Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Matter of Perspective

In beginning art classes, instructors sometimes assign "upside down drawing" exercises. They take a drawing, turn it upside-down, and have students copy it.

The point of upside-down drawing is that it forces us to abandon our preconceived ideas of what eyes, ears, or noses look like and just copy the lines in front of us. We're drawing what we see instead of what we think we see.

When I taught the women's class at my church a few Sundays ago, I brought a sketch of a cat and asked everybody do this. Afterward someone approached me, amazed because she swore she wasn't artistic but her drawing turned out beautifully!

Which was exactly the point of my lesson: changing your perspective often helps you to see something a lot more clearly.

We may not be able to understand other people, but we can always love them. And if you're finding it particularly difficult to love someone, the problem might be your perspective.   {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

We're all told to love others. The scriptures say to "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22: 39,) "love your enemies" (Matthew 5: 44,) and "love one another, even as I [Jesus Christ] have loved you" (John 15: 12.)

But it's sometimes really hard to love others, especially people who are different from us. People who talk, act, or think in ways that are totally backward.

It reminds me of a funny story about someone from my church listening to her 4-year-old daughter  watching TV in the other room. When the little girl complained loudly, "Mom, that chicken is weird" she went in to see what was on TV. "Honey," she said after a minute, "That chicken is a peacock."

Usually when we deal with other people, we don't have all the facts. We can't possibly know all the reasons why someone else acts or believes the way they do.

We may not be able to understand them, but we can always love them. And if you're finding it particularly difficult to love someone, the problem might be your perspective.

If you've ever had a teenager or been one, you'll know how fond they can be of positioning themselves nanometers away from the mirror and fixating on a single zit on their forehead. They can stare at an ugly blemish so closely and for so long that it comes to define their entire being  at least, in their own mind.

Unfortunately we can sometimes be like that with other people that get on our nerves, looking so close-up at the flaw that irritates us until it seems like there's nothing there except for that one thing that drives us crazy.

If you know anyone like that, and we all do, my advice would be to step back a little. The laser-like focus on that person's flaw (or flaws) isn't going to give us a very accurate picture of who they really are.

If we step back, way back, then our perspective changes. Hopefully we can see the whole person, including their good qualities, and even if not, we can take another giant step back and remember that God loves that person more than we can even imagine.

In art, "perspective" is defined as: 

representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other.
Can I just emphasize the "in relation to each other" part?

The most important thing to remember is that the very same God who loves you infinitely also loves that exasperating other person just as much.

Understanding this very important truth, that God loves each of us the most, and that nothing anyone says or does can make God love him less than the most, is the key to loving even the most difficult and unlovable person we meet.

And maybe we can even learn something from people who are maddeningly different from us  that's usually the way it goes.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Stud Finders, Dangerous Things about Babies, and the New Thing in My House That Creeps Me Out

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


We've been trying to install anti-tip wall straps on our furniture for weeks now. I saw a viral video of a dresser falling on a toddler that pretty much turned my intestines inside out (even though the toddler was okay,) and thought it would be a good idea to anchor our furniture to the studs in the wall just in case.

But apparently everyone else had already seen the video, and the wall straps were all sold out at the store. I had to order them online.

When they finally arrived, I handed them over to Phillip (the installation guy in our house) and asked "Do you have a stud finder?"

"I married a stud finder," he said, chortling all the way to the basement to go get it.

I guess I set that one up pretty perfectly.


In our house we have only one rule about the food at dinnertime: you have to eat one bite of everything on your plate. After that, you can choose if you want more or if you're done.

We thought we were pretty smart, making this rule.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
One bite = a single atom of zucchini.

But I think my kids have found a loophole.


Do you have family Valentine's Day traditions? In ours, each family member writes love letters to every other family member. At first this wasn't a big deal, but now that we have a family of 8 it's a major undertaking.

This year I seriously carried around a clipboard with a spreadsheet of who'd already written what so I could help the little kids write theirs.

We need to start writing at least 2 weeks in advance, unless of course you're Phillip. Then you put it off until 1pm on the day of Valentine's Day and do all of them in a single sitting. To each his own.


On the recommendation of my blogger friend Crystal, who has 7 children, we got a Rody horse for our kids. I figure if it survived in her crazy house, it could (maybe) survive in ours.

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

The funniest part about it is that the kids can't agree on what animal it is.

One calls it a giraffe. One insists it's a llama (and corrects me every time I say 'Rody horse'.) The toddler at first called it a bunny because of its long ears, but now he just sits beside it and reads books.

I guess it's a good companion, regardless of its actual species.


The baby has become terribly wiggly lately whenever he nurses, and on Monday he finally did it. He was flailing around and whacked me right in the eye, scratching my cornea.

I cried twice.

Once when it happened, because it kind of hurt. And again when I realized my vision was distorted and I assumed he'd permanently messed up my eye and now I'd need a scary corrective surgery done by sharks with lasers on their heads for which my insurance would cover about $5.50.

But according to WebMD, scratched corneas should heal on their own and I don't think mine is too bad, so here's hoping.

In the meantime, everyone is greatly amused by the way I use the computer with my bad eye closed so I can read the screen. Like a one-eyed blogging pirate.


When I went to go see the ophthalmologist about my eye, I went with no kids. Zero. This never happens. Even when I leave the kids with a sitter I still take the baby.

Usually in public buildings we take the elevator; it's the only thing to do when we're a veritable caravan with several tiny people, one gigantic stroller, a big diaper bag with who knows what in it.

But since I was alone, I took the stairs to the 3rd floor. At a normal walking pace. I was shocked at how quick this was. Still am.

After my appointment, though, I was sort of starting to miss them, so I decided to take the elevator down and fight with a stranger over who got to push the button.


My son is doing something for cub scouts. I'm not sure what it is. This is his and his dad's thing.

All I know is that they put a sweet potato in one of my flower vases filled with water and now it's sprouting tentacles.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
There's got to be a B-grade sci-fi movie about this.

We call it "The Hairy Potato" and I keep waiting to have a nightmare about it.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Life Lessons You Never Dreamed You'd Have to Teach (Until You Had Kids)

Something they don't tell you about parenting is that kids aren't born knowing anything. One of the most important jobs of a mom is to explain basic social norms to our little people so that maybe one day, they can function in polite society.

But oh, the life lessons and the teaching. I don't think I've gone a day without putting a palm to my face and muttering in disbelief, "Did I really just have to say that out loud?"

And the answer is always yes. I did.

Something they don't tell you about parenting is that you'll need to teach life lessons like how to flush a toilet. Multiple times.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

So dear children, here are some of the life lessons I've needed to teach you in the past. Please refer to them in the future to refresh your memories. Because everyone knows that moms also need to repeat themselves a lot.

Life Lesson #1: Don't eat things if you're not sure what they are.

I'm not sure what's so irresistible about crumbs of questionable origin you find on the counters, floor, and in your car seat, but if it hasn't been served to you or recently retrieved from the fridge or pantry you should probably pass on eating it. Even if it was once a tasty snack food (and that's assuming a lot right off the bat,) it might not be the best idea to put it in your mouth 6 months later when you find it in the deepest recesses of the sofa.

Life Lesson #2: When someone is running away from you screaming, it means they don't want you to hug them anymore.

Decoding the subtle nuances of human interaction can be tricky. But in general, someone who is desperately trying to escape from you while shrieking "NO! NOOOOO!!" wants to be left alone. Even if you're not being mean, per se, you may be violating this little thing called personal space. What? You don't know about personal space, either?  Well, that makes sense.

Life Lesson #3: It's considered rude to cough in someone's face.

More on the personal space thing. You get some leeway on this when you're a baby, but as you get older people will be less and less thrilled to be covered in your spittle. With a little practice, you too can learn to turn your head and cover your mouth instead of hacking directly in someone's face whenever the urge strikes you. The same goes for sneezing at people, wiping your nose on their clothes, or farting in their laps. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Life Lesson #4: A trip to the bathroom isn't complete without flushing.

Now, I enjoy looking at your poop as much as the next person. Which is to say, not at all. I'm considering installing self-flushing toilets in our house like the ones in some public restrooms, but until then, please acquaint yourself with the silver handle on the side. On a related note, we also don't have doors that automatically close behind you or lights that turn off when you leave the room. You have to manually do all of these things. It's hard, but you can do it. Dad and I believe in you.

Life Lesson #5: It's bad form to compare someone's cooking to dog excrement.

Sometimes you'll be served food with a taste, texture, or general appearance that doesn't appeal to you. At these times, it might seem like the right thing to do is warn everyone in yelling distance that it smells or looks like dog poop   including, or maybe especially, the person who prepared it. But this news isn't usually received well, even if you add "Well it only looks like barf, but it probably tastes okay." Try to keep it to yourself.

Life Lesson #6: You do not have to announce to the entire world when you farted or noticed someone else fart.

Most people are happy to know as little as possible about your bodily functions. If you pass gas in public, a follow-up announcement usually isn't necessary. If anything, a discrete "excuse me" is more than adequate. Also, I know you feel like it's your public duty to raise the alarm when anyone else in the room cuts the cheese, but this is one area where nobody likes a whistleblower.

Life Lesson #7: Don't deface other people's property.

I can see why you'd think adults would appreciate your artwork on the wall, living room sofa, and TV screen just the same as your artwork on paper, but unfortunately that's not the case. And while we're talking about vandalism I should point out that using a rock to scratch your name into the family car is a bad idea, both from a moral standpoint and a practical one.

Life Lesson #8: Your clothes will not magically fold themselves and fly into your dresser.

This is a hard one to grasp, kind of like the automatic toilets thing. But no matter how long you leave the clean laundry I've provided for you lying in a crumpled heap in your room, it's going to stay exactly where it is. It doesn't matter if a predetermined time, day, or phase of the moon has come and gone, your laundry will stay there for the rest of all eternity until you fold it and place it in a drawer.

Life Lesson #9: Generally speaking, people aren't pleased when you inform them that they are fat. 

Here I go again with the public service announcements. I know you're short so people's stomachs are right at eye level for you, but still try to refrain from yelling that the person in line in front of you at the grocery store is "sooooo huge." Also, if you get a baby sibling in the future, please try to remember that your mom doesn't want to be told every day for a year afterward that it looks like there's still a baby in her tummy, okay?

Being a mom is no easy job, but one day you'll look at your grown son or daughter and feel an overwhelming satisfaction. Not just because of the way they turned out; it's also because it's their turn to teach a little person of their own not to drink water out of the dog's bowl.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

My Mom Confessions

They say that everyone seems normal until you get to know them, and that very well may be true.

There are things I don't really broadcast about myself, but I'm pretty sure you do them too, and I think it's high time to air these babies out in the open.

There are things I don't really broadcast about myself, but I'm pretty sure you do them too, and I think it's high time to air these babies out in the open.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Confession: Sometimes I forget my kids in time-out.

I've made the mistake of putting a child in time-out where I can't see them, and unless I've set a timer, it may not turn out well. You know how it is. You get caught up in whatever's going on until 15 minutes later you hear a faint, tearful voice trembling: "Mom, can I come out now??" Good thing kids are quick to forgive, and to be honest they probably earned those minutes doing something earlier and just never got caught.

Confession: I have more than 40 overdue books on my library account right now.

I blame my book-obsessed children. I also blame the fact that my library doesn't have check-out limits and they don't start fining you until you are 45 days overdue. This policy has been bad for my overall sense of duty and responsibility, but really good for my math skills. I can instantly tell you what's 45 days after any date on the calendar if you ask me.

Confession: I'm sort of lying to my dentist.

I hardly ever floss, except for doing it obsessively the week before my semi-annual dental cleaning like it's 1998 and I'm cramming for the final exam in AP English. Ordinarily I wouldn't feel bad about that, but it doesn't seem like anyone at my dentist's office has figured out that I'm cheating and tells me "good job" every time. This leads me to wonder if regular flossing is just a marketing scam.

Confession: I suck at being the tooth fairy.

If our tooth fairy was any other employee I would've fired her a long time ago. She's forgotten to come get the tooth rotting under my kid's pillow for 3 consecutive nights before, and let me tell you that a 6-year-old with a quivering lip at your bedside first thing in the morning wailing "She didn't come again!" is the worst way to start your day. Oh, and once she didn't have any cash so she stole money from the child's piggy bank bank to put under his pillow. (I later paid it back; I'm not a monster.)

Confession: I know way too much about getting rid of fruit flies.

In the summer months, it's more common than not to see a homemade fruit fly trap on the counter as a semi-permanent kitchen fixture. (I recently learned you can suck up the whole lot of them in 30 seconds with a Shop-Vac and my life will never be the same.) While we're confessing stuff, I'll go ahead and say that I've battled not one, but two fruit fly infestations in my van. Serves me right for those two times I encouraged fresh fruit as an on-the-go snack instead of Goldfish crackers like every other normal person on the planet. Those things will survive Armageddon.

Confession: I try to trick myself into folding laundry and it never works.

I don't even know why I bother to do this but I often pile unfolded laundry on the bed, thinking "This way, I'll have to fold it before I go to sleep!" So brilliant, I am. Never mind that what actually happens is that I forget all about it until I wander in there bleary-eyed and ready to drop into bed, and then I'm shocked to find a mountain of laundry in my way. It's like I've punk'd myself, every time. And then it goes on top of the dresser which is like garment purgatory.

Confession: I have probably 100 pictures of babies sleeping with their butts up in the air.

Every time I see one of my babies doing this, the camera comes out. I know, even as I'm taking the picture, that it looks identical to the five other ones I took this month except for maybe different pairs of pajamas, but I can't help myself. If I see a lumpy infant conked out with his little butt stuck up in the air, then there must be a picture of that. No exceptions.

There are things I don't really broadcast about myself, but I'm pretty sure you do them too, and I think it's high time to air these babies out in the open.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

What do YOU want to confess? (It feels good to get it out in the open, I promise.)

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Friday, February 10, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Diet Cheetos, How Not to Take a Compliment, and Garage Door Decorating Tips for the Clueless

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


My daughter brought this flyer home from school, encouraging us to send in donations for the humane society.

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

Well, I'm all for helping homeless animals as long as they're cute.

Luckily, I just cleaned out the master bathroom so we had a bunch of towels to donate. Seriously, Phillip and I are the only ones who use that bathroom and there were 12 towels in there. Twelve.

I just hope no ugly animals get them.


I took one of my boys in for a cardiology check-up and saw this vending machine in the lobby. 

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

I guess since it's a medical complex, they probably had the best of intentions in reminding people to eat healthy. But it almost seems sort of mean when the most nutritious thing available is the bag of Cheetos at B2.


Occasionally on Sundays, I teach the adult women's Sunday school class (called Relief Society) at my church. Which is fine, but church is always a rough time for the baby, who is totally crabby and ready to go home by the time Relief Society rolls around.

Long story short, it took 4 ladies taking turns walking him up and down the halls and digging snacks out of their purses for 40 minutes during my lesson.

Phillip was in another room playing piano for the kids' singing time, but when he finished he followed the baby's wails down the hallway to find him furiously stress-eating Cheerios out of the hand of the Relief Society president.

That's one thing I love about our little faith community. I love to look around and see how people's children are sitting on the laps of other families in church, and we kind of all just watch out for them together. I guess what I'm saying is that it takes a village to raise a child — I know because mine utilized the entire village on Sunday.


The kids have been getting a little stir-crazy this winter, since it's been cold but without the benefit of much snow to play in.

So they've been putting their energy into indoor activities like re-organizing the pantry

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

and experimenting with the effects of gravity on household materials.

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

They were really happy to finally get some snow this week.

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


This week I received a compliment on my "calm parenting." At first it made me feel really good, but then as I was thinking about it in the car on the way home I started feeling guilty about all the times I've lost my temper and not been a calm parent, and before you know it I was beating myself up about it.

Only in Bizarro Mom World can a compliment about your parenting make you feel like a crappy mother.

You know what, though? Just take the compliment. The next time somebody says you're doing good, believe them. You probably are.


Phillip has been working from home lately as a way to make up for going on a work trip every week for the last 3 weeks. And possibly because he doesn't want to completely miss the kids' childhoods.

Having him home 24/7 between his work trips has been a lifesaver when I double- and triple-booked myself for several appointments, so I like it.

Even if he does have to hide in the basement to make phone calls because the kids are upstairs reenacting the wildebeest stampede from The Lion King.


I learned something new. Not because I wanted to.

Forgive the stereotype, but I had no desire to learn how to use the snowblower and was perfectly happy letting Phillip handle anything that falls into the "big machines you use outside" category.

But since we got 8" of snow while he was out of town, I figured it out.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Gigantic snow splatter on the garage door from when I forgot to turn the chute to the other side.

Sort of.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

6 Hilariously Real Valentines for Husbands to Give Their Pregnant Wives

Being pregnant isn't just normal life with the addition of a baby bump. It's miraculous, life-changing, and (let's be honest) a little weird.

So guys, these 6 Valentines will are guaranteed to make your pregnant wife laugh. Or cry. Or probably both, because pregnancy does that.

1. It's not easy walking around on those things all day.

Pregnancy is miraculous, life-changing, and a little bit weird. These funny valentines say it all.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

2. Maybe you should stick some Tums in the envelope.

Pregnancy is miraculous, life-changing, and a little bit weird. These funny valentines say it all.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

3. Sometimes pregnancy food cravings get a little bizarre.

Pregnancy is miraculous, life-changing, and a little bit weird. These funny valentines say it all.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

4. Wishing you a Valentine's Day that's larger than life.
Pregnancy is miraculous, life-changing, and a little bit weird. These funny valentines say it all.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

5. For the woman who really knows how to rock an outie.

Pregnancy is miraculous, life-changing, and a little bit weird. These funny valentines say it all.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

6. When the worst smell in the world is whatever anyone else is eating.

Pregnancy is miraculous, life-changing, and a little bit weird. These funny valentines say it all.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Happy Valentine's Day, and don't forget to share your favorites with the mother-to-be in your life!

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Life-Changing Magic of Throwing Crap Away (And Some Rules for Decluttering Your House)

It all started with a book.

Not The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I think I reserved that at the library back in 2015 when everyone on the Internet was Kondo-ing their collective minds out, but I forgot to pick it up and the library waits for no man. Or mom.

No, I read a book called Simplicity Parenting, and that was the beginning of something.

I've never been a hoarder. In fact, I've always been more likely to throw things away than hang onto them. I've always hated clutter and loved big, empty space.

But with 6 kids, it just kind of happens. First there's one stuffed animal in the bed, then five, and one day you go in there and realize that the top bunk is in danger of collapsing under the weight of hundreds of plush figures. They bring home party favors. People give gifts.

And even though I'm sort of a minimalist, I also hate wasting anything. So what if that car doesn't have any wheels left? The kids still play with it. Bits and pieces of craft materials will still get used.

I also hesitate to throw things out because I'm no stranger to the way my kids play: anything can become a part of their game. So when I cut something out of felt, the scraps became rugs for their dolls and disappeared into their room.

Basically, my children are ferrets.

But when I picked up Simplicity Parenting, and I realized that it was taking my kids forever to clean their rooms at night, and that I was just going around picking things up all day long, I decided to change things.

Their rooms were not packed to overflowing, but I went through each and every toy, book, marker, and game. Room by room, I've been either trashing or donating ⅓ of its contents since November. (I do move some toys to the attic to rotate back to their rooms sometime in the future.)

Basically, I follow a simple 3-step process:

Step 1: Remove everything. Literally take everything out of the closets and shelves and put it on the floor. Yes, this means it gets much worse before it gets better.

I couldn't believe what started happening once I threw away one-third of everything we owned.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Your husband will definitely choose this moment to walk by and passively-aggressively thank you for tidying up.

Do not skip this step. Throwing it all in a pile on the floor means:
  1. You'll be forced to finish this job instead of giving up and watching Netflix halfway through. 
  2. It becomes MORE WORK to put something back in the closet/cabinet/room than to get rid of it. If you do this, only stuff you really, truly want will go back in. 
  3. You can clean the nasty shelves that have been accumulating crumbs and hair and dust and all other sorts of unholy things when you weren't looking.

Step 2: Sort it into piles. My patented four-pile system is:

  • Trash -  crumpled sketches of who knows what. Action figures without heads. Pop up books that have been destroyed by grabby baby hands. Random pieces of plastic that serve no purpose. Why is there so much random plastic?? 
  • Donate - toys that only do one thing and don't entertain for long. Things you always pick up but rarely see played with. Picture books you've always secretly hated. (I was riding the high of giving away Barbie and the Secret Door for days.)
  • Move to Somewhere Else - I still want it, I'm just keeping it in a dumb place. Like the misspelled "MOMY" bracelet from my preschooler in my jewelry box (it was supposed to say 'mommy.') It's cute and I want to keep it, but not to wear on a regular basis so it shouldn't go with my everyday jewelry.
  • Keep - once all the other piles have been taken care of, I usually go through the 'keep' pile one more time. Then I start organizing everything left and putting it in its new home.

Step 3: Force everyone to admire your work. Really. Stop everybody in the house from what they're doing and tell them to go appreciate it. Don't let them leave until they sufficiently do. If they don't adequately comment on what an amazing transformation this is, physically point their face toward the newly organized space and yell, "LOOK AT IT!!"

Once I started doing this in every room of the house, a few interesting things started to happen.

First, the kids actually started playing with the stuff they have. When the shelves in our dining room/craft area were crammed with kits to make-your-own-everything, they used none of them. They didn't even know they were there.

Once we got rid of all but one or two, they rediscovered them. I used to think my kids weren't crafters; now I think they were just overwhelmed.

The second thing was that their rooms stayed clean. Before, it was always a disaster so they wouldn't even bother cleaning up after themselves, because really, what was the point? I couldn't blame them.

With less stuff, it only takes 5 minutes for the whole room. Sometimes, they even clean up without even being asked (the older ones, anyway.) And by the way, this is the kind of claim I'd previously read and yell "Liar!" while chucking a boot at the screen. But it's true.

Having seen this with my own eyes, I don't hesitate now to be very selective in the things that enter my home and very liberal in getting rid of things that are already inside it. And next time our stuff starts multiplying on its own as stuff always does, I'll know exactly what to do about it.

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