Saturday, July 22, 2017

Follow Us on a Trip Around the World and Maybe Your Kids Will Even Learn Something

Blame it all on an issue of Parents magazine. Or maybe it was Family Fun. Whatever it was, ruined our summers forever.

One fateful day in late spring 2011 I was at the library watching my youngest play at the train table, and I happened to reach over and start leafing through a parenting magazine.

My eyes stopped on an article about some lady who decided to do an educational pretend trip around the globe with her kids over summer vacation. Their family ate at ethnic restaurants, learned different languages, and listened to cultural music. It was a way to broaden her kids' horizons and keep them learning during the summer.

I was kind of an overachiever back then, and I thought, "What a great idea!"

I bought a 5-foot wide world map on Amazon and hung it in the dining room. I posted a "summer itinerary" on the wall, listing in a cutesy font the countries we were "visiting" and when, as chosen by the kids. I made them faux passports with a little United States seal on the cover and everything.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
If this doesn't scream Type A mom, I don't know what does.
The first page even has their picture and identifying information just like a real passport.

I don't blame you if reading this makes you want to kick me in the head. That's a completely rational reaction. Thank goodness Pinterest wasn't on my radar back then. I would've been unstoppable. (This is why I had more children, I think, so I wouldn't have time to do stuff like this.)

It was a whirlwind summer.

The poor librarians at our public library didn't know what hit them. Their circulation numbers must have gone through the roof that July and August, because we hauled out stacks of books, movies, and CDs about different countries week after week. I mean on top of the stack we usually haul out. just because my kids are total bookworms.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
Why yes, my kids always watch videos like this. Why do you ask?
(This was before the demise of our TV, by the way.)

We rolled Swedish meatballs in Sweden; in France, I made my first soufflé and daughter said it "tasted like throw-up." (Not sure if I did something wrong or if she just doesn't like soufflé.)

In Egypt, we went to the beach and the kids recreated the Nile river and built pyramids and stuff along the banks.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
My son was a little disappointed at the lack of crocodiles.

We ate with chopsticks in China and I learned that I love making Chinese food. The recipes I used that week are some of my favorites today, 4 years later.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
Haven't had a haircut since, most likely.

In Australia, we put together puzzles (just black-and-white maps I printed out and cut up) of the 6 states of Australia and made a didgeridoo out of a wrapping paper tube.

In Ukraine, we made fake pysanky eggs (the unbelievably intricate ones with really deep colors.) In case you want to know how that's done, you color paper all over with crayons, paint black over the top, scratch a design in it with a safety pin, and cut out an egg shape. It's a good activity to take up an entire morning.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.


When I started, I thought "visiting countries" would just be a fun thing to do for that one summer, but the kids (particularly my oldest) loved it so much they begged me to do it again. Begged.

So it's become a regular thing now.

As the years go on I've dialed it back. That first year I was really out of control  I sewed ponchos for each of the kids when we talked about gauchos (the cowboy, not the pants) in Argentina. I realize I had way too much time on my hands.

By the end of that summer I was completely exhausted. And of course after that I had a baby, then another one, so I've got no choice but to keep it simpler now.

Our loose structure for visiting a country is:

First, we locate the country on the map and fill out a page of our passports. Their passports have blanks to fill in with the name of the country, what it borders, what continent it's on, and other major landmarks they can see on the map. They also make up a visa stamp for that country and color it in.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
Not sure why my daughter is wearing a babushka. I don't even think we visited Russia that year.

Then they Google the country's flag and fight over the crayons copy it on a sheet of typing paper.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
Leave a comment below if you know what flag this is without Googling it!

We hang the finished flags on the wall and it's actually really cool to see the accumulation of 4 year's worth of them.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
The dining room, end of summer 2014.

We spend the rest of the week reading, watching, listening to, and doing things related to the culture and geography of the country. I used to make up a lot of my own activities but I find I have less time to do that every year, and why re-invent the wheel? I promise to give a link and proper credit to any websites I crib my ideas from.

For the next 6 weeks, I'll be posting regular Saturday recaps and I'd love it if you followed along on the blog.

Our 2017 summer schedule:
  • July 29: Austria
  • August 5: Greece
  • August 12: Chile
  • August 19: Madagascar
  • August 21: North Korea
  • September 2: Spain
In the meantime, feel free to check out the archives to see where we've gone in the past: VenezuelaJapanUnited KingdomCanadaOmanWashington, D.C., and the Netherlands (Holland).

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Friday, July 21, 2017

7 Quick Takes about an Excessive Stash, Dish Brushes That Don't Look Quite Right, and Helpful Advice for Parents of Kids Named Alexa

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

1


I've  known for a while that my gift bag hoarding was getting out of hand. Every single gift bag from every birthday party for the last 5 years, I've ferreted away in the basement. Sure we use them, but the drawer where I keep them kept getting fuller and fuller.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
It doesn't show because of the angle of the picture, but each of these stacks was like 5 inches high.

I don't even know this many people, letalone give that many gifts. And don't even get me started on the tissue paper I'd been holding on to.

2


If you ask my 1-year-old a question, he says "no." Even if he doesn't understand the question. Even if what he really means is "yes." He literally just yells "NO!" whenever he detects your voice rising at the end of a sentence.

This week at the library, I approached the circulation desk with the toddler in one arm and a bag of books in the other. "Can I put you down for a minute?" I asked him.

Predictably, he said "No!" but didn't seem to mind when I put him down, anyway.

"Must be his favorite word," the librarian chuckled. She checked out my books and asked me, "Do you want a printout of your account status?"

"NO!" yelled the 1-year-old from the floor.

3


The garden beds next to our house are a total disaster. I need to do some serious work: mulching, buying new plants, that kind of thing. But until I know exactly what I want, I hesitate to put a lot of work (okay, any work) into maintaining the garden beds the way they are.

I don't have it all figured out yet, but one thing I know for sure is that I want our two peony bushes GONE.

Aside from the fact that I don't really like the look or smell of peonies to begin with, they also attract ants like nobody's business. As if we weren't losing the battle against weather-and-insect damage to our house thoroughly enough on our own.

Plus, our particular two bushes have really big white flowers. So big the bushes can't support their weight. They don't even bloom pretty, they just droop on the ground and decay while all the petals fall off. It looks like a swan exploded on our sidewalk.

Long story short, the kids enjoyed helping me take out the bushes and the 9-year-old especially liked unearthing the ball of roots at the core.

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

The kids called it "the warlock's hairy heart" which I guess is a Harry Potter thing, but it seemed appropriate to me.

4


It's been sort of a weird transition coming back from vacation. There we were, all together 24/7 for 2 weeks, and then we came home and Phillip had to work late for several nights and the oldest left for a week of church youth camp.

I guess I'm used to Phillip traveling so that's nothing too out of the ordinary, but having one kid gone is pretty bizarre.

I'm really looking forward to my daughter coming home this afternoon. And not just because I've been doing her chores for a week and it kind of sucks.

5


We went to a kids' magic show at the library. There was a lot of audience participation in the show, and lots of clapping and laughing throughout. The 1-year-old decided he liked the idea of this and randomly burst out laughing at non-funny moments. He didn't seem to mind that he was the only one.

He sat spellbound for the first 10 minutes of the show, but then he noticed a newborn in a car carrier behind us. He crawled under a table to see her, stood up and hit his head, and then practically dove in there with her because hello, who doesn't love babies?

Then he noticed the wheelchair ramp and all bets were off. He had the best time running up and down it until he tripped and cut his lip with his tooth.

It actually makes me tired just reading this. How can one tiny person house that much energy?

6


I bought a new dish brush at the store and everyone is giving me a hard time about it.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
(Full disclosure: I posted this picture for the sole purpose of showing off the sink I just cleaned for the first time since 2015.)

It all started when my 5-year-old saw it and asked, "Is that for the toilet?"

"No," I said. "It's for the dishes."

"Oh. Well, are you excited to use your new toilet bowl brush on the dishes?"

I should've saved the tag, which clearly stated 'DISH BRUSH' right on the front. Everyone keeps insisting that I brought home a toilet bowl brush to scrub our plates.

7


Something I've always wondered when I see the Amazon Echo commercials is, "What if your kid is named Alexa?" It's super-cool technology, but I personally know two people with daughters named Alexa and it seems to me like that could get confusing.

Well, Amazon's Q&A forum cleared that question right up for me.

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


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

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

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

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

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


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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

7 Things That Go Out the Window When You Have a Baby

There's a reason why the first few months after bringing home a new baby are called "survival mode." Every ounce of energy you can muster is directed toward just trying to keep yourself and your newborn alive.

It's a little disorienting to go from a functional adult to someone who can barely (and I mean barely) keep up with her own hygeine, but hopefully this little guide will help you make the transition.

There's a reason they call life with a newborn "survival mode."  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Things that will go completely out the window when you have a baby include:

Hair maintenance. Of course your own hair will go unwashed and unbrushed for days. You'll fall asleep in a ratty ponytail and before you know it, it's Friday and the thing is still in your hair. Sort of. The same applies to your older children. No need to announce the birth to anyone who works at your kids' school: they've your son rolling in with his bed head and your daughter's three-day-old pigtails. They know.

The distinction between pajamas and clothes. A long time ago, in a land far, far away, you'll vaguely remember that every morning you used to take off whatever you slept in and put on a pair of real pants with a numerical size. Currently, you wear the same thing 24 hours a day, and it's your elastic waist size 'L' pants from Target and a college T-shirt that at one point belonged to your husband. If it's any consolation, you have little concept of night and day right now, anyway.

Any sort of schedule. Structured days with set mealtimes, nap times, and waking times will (probably) happen when your baby gets older. But for now, you must cater to every whim of an insane dictator who wants to eat for 3 hours straight in the middle of the night and then nap in 11-minute increments, but only if you bounce him gently while pacing in a counter-clockwise direction and humming "Tiny Dancer." And that goes for your own schedule, too. You no longer eat when you're hungry or sleep at bedtime: you do it whenever the baby lets you.
There's a reason they call life with a newborn "survival mode."  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Basic housekeeping. Thank goodness for that urge to clean every inch of the house toward the end of your pregnancy, because it's certainly not going to get done any time soon. There are unidentifiable contents in the back of the fridge that make you genuinely feel afraid. A load of clothes is growing mildew in the washer. Your kitchen table looks like a meth lab buried under two weeks' worth of mail. Basically, your housekeeping regime is reduced to wiping spit-up off the floor and spraying Febreeze around once in a while.

A belief in moderation. All the TV you watched in your entire pre-pregnancy life does not equal the time you spend sitting in front of a screen for the first few months, endlessly nursing your newborn. And you really couldn't care less. You eat dinner out of a box or order take-out every night for a week and not once do you bemoan the loss of your once-balanced diet. Your older children are more than happy to survive on Ramen and hot dogs for a month.

Caring about your appearance. Inevitably, some helpful visitor or family member will tell you that you've got spit-up on your shoulder, as if this is new information to you. Of course you know perfectly well it's there. You're just too tired and too busy to do anything about it, and most of all, you know you'll get a similar christening on the other shoulder in T minus 15 minutes and who needs more laundry? Not you.

Every sleep theory you ever had about babies. When you were still pregnant, it was shockingly easy to declare that you were never going to let your baby nurse to sleep or use a pacifier, or get used to sleeping in your arms, or become dependent on swaddling. Spoiler alert: everyone plans to put the baby down awake but drowsy and let them self-soothe. After 20 hours of hysterical screaming every time the baby's downy head touches the mattress, you'll do literally anything to get some sleep and reality happens.


How long will survival mode last? Well, it gets easier after the first 2-3 months, but symptoms could last for up to a year or more.

The good news is that you eventually emerge from survival mode, and that precious time with your baby has taught you something, too: nice-looking hair and real pants are overrated.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Sitting in the Airport for 5 Hours Isn't as Much Fun as It Sounds Like

I should have known when our flight to Minnesota went well, almost too well, that we were going to have to make up for it on the way back. The universe just can't stay unbalanced forever, and that is what I learned on our trip back.

At first, things were going fine. We got to the airport on time. We returned the rental car. Checked in with no problems.

I should have known when our flight to Minnesota went well, almost too well, that we were going to have to make up for it on the way back.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

There wasn't much of a line at security, the only snag being that Phillip forgot to take his laptop out of his bag. After the TSA pulled him aside for a full cavity search (actually, they just opened the bag and were quite nice about it) we were at the gate in plenty of time.

We figured we had about 20 minutes until they started the boarding process, so we herded the kids to the airport play area that was conveniently located right across from our gate.

I should have known when our flight to Minnesota went well, almost too well, that we were going to have to make up for it on the way back.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Of course it had an air transportation theme as all airport play areas do. But it was a sort of strange one, mainly because the seats around the sides for parents was a row of faux luggage with a creepy chicken in a crate.

But the kids seemed to enjoy it, anyway.

I should have known when our flight to Minnesota went well, almost too well, that we were going to have to make up for it on the way back.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

It was at the play area that we learned there were thunderstorms at our home airport, and the flight was going to be delayed by an hour.

Deep sigh, but oh well. If you've ever experienced hours of back labor, you know that being bored in the airport for 60 minutes isn't the worst thing there is.

My 13-year-old was quite vocal about it, but the little kids were content to play in the play area for as long as humanly possible and didn't even notice.

I should have known when our flight to Minnesota went well, almost too well, that we were going to have to make up for it on the way back.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

We made our best effort to turn runs to the drinking fountain into full-length excursions and our visits to the restroom into adventures. The kids ate Chex Mix from their backpacks and watched the planes fuel up through the windows.

We boarded the plane just a little after 5, and as we made our way to our seats my daughter gasped, "My book! I left it in the airport! Can I go back and get it?"

"Nope, too late now," I said, not even a little bit sorry about her copy of The Borrowers. I wanted to go home.

We listened to the safety demonstration and taxied out to the runway. And taxied. And taxied some more.

I began to wonder if our runway was in Canada.

In reality, the pilot was in the cockpit sweating bullets, driving in circles for the same reason I circle aimlessly in the van when I'm lost instead of pulling over: because irritable passengers in a moving vehicle are less likely to go ballistic than still ones.

Finally he broke the news to us over the intercom: there was still a weather delay at the other airport and they weren't accepting planes yet. We would be heading back to the terminal to deplane.

"Were you praying to get your book back?!" I hissed at my daughter. "Because if you did, I hope you're happy." She swore she had nothing to do with it.

Almost an hour after we'd gotten on the plane, we found ourselves getting off again: back on the same jetway, walking back into the same terminal.

They gave us an estimate of two more hours until we were ready to re-board the plane, and we went back to the play area to collect ourselves and figure out what to do.

The chicken was definitely mocking me.

I should have known when our flight to Minnesota went well, almost too well, that we were going to have to make up for it on the way back.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

What to do with a few more interminable hours on our hands? We'd already exhausted our best ideas for keeping the kids entertained.

My daughter and I meandered around looking for her lost copy of The Borrowers. We asked the gate agent where the lost & found was, and instead of answering us she announced to the entire terminal that there was a young lady who was extremely worried about her book at the gate and anyone who found it should return it to us immediately. Everyone in the airport turned to stare directly at us. My daughter turned beet red. That was fun.

Phillip and I took turns taking the kids on walks through the terminal. There was an interesting light fixture over a restaurant made from empty wine bottles, and a mosaic of some loons (this was in Minnesota, remember?) in the bathroom that the 1-year-old seemed to like.

I should have known when our flight to Minnesota went well, almost too well, that we were going to have to make up for it on the way back.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Until he didn't like anything anymore. He hadn't slept in who knows how long. We were supposed to be home at this very minute, tucking the kids into bed after a long day, and we weren't even on the plane yet.

Things escalated pretty quickly after that and long story short, if you were in the Humphrey terminal at the Minneapolis airport last week and saw a lady pacing back and forth in front of gate H7 with a pink sweatshirt draped over the head of a screaming toddler so he'd go to sleep, that was me.

I tried not to be too conspicuous, but I think I failed because another passenger from our flight came over and gifted me this pair of earplugs.

I should have known when our flight to Minnesota went well, almost too well, that we were going to have to make up for it on the way back.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

I thanked her and hoped she had a similar gift bag for everyone else on the plane, too.

Finally he fell asleep for a while. By the time I'd lost all feeling in both wrists from cradling him, he woke up and they were about to begin re-boarding the plane.

We said goodbye to the plastic chicken for what we hoped was the last time. We also found The Borrowers tucked in one of the kids' backpacks. (I suggested asking the gate agent to announce over the intercom that we found it, but my daughter declined.)

The rest of the flight went okay, with the exception of having to listen to the safety presentation a second time and trying to explain to a 1-year-old why it's against FAA regulations to sit in the middle of the aisle playing with a Hot Wheels car during takeoff.

Every time the pilot started speaking over the intercom I was afraid he was going to say we were turning around and going back (can he even do that?) but he didn't. Our shuttle was waiting for us when we landed and we were back in our own house by 1 AM.

I guess it all ended well. But next time, we're driving.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

7 Quick Takes about Coming Home, Saving the Planet, and Working with One of My Heroes

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

1


Home, sweet home. For the last 2 weeks we've been visiting my parents in Minnesota.

We had a great time. We played on the beach, had fun with our extended family, and the 1-year-old learned to bark like my mom's dog.

The damage total: two peed-on beds, one bedroom door locked from the inside, a screen door knocked out twice, one window curtain pulled down, a few broken toys, and one kid stuck in the restroom stall at a Chinese buffet.

Not bad for two whole weeks!

2


I'll go into more detail on the highs and lows of our trip next week, but one thing I will tell you is that our return flight was not pretty.

When we were planning this trip we debated flying versus driving for a long time, and for various reasons chose to fly this time.

Turns out if you take a 4-hour delay and multiply it by 6 kids, you get infinite regret over that decision.

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

On the plus side, they say boredom is good for kids, and I think they've had enough of it now to last until they're 30.

3


During the first half of our vacation, we stayed at my mom's. She doesn't like the well water at her place, so she was nice enough to buy us some big refillable gallon jugs of bottled water so we had plenty to drink.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Nobody has made me feel this important since Smokey the Bear.

Every time I took this carton out of the fridge,my kids wanted to know why I was singing "Captain Planet, he's our hero, gonna take pollution down to zero!"

All week long.

4


Phillip and I were able to leave the kids with my dad and stepmom to go on a belated anniversary getaway.

We stayed at a hotel in Minneapolis for a few days, eating good food and walking along a very pretty stretch by the river. We visited an art museum and saw a play. But if I'm being completely honest, the best part was getting up late on the first morning, eating the hotel breakfast, then getting back into our pajamas and watching a movie. I don't think I've ever done that before.

And everyone (even my dad and stepmom) were still alive when we got back.

5


The 1-year-old is going through a phase where he screams bloody murder whenever I try to buckle him in his car seat, put him to bed, get him out of bed, or change his diaper. Since we're basically doing one of those four things all day long, I'm having a hard time. That's an understatement. I feel like I'm trying to parent a honey badger.

Oh, and this behavior is especially for me. No one else.

Maybe he just started to prefer Phillip after having him around 24/7 for two weeks of vacation. Or maybe it's some sort of reverse psychology trick that means he super-loves me. Or maybe he's just trying to drive me insane.

Whatever it is, my plan is to put in some earplugs and ride this thing out. Wish me luck.

6


I looked up the website of a waterpark where I wanted to take the kids.
My original question was whether the park sold swim diapers at the door, but I completely forgot about it when I noticed that under "Emergency Procedures" there were tabs for:
  • Rain
  • Cold weather
  • Lightning
  • Tornado
  • Fecal Incident
The best part was that the 'fecal incident' category was incredibly detailed, to the point of describing the different kinds of poop ("is it solid enough to be scooped out?") and what would happen in the event of each.

Also, from now on I'm calling all horrific poop accidents around here 'fecal incidents.' It makes them sound so classy.

7


I've been a fan of Adrienne at Hedger Humor for a really long time. If you don't know who I'm talking about, drop everything you're doing and go visit her site. Her cartoons are so funny and my life exactly.

I tell you all this because I recently had the chance to collaborate with her on a cartoon, which is a definite highlight of my summer. (Don't worry, I contributed the idea, not the drawing.)

Check out "Battling the Door and the Heat" and then subscribe to Adrienne's blog. Her newsletter is hilarious, by the way.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The 7 Best Parenting Books You'll Ever Read

I have a serious parenting book addiction. Every time I take my 6 kids to the public library, I end up drifting over the the parenting book section and checking out a few titles.

Now, it's extremely rare for me to buy books of any kind. I hardly ever do it. The library is free, after all. But I personally own these, because they're part of my permanent reference library on how to mom.

Disclaimer: The links on this page are affiliate links, which don't change the price of the book for you but I earn a small commission. Which I will undoubtedly use to buy more parenting books.

From a parenting book addict and mother of 6, these are full of concrete strategies and ideas that will change the way you think about parenting.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}



by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. and Gabor Maté, M.D.


This could be the most important parenting book ever, because today's commonly accepted image of a teenager is a surly kid locked in his room who can't stand talking to or being with his parents. This may be the norm now, but it's not normal.

What I Liked: I've always suspected something wrong with the idea that teenagers naturally and necessarily hate their parents. This book talks about a massive culture shift where this has become the status quo, but it's actually the devastating result of parents who've failed to preserve their kids' emotional attachment to them and been prematurely replaced by their kids' peers. Without attachment to their parents, kids' emotional growth is stunted and they become very difficult to raise.

This book tells you how to maintain a strong parent-child bond if you still have it, and how to repair it if you've lost it. It's a fascinating read that might make you completely change your mind about what kids and teens actually need to develop into healthy, mature adults.

This Book Is Perfect For Parents Who...

  • Are looking for ways to preserve or strengthen their bond with their kids of any age
  • Don't think their child respects them or their authority to parent
  • Have a spirited child
  • Have a distant or rebellious teenager
  • Feel alienated from their previously sweet child's life
  • Believe it's normal for teens to hate their parents and treat them badly


From a parenting book addict and mother of 6, these are full of concrete strategies and ideas that will change the way you think about parenting.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Simplicity Parenting

by Kim John Payne, M.Ed.


Despite my initial disappointment that this book was not about teaching your kids to levitate as the cover image led me to believe, this is one of the best parenting books I've ever read. 

What I Liked: The premise of the book is that many of our kids feel stressed and overwhelmed, and we don't even know it. Even if we do, we often don't know where to begin simplifying our hectic lives, overflowing playrooms, and jam-packed calendars. If you feel like a cat barely hanging onto a windowsill by its claws and your life is not what you imagined it would be, you need this book.

Payne says that stress can aggravate childhood quirks and even manifest itself as ADD, ADHD, or ODD, and many of these kids can be brought within the functional range through simplification and structure  which is especially interesting to me because I've been told by people who work in a school that one of my children could easily be labeled ADD without the structure we have at home.

This Book Is Perfect For Parents Who...
  • Are utterly stressed out by their lives, or suspect that their kids are
  • Feel overwhelmed by stuff/toys/clutter
  • Desperately wish there was a 'pause' button for life
  • Want to simplify but have no clue where to start
  • Have kids with diagnosed or suspected ADD, ADHD, or ODD

From a parenting book addict and mother of 6, these are full of concrete strategies and ideas that will change the way you think about parenting.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too

by Sal Severe, Ph.D.


This is a must-read for every parent! Why do they not include a copy of this book in the swag bag of mesh undies and plastic peri-bottles they give new parents at discharge from the hospital?

What I Liked: It covers all aspects of how to increase positive behaviors and stop negative behaviors effectively. Most of us don't realize that the way we act or react to our kids might actually be making their behavior worse! Whether your children are terrible or pretty well-behaved, this book is amazing.

I found the book's tone easy to read and definitely not preachy (a common pitfall of parenting books.) Instead of just vague generalities and rules of thumb, there were concrete and specific strategies in every chapter to implement in your family right now to get your kids to behave better and feel like a nicer, calmer, more effective parent.

This Book Is Perfect For Parents Who...
  • Want their kids to cooperate the first time
  • Feel like they yell too much
  • Can't get their kids to listen to them
  • Keep running up against one or two ongoing "problem behaviors" they can't stop

From a parenting book addict and mother of 6, these are full of concrete strategies and ideas that will change the way you think about parenting.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Sleepless in America

by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka


When I first read this book, it turned me into a little bit of a sleep Nazi. Kurcinka says that there is a direct link between misbehavior and lack of sleep, and most kids aren't getting enough. 

What I Liked: The first great strength of this book is explaining how chronic exhaustion in kids can mimic a number of behavioral, attention, and learning problems. If you think about how you feel and behave after a bad night's sleep, you can see why. Funnily enough, kids who are exhausted have the hardest time getting (and staying) asleep, so the answer isn't as simple as just "putting them to bed."

Which brings me to the second great strength: it gets you thinking about creating a bedtime routine that works for you and actually gets your kids ready to sleep  not just in their rooms. When I think of my job as creating a relaxing atmosphere for falling asleep instead of just throwing them in bed by 8 PM, my kids come out fewer times after lights-out and sleep better. No one size fits all, so there are lots of concrete ideas for doing this to choose from in the book.

This Book Is Perfect For Parents Who...
  • Have crazy schedules
  • Have kids who seem to need less sleep than average for their ages
  • Have kids under 5 who no longer nap
  • Suspect their kids have ADHD (20% of overtired kids are misdiagnosed as ADHD)
  • Are evaluating their kids for learning disabilities
  • Have kids with behavioral problems

From a parenting book addict and mother of 6, these are full of concrete strategies and ideas that will change the way you think about parenting.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The Parenting Breakthrough

by Merrilee Boyack


Notwithstanding the slightly creepy cover illustration and the nondescript title, this is really one of my favorites. It's written by an LDS (Mormon) mom, but is applicable to any parent — religious or not  who wants to raise children to become self-sufficient adults.

What I Liked: I'm glad I first read this book when my kids were young, because it helped me gain a longer-term vision for my family and start thinking about what our plan should be to get there. Basically, you aren't going to raise resourceful, self-sufficient, capable kids by accident. This book lays it all out with a timeline of what to do so they leave the house prepared for life on their own.

My kids pitch in at home and work harder than most kids I know, and sometimes before reading this book I wondered if it was too much. It validated to me that teaching life skills is an important part of my job description. This book was filled with down-to-earth, fantastic common-sense ideas that I haven't read anywhere else before.

This Book Is Perfect For Parents Who...
  • Want to teach their kids responsibility
  • Need help implementing chores at home
  • Aren't sure what skills are age-appropriate for kids
  • Don't think their kids are helping out enough at home
  • Lack a long-term plan for where their family is going

From a parenting book addict and mother of 6, these are full of concrete strategies and ideas that will change the way you think about parenting.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

by Diane E. Levin, Ph.D. and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D.


I originally read this book back in 2010 with my tween in mind, and ended up getting more insights about my 4-year-old. An eye-opening must-read about marketing's effects on children for any parent, but especially parents of girls.

What I Liked: My mind was blown at the way this book connected the dots between the toddler/preschooler obsession with being pretty princesses, and those same girls becoming obsessed with looking hot and acting sexy when they're older. There's a similar thing happening with boys and violence. It made me think about the messages my kids get from the media and their toys, but it also made me look at advertising in a whole new way.

This book was filled with specific helps for parents on having healthy conversations with their kids about sex, limiting media, and not allowing "age compression" to make your kids grow up too fast. Sometimes the topic is depressing, but overall I came away empowered to make decisions that will help my kids just be kids for a little while longer.

This Book Is Perfect For Parents Who...
  • Worry about our oversexualized culture's impact on boys and girls
  • Don't want their kids to prematurely lose their innocence
  • Have daughters who are preoccupied with appearance
  • Need help talking to their kids about sex

From a parenting book addict and mother of 6, these are full of concrete strategies and ideas that will change the way you think about parenting.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The Idle Parent

by Tom Hodgkinson


I've never read a book quite like this one, and that's saying something. It's more of a parenting manifesto than a parenting how-to book. There absolutely WILL be some parts you disagree with, but if nothing else, it's an amazing thought exercise that will change the way you think about parenting.

What I Liked: Mostly, I loved this book because it gave me permission to just chill out as a parent. The best parents are happy parents, which leads to happy children. While there's no one "right" way to raise kids, there are many good ways  and they usually require less effort than I think. All I really need to do is enjoy my kids, keep toys and TV to a minimum, and don't hover.

Quite frankly, Hodgkinson comes across sounding like an unpleasant know-it-all, but don't let that stop you from reading. Skip or skim over parts if you're rolling your eyes too hard, but it's great food for thought. My favorite quote: "We must resist the temptation to teach them that a remote-controlled robot is better than a twig." How can you not love a book that says that?

This Book Is Perfect For Parents Who...
  • Think they're not doing enough for their kids
  • Feel burnt out or don't enjoy being parents
  • Are overwhelmed with the amount of toys in their house
  • Wish they were happier
  • Think parenting and life are too complicated

Out of the dozens and dozens of parenting books I've read over the years, these are my 7 absolute favorites. Packed with insightful ideas and solid strategies, they've influenced the way I think about parenting, helped me understand my children and what they need, and made me a better, more effective mom.

From a parenting book addict and mother of 6, these are full of concrete strategies and ideas that will change the way you think about parenting.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Why Taking All of Your Kids to IKEA Is Kind of a Disaster

Let's talk about IKEA. Actually, let's just call it Ikea, because I don't want to be yelling at you the whole time.

I've been to Ikea exactly once in my life before and thought it was pretty cool. That was before I had kids.

After kids, Ikea is pretty much the worst.

Spoiler alert: all 9 of us made it out alive.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

It was Phillip, my mom, the kids, and I. You'd think with a 1:2 ratio we'd be fine wrangling all 6 kids in Ikea for a few hours. You'd be wrong.

My first clue was on the way in from the parking garage. We needed to go up to the second floor, and my older kids begged to take the escalator. We've had a baby in a stroller for their entire lives and never get to ride the escalator, so I get it.

"I have to take the elevator," I told them. "We're going to the second floor, meet us there."

After they disappeared up the escalator, we discovered the elevator only went up to the first floor. We got out and looked around for another elevator to take us to the second floor, but I got distracted: the supervised play area where we planned to drop our 3- and 5-year-old was right here. On the first floor.

I stood outside Småland (that's what it's called, isn't that cute?) for a minute, wondering what to do. We needed to drop off the 5-year-old, but she was waiting for us with her siblings on the next floor.

My mom saw an escalator, volunteered to run up and get her, then bring her back down. Except there was no down escalator. Ikea only wants to funnel people through its showrooms. Ikea does not want you to backtrack. Down escalators are not part of Ikea's plans.

This was not good. We hadn't even made it into the store yet, and our family had already gotten separated and the 3-year-old was complaining about how bored he was.

(In retrospect I realize one of us could've taken the elevator up to the second floor, grabbed the kids, and taken the elevator back down to the first floor, but we weren't thinking clearly. No one thinks clearly in Ikea. They spray something in the air so that even though you just came to browse, you get disoriented and end up purchasing a Söderhamn living room set with ottoman.)

Spoiler alert: all 9 of us made it out alive.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

By the time my mom finally guided the kids through the entire store and made her way back to the first floor, we'd discovered that Småland was already full and we couldn't even drop the kids off, anyway.

Not ideal, but at least we were all together again, so we headed for the second floor showroom.

Ikea is kind of an experience, and I guess we hadn’t prepared the kids for what we were there to see and do. My 9-year-old was bored out of his mind and couldn't figure out why we drove all that way just to look at one big room decorated like lots of little rooms in a house. It was like a museum filled with absolutely nothing of interest.

Although he did like the light fixture that looked like the Death Star.

Spoiler alert: all 9 of us made it out alive.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The baby was content in his stroller for about one nanosecond, and then after that it just slowed me down as I chased after him. He wanted to touch everything in the showroom. He made it a personal goal to smack all the big screen TVs. He got particularly attached to a bear skin rug in one of the rooms and ran back and forth across it until we had to drag him away kicking and screaming.

When he was toddling wildly through the aisles and someone accidentally knocked him over with her cart, I wanted to thank her because I hoped he would stop careening around like an insane person now.

He didn't.

The two kids we'd planned to drop off at Småland were terribly bored. But only for a few minutes. Then they remembered how much they love jumping on, tumbling off of, and removing all the cushions from our couches at home  and lucky them, they were in a gigantic room full of sofas as far as the eye can see.

Assuming that for each couch I yelled at them to take their shoes off the cushions and get down from there before they break something 3-4 times, I was exhausted before we even got to the kitchen section.

By now, the kids were starting to feel this Ikea thing and were pretty into the experience. They were running around opening all the cabinets and looking in all the refrigerators. Okay, maybe they were just hungry. We promised them Swedish meatballs if we just got through the showroom without breaking anything.

Something that made me feel strangely better was noticing the huge bite taken out of a display loaf of bread on one counter. It wasn't one of my kids (this time,) but it was comforting to know I wasn't the first parent to have walked this road.

Spoiler alert: all 9 of us made it out alive.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Someone else was apparently hungry here, too.

We'd chosen to walk through the second floor showroom because it ended up in the children’s area, and we thought that might be a little more interesting for the kids. And was it ever.

They loved the huge metal bins full of oversized plush versions of random objects.

Spoiler alert: all 9 of us made it out alive.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

When we pried them away from there, my daughter discovered this chair with a shade you could pull down and voilà: your very own isolation chamber!

Spoiler alert: all 9 of us made it out alive.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
We call this "the introvert chair." And now we all want one.

Finally, we got through the showroom and ended up in the Ikea restaurant. With a total of 9 people it took a little while to assemble everyone’s order. At this point I was pretty sure that Ikea was not built for families of our caliber, but I changed my mind when I fit all of our food on this ingenius little cart to take it to our table.

Spoiler alert: all 9 of us made it out alive.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I know these are to use in the restaurant, but does IKEA sell these for home use?

As most of us ate our meatballs
and my 5-year-old savored her chicken tenders (which she excitedly informed me were “even better than chicken nuggets!”) I noticed a sign on the table saying that the price of your meal gets deducted from your bill if you buy $100 worth of Idea merchandise.

At first I thought Ikea was not a place for big families like ours, but I was wrong: we're going to need new couches in the near future, and if all 8 of us go to the cafeteria afterward I'm pretty sure they are going to end up costing about $30.

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