don't really care all that much about sitting in wet underwear without a little external motivation not to. I use the "practice" method outlined in Toilet Training in Less Than a Day of running to the potty 10 times. Which works because they hate it.

I think enforcing an irritating consequence for pants-wetting is essential, as long as you don't do it in anger (which can be hard, believe me) and you're consistent about getting up and making them do it every single time (which is even harder.) But stick with it, it will pay off!

Potty Training Tip #7: Night Train Separately

When I say "potty training," mind you, I'm only talking about daytime training. I usually wait several months to a year before I put kids in underwear for naps and at bedtime.

This is partly because they're still sleeping in a crib, but partly because I think waking up to use the toilet is an entirely different skill that takes longer to acquire.

Parenting 6 kids, you learn a thing or two about how to potty train (and how not to.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Elmo says good luck.

Bonus Tips and Random Observations:
  • Generally girls are ready a lot sooner than boys.
  • Girls spray urine, too. (Watch out and maybe get yourself a riot shield.)
  • Bed-wetting until age 8 or beyond is totally normal according to my pediatrician; I firmly believe it's different than daytime wetting and many fully-trained kids truly cannot help it.

Your mileage may vary, but in general I think these principles can successfully be used with anyone who's about to start potty training. Leave your questions, comments, and additions below; I'd love to hear them!

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