Friday, May 29, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Questionable UPS Packages, Family Hikes that Give You an Anxiety Disorder, and Things to Make on a Sunny Day

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


When I went to mail an Amazon return at my local UPS drop box, I noticed this sign plastered to the front:


What. The heck.

I'm seriously concerned that anyone with the mental wherewithal to open a UPS drop box could (or would) say to themselves, "Well, these gloves are obviously contaminated so I'll just put them in here for the PPE fairy to take away!"

Helpful rule of thumb: if you don't want your garbage, chances are that no one else does, either. That goes double for moms and overworked delivery drivers.


Later the very same day, I went to the grocery store and saw this sign above the corn on the cob:

"Until further notice, we respectfully ask that you do not shuck corn in the store. Thank you for understanding." I find it amusing that this sign is titled 'Corn Shucking' so we know what it's about.

Every time I see a sign prohibiting a bizarre behavior, it's a sobering reminder that:

  1. Someone has done that behavior before, and
  2. Enough people have done it to make the sign necessary.

I have so many questions but mostly: why would anyone shuck their corn in the store? Corn isn't even sold by weight, so you literally gain nothing by taking off the husks before paying for them.

Also, "until further notice?" Does this mean at one point, this was okay/expected? Will it be again? Have I been doing life all wrong?

I'm just glad I don't work in retail. If the boss had asked me to make a sign for people throwing their corn husks on the floor it would've started with "Dear Pigs" and probably would not have ended by thanking them for understanding.


We attempted a family walk on Memorial Day weekend, but it felt less like a restorative nature hike and more like a tour of ways to die.

The trail led over a tall stone bridge that was supposedly breathtaking. And it was, but not in a good way.

There was no barrier to the sheer 20-foot dropoff on either side of the bridge, except for a waist-high wall made of big, flat rocks that my smallest children all tried to climb immediately and repeatedly.


Also, the trail was a lot more crowded than we anticipated. We didn't even bring masks because we expected it to be quieter.

Between constantly making sure no kid fell to his death, got too close to anyone, or tromped through the poison ivy on the side of the trail, it was definitely not a relaxing trip.


Memorial Day dawned gray and miserable, and we passed the day in a melancholy stupor. Seriously, I have no idea what we even did.

It was then that I decided we needed more of a schedule. We had one that was working at the beginning of lockdown, but we jettisoned it when the kids started online school.

Our new schedule is posted on the wall and it's very simple: every day of the week, there's a fun family activity planned at 3 PM for anyone who has finished their schoolwork and chores.

Tuesday was "field day." It was a million degrees out and there was a ridiculous amount of complaining on the way to the field, but once we got there everyone had fun.

We had the place to ourselves, probably because this particular place was home to one of the worst tennis courts in New England.

Grass grew in giant cracks in the playing surface, the sagging net was propped up in the middle with a stick, and the fence around the court was in such bad repair that my 4-year-old amused himself by crawling underneath it like a naughty dog for most of the time.

However, the tennis court's condition matched our skill level so it worked out fine.


On Wednesday, we made bookmarks. My kids read a ton and all of our bookmarks have gone missing, and when I saw someone using a sock to hold their place in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone I knew something had to be done.

The kids made new bookmarks with this Sun Art kit from Amazon, which was such a cheap and easy way to spend an afternoon.

Using flowers and leaves gathered from the yard, the kids arranged their materials on the special paper that came with the kit and left them in the sun for a few minutes.

After rinsing and drying, they turn into this:

I plan to put these on cardboard backing from a cereal box and cover them with clear packing tape so they last longer.

How cool is that?


We made fake "snow" on Thursday but it was such a mess to clean up I don't want to talk about it. What I do want to talk about is how much I enjoy listening to my kindergartner's class video calls.

You know how hard it is sometimes to keep your 5-year-old's attention? Well, imagine there are 20 of him and you're just a disembodied head unable to touch them or do anything commanding or interesting to get them to focus.

Today my son's kindergarten teacher was leading a very serious discussion about the Pledge of Allegiance that went like this: "Does anybody know what 'liberty and justice for all' means? 'Liberty' means that we are free and right now we're listening instead of using the chat, Lily, and that is your first reminder. 'Justice' means fairness, and if you have a pencil or pen let's make sure it's in our hands and not in our mouth or nose..."

The woman has the patience of a saint.


Oh, I can think of one thing I did on Memorial Day. My friend Bridget came over for a social distancing walk on opposite sides of the street. Afterward, we sat on camping chairs in my garage like college boys and talked for a little while.

It had been my birthday a few days before , so when Bridget showed up and I opened the door she yelled "Catch!" and threw a present at me from 6 feet away.

Such is gift-giving in the time of Coronavirus.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Guilt Graffiti, Trying Not to Freak Out About Various Things, and Helpful Parenting Techniques Caught on Video

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


On Monday night, I was up late.

"Ready for bed?" Phillip asked hopefully. (If you know anything about our marriage it's that I love to stay up late, which is unfortunate for Phillip because he's my polar opposite.)

Ignoring such a ridiculous question, I said, "My birthday is coming up and I usually write a birthday-themed post on my blog, and I need ideas."

"What have you written about in the past?" the 16-year-old, who was also in the room, asked.

We looked at my blog archives at posts like 34 Things I Know for Sure (my 34th birthday) and 35 Campaign Promises of a Presidential Candidate Every Parent Would Vote For (my 35th.)

That's when Phillip suggested, "How about '38 Reasons to Go to Bed?'"

Ha, ha. He's so hilarious.

But I can't even think of one reason to go to bed, letalone 38, so I ended up taking my 16-year-old's suggestion instead.


On a walk, my daughter and I passed under a bridge and saw the typical graffiti on the walls.

Nothing too unusual.

Then I looked closer and burst out laughing:

I don't know the exact story behind this graffiti, but I choose to believe it goes something like this: a group of juvenile delinquents is out defacing public property but one of them, his heart's not in it.

"You guys go on ahead. I'll catch up!" he promises when the last can of spraypaint is almost spent, and before dashing off he leaves a hasty apology for his mother, who would be so disappointed in his shenanigans if only she knew.


Try not to panic, but J.C. Penney just filed for bankruptcy. I said TRY NOT TO PANIC!

I'm panicking.

J.C. Penney is my favorite store. I get all my kids' pictures taken there instead of buying the pricey school packages, which over the last 16 years has probably saved me the same amount Congress is spending on stimulus packages right now.

I was so concerned when I read the news that I dropped everything to go research it on the Internet. It's not as bad as I thought.

Apparently, J.C. Penney is filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is more of a corporate reorganization than the everything-must-go-including-our-display-shelving bankruptcy (Chapter 7.) Some locations might close, but not all of them so I shouldn't panic. Yet.

Speaking of retail, stores have just started reopening here and my kids desperately need summer clothes, so my 14-year-old and I put on masks and ventured out for the first time in 2 months.

I was browsing around when my daughter suddenly asked, "Hey, can I get this one?"

Not completely untrue.


My 4- and 6-year-olds have been raiding our craft supplies lately.

In particular, they've been gluing plastic jewels all over their faces and arms, and fashioning elaborate headdresses out of colorful craft feathers.

Unconventional imaginative play, but it was keeping them busy so I just patted them on the head and said, "You do you, boys!"

I thought they were just prototyping costumes for Mardi Gras, but then my 8-year-old informed me they were actually dressing up as some bird-people called Featherites from a kids' show they've been watching lately. Which I guess makes more sense.


Near the trailhead where our family was taking a nature hike, there's an open field on a slope. Immediately, the kids started running through it and rolling down the hill.

Too late, I noticed poison ivy along the edges of the field, meaning that there was likely poison ivy in  the field, so we called everyone out and went home to spend the rest of the afternoon scrubbing off our top layer of skin.

Now that Coronavirus is a thing, most people understand what it's like perform excessive paranoid handwashing while sanitizing everything and freaking out because the enemy is invisible and you literally can't tell where it is.

That's me all summer long with poison ivy.

Poison ivy makes me so miserable I can't sleep for weeks, and I feel genuine fear when I see it. Did I touch it? Is the oil on my hands? My clothes? Where is it? Did the last 12 times I scrubbed my hands and face get it off? Or should I wash again just to be sure?!?

Given my background, I obviously made all the kids take an online poison ivy identification quiz when we got home.

Love the tagline.


The 4-year-old was stalling before bed, puttering around and not putting his pajamas on despite several warnings.

Finally we set a timer for 5 minutes and told him if he wasn't wearing pajamas by the time it went off, he would forfeit his bedtime story.

At the end of 5 minutes, Phillip went upstairs to check on his progress. He opened the door to find the 4-year-old just sitting on the floor, still fully clothed.

"You don't have your pajamas on," Phillip told him, "So no story tonight."

Full of righteous indignation, the 4-year-old wailed, "I  know! DUH!" and kicked the door shut in Phillip's face.

He's going to be a pleasure as a teenager, I can feel it.


A few weeks ago I was asked to be a guest presenter at a webinar, talking about parenting through the Coronavirus crisis. What do you do with your kids all day? How do you get anything done when they're up in your grill 24/7?

Unfortunately, I just now stumbled across this video. If only I'd seen it earlier, I could've made it my entire presentation.

(Watch through to the end, but maybe turn down your sound a little.)

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

How to Turn 38

I'm going to be 38 years old on Friday, and let me tell you, I'm pretty excited.

If Pinterest has taught me anything, it's that doing something for the first time qualifies you to write a definitive how-to guide for the public. So I hope you all enjoy today's step-by-step tutorial on how to turn 38!

In honor of my 38th birthday, here's a hilarious step-by-step article on how to turn 38 written by a mom who knows! Enjoy this bit of birthday humor and laugh about getting older - because it's better than crying. #birthday #funny #sarcasm #momlife #unremarkablefiles

Step 1: Be born.

Step 2: Spend the next 3-5 years narrowly avoiding disaster. Attempt to eat inedible objects and fall off things whenever possible.

Step 3: Continue growing until your head is a reasonably proportionate size for your body.

Step 4: Become an awkward puberty-monster whose body is no longer correctly proportioned. Get embarrassed by everything. Giggle and/or cry for no reason.

Step 5: Know more than everyone, especially your parents.

Step 6: Graduate from high school. Or don't. A diploma will make your life easier, but the main thing here is to be alive at age 18.

Step 7: Become an adult. Sort of. You eat meals that require 3 minutes of prep time and sleep on a futon, but at least you can sign your own paperwork.

Step 8: Realize you know nothing and that your parents are actually quite wise.

Step 9: Wear your seat belt. Be generally responsible. Don't do dangerous things for a selfie. All these things result in a life expectancy equal to or greater than 38.

Step 10: Find someone you like and marry them. Like Step 4, this is purely optional, but it helps in that you start acquiring real furniture. This, in turn, heightens your sense of being an actual adult who could conceivably be old one day.

Step 11: Have children. Again, this is a matter of personal preference, but it helps pass the time. They say the days are long but the years are short.

Step 12: Spend your 30th birthday mourning the loss of your youth. Wallow in existential despair.

Step 13: Realize you were being melodramatic. Postpone further contemplation of your mortality.

Step 14: Learn life lessons.

Step 15: Amass wisdom.

Step 16: Pretend not to notice your skin losing its elasticity.

Step 17: If you have them, look at your teenage children and imagine the things you were doing at their age. Try not to imagine that anymore.

Step 18: Start to be interested in old people things, like orthotic insoles and birdwatching.

Step 19: Forget it's almost your 38th birthday until someone asks what gift you want. Request something practical*.

Step 20: Listen to your family sing 'Happy Birthday.' Blow out your candles. Eat cake.

That's it! Congratulations, you did it! You're 38.

*If you'd like to get me something for my birthday, please sign up for email updates when I post something new here on Unremarkable Files! It's the most practical gift of all and you'd make my day.

Enter Your Email Here  

(You'll then receive a confirmation email from Feedburner, which requires a reply so they know you're not a Russian bot.)

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Friday, May 15, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Great Purchases, Churning Ice Cream Like Our Forefathers, and a Suggestion for People Who Exercise Too Much

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


Last time I went to the attic to rotate the kids' toys, I brought down an old bean bag that's since become my older girls' favorite place to do homework.

But it was in serious need of some new stuffing, so I ordered a big bag of styrofoam filler pellets. It arrived in this box:

'Big Joe' is the brand name of the company and it is so hilarious.

Not only was "BUTT CERTIFIED COMFORT" stamped on the side of the box, it came with cutouts for a face and arms and at this point the refill beans were like a side bonus for the purchase of this awesome new box toy for my kids.

This box was completely worth $19.88 in my opinion.


This was our first Sunday attending virtual church.  As if I needed definitive proof that the Evanses can be late to church even when it's in our own house. No surprises there.

Why has it taken our church 6 weeks to organize online services since the shutdown?

Well, we talk so much about practicing a "home-centered, church-supported" religion that this shift to home church felt almost... natural.

Secondly, "church" to us is pretty hard to replicate over Zoom. Latter-day Saints actually call our Sunday service "sacrament meeting," because the most central part is participating in the sacrament of bread and water symbolizing Jesus' body and blood.

And because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints liberally ordains men and boys to the priesthood, most households already have a priesthood holder in the family who can provide the sacrament. (Those who don't can rely on the two priesthood holders assigned to come over and minister to them whenever necessary.)

Since the shutdown in mid-March, Phillip has been blessing the sacrament at home while my son passes it to each of us, and I find it hard to explain exactly why I love it so much.

It reminds me, I suppose, that God is more than someone I visit in a building or in a book. His power isn't impersonal and limited to a few select people and locations. It's everywhere, and often blesses me through the same ordinary people I interact with every day. I grew up without understanding the scope of God's involvement in our lives, and believe me, it changes everything.


We've grilled dinner and eaten outside on the deck twice this week, and I can't help but feel that's noteworthy.

For one, no worries about messes! Okay, we maybe wipe down the table if my kids have gone overboard with spilling their drinks, but for the most part the birds clean up and NO SWEEPING.

For another, that means the weather is getting warm! Although now that I've been officially diagnosed with discoid lupus, I'm supposed to stay out of the sun. I suppose when we go to the beach I'll just cover up and lurk in the shade like Morticia Addams.


With warmer weather coming, we thought it was the perfect time to pull Ye Olde Ice Cream Maker out of the basement and put it to work.

Phillip and our 8-year-old hand-cranking strawberry ice cream.

If you looked at this picture and said, "Wait, are they hand-cranking that ice cream maker when that big black thing to the left of it is an electric motor?" then the answer is yes, I'm a psycho like that.

It takes 40 minutes to crank ice cream, and with 8 people in the family if we all take a 5-minute turn then ta-da! It's a fun family activity and we get ice cream and we're in quarantine so what the heck else are we supposed to do for 40 minutes?


My 4-year-old takes forever to do almost everything. He needs half an hour to brush his teeth before bed, an hour to go to the bathroom, and 3-5 business days to put on his shoes and get in the car.

He shut himself in the closet to change into his pajamas the other night, and stayed there for the entirety of his brother's bedtime story. I kept pausing to ask about his progress and he kept saying he was working on it, but when I finished the book he was still in there.

"Come on!" I snapped, "What are you doing in there?"

His calm reply was: "Just cleaning up the blood."

When I flew across the room and threw open the door, I'm happy to say he was just standing there holding a baby wipe to a very minor nosebleed.

I was so glad we didn't have another medical emergency on our hands I didn't even reprimand him for still being fully clothed, despite having come in to put on pajamas 30 minutes ago.


Phillip has always liked exercising but lately he's been trail running a lot. Like, a LOT. He runs about 6 miles a day now, and it shows.

"I'm turning into a skeleton, but I can't stop!" he complained to me, and he wasn't exaggerating much. "I need to get out, and I like to run way out in the woods so I can see things."

Trying to think of a way he could put on some weight while still satisfying his desire to be in nature, I suggested, "Maybe you could just drive to a scenic overlook and eat a bag of chips?"

He said I didn't quite get it, and he's right. I have no idea why anyone would run for fun in the first place.


Most of the time, living under this stay-at-home advisory isn't so bad. There are even plenty of things I like about it (more family time! no driving all over the place! home church!)

But last week I went to return a stack of library books. The library has been closed for a month, of course, but as I pulled up at the abandoned building and walked toward the book drop slot at the front door, a real pang of sadness hit me: I miss taking the kids to the library.

Eventually it will open back up. Probably just for curbside pickup at first, and then we'll be allowed inside with masks and new social distancing protocols. And that makes me sad.

I'm not sure what it will look like, or how long it will be before things resemble the library visits we used to have. Will they ever? Will the kids be too old to even want to play in the children's room at the library by the time we can do that kind of thing again?

Most of the time I'm fine with this situation and can find the silver lining in it, but other times I feel weighed down by all the uncertainty.

And that's when you just need to go outside and watch some kids playing.

Because whatever they're doing right now, it's not worrying about the future.

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Friday, May 8, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Joining Instagram, Birthday Parades, and Something to Look Forward To

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


Hey, guess what? I'm on Instagram now!

It took me two full days to figure out how to post something, which I thought was weird because it should be pretty intuitive. You know, since that's the entire point of social media or whatever.

It turns out you can't post from your PC; you can only do it from your smartphone while wearing $60 leggings and posing with an iced caramel machiatto. I'm such a dinosaur, that didn't even occur to me.

Anyway, I'm still learning the ropes and my followers right now are pretty much Russian bots and my mom, so if you're on Instagram I'd love it if you'd follow me!

Visit me on Instagram!


My son turned 4 this week, and just in time we found out about a local group that will organize a birthday parade for kids in town.

And by parade, I mean parade. I had no idea it would be such a big deal.

There were two police cars with their sirens on at the front, one ladder truck and one other fire vehicle, a military truck with flags, maybe 10 other cars of assorted do-gooders and well-wishers from town honking and waving happy birthday signs, and two more police cars following up the rear.

My son was so excited about his parade, although he did express disappointment after the fact at the lack of a marching band.

Talk about hard to please.


I figured my son would really get a kick out of a birthday cake shaped like an animal of some kind, so a few days beforehand I asked him, "What's your favorite animal?"

"All the animals," he shrugged.

"But which one is your favorite?"

"Just... every animal."

(He does this whenever he can't make a decision. Probably so that if he ends up with the wrong thing it's your fault, not his. Brilliant kid.)

"Okay, but if you had to pick one animal that you thought was the best one, what would it be?"

"A worm."

Alrighty then. I ended up making him a snake cake, which he thought was pretty cool.

My son was thrilled with his snake cake. His exact words were: "He doesn't want to be alive because he wants us to eat him."

I took that as the highest compliment, because it means he thought the cake looked yummy and he wanted to enjoy it without feeling guilty.


My teenager is a super-introvert but somehow ended up in a very large friend group. Earlier this week, one of them turned 17 and they organized a birthday parade for her.

I was the driver for this event, and after the parade the kids got out and spread at a safe distance over her lawn to sing 'Happy Birthday.'

Surveying the scene, I commented to another mom how sweet it was, and she answered, "Kinda sad, though."


I know what she meant: those kids wanted to be hugging and hanging out like they used to, not standing 6 to 10 feet apart in the front yard. But I just didn't see much "sad" about it. The kids were all laughing and happy, thrilled to see each other.

And there was such a family feel there. The parents were there, talking over their cars to each other in the same vicinity as the kids, with everyone enjoying themselves. Two of the teenagers had little sisters who'd come along and they were holding their hands so they stayed with them.

This whole epidemic has been a medical and economic disaster, but when I can't go outside without seeing families taking a walk around the neighborhood together, I can't help but think that something beautiful has come out of it, too.


Phillip's company engineers building materials, but lately they've been doing a lot of stuff with masks, making plans for everyone to eventually return to work in the building.

Since everyone will be required to wear masks, Phillip has been working on a little gadget to prevent them from fogging up people's safety glasses. He recently put on a prototype and filmed himself exaggeratedly inhaling and exhaling, then sent it to his team for feedback.

Under ordinary circumstances, Phillip emailing a video of himself breathing heavily to his female coworkers would be grounds for a harassment lawsuit, but things are so weird now it's just another Tuesday.


"I don't think we're very good at this staying-at-home business," I texted this week to my mother-in-law.

"Not when your children have a death wish!" she replied.

You remember a few weeks ago I had to bring my 6-year-old to urgent care for staples in his head. Well this week, we had to call 911 when my 11-year-old fell, hit his head, and then had a seizure.

The CT scan looked good (the doctor's word was "beautiful") and my son seems to be fine now, but your prayers would be appreciated that my kids won't succeed in mortally wounding themselves before this quarantine is over.


Want to see me on Monday? I'm going to be presenting at the Weekly Wellness Webinar on Monday, May 11th at 6 PM Eastern Time. (Check your time zone!)

Luckily, the topic isn't "how to prevent childhood accidents and injuries." Instead, I'll be sharing some laughs, advice, and encouragement for parenting through the coronavirus crisis. At the end there will be a live Q&A, and I'd love for you to be there!

Here is the registration link to tune in to the webinar (you can also use this link to watch the webinar after the fact if 6 PM is Crazytown at your house like it is at mine.)

It's free, fun, and best of all, it will give you something to put on the calendar again!

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Friday, May 1, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Bug-Eyed People, Things Kids Say When You Serve Them a Green Smoothie, and the Pros and Cons of Having a House on the Waterfront

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


Kids are funny. When they figure out how to draw a new thing, they do it over and over dozens of times.

Currently, I'm finding these all over my house:

My 6-year-old says they're pictures of tanks.

In other artistic breakthroughs, my 3-year-old discovered how to draw people and is going wild with the concept.

Here's our family, and I didn't realize this before but apparently we're all just enormous heads with legs:

But we're happy about it.


So... what's going to happen when all the thrift stores open back up and people stampede in to donate the copious amounts of crap they've been clearing out of the basement for the last several months?

It's going to be like Black Friday in reverse.

We've done a ridiculous amount of spring cleaning this week. With the kids' help (some more enthusiastic than others) I've worked on decluttering the unsightly basement, raked the yard, spread some mulch, and vacuumed out the van.

I'm particularly excited about the van. Since I hardly drive it these days (and when I do, it's just for essential errands and the kids aren't invited,) it's actually going to stay clean this time!

We also spent a day removing the screens from the first floor windows and cleaning out the windowsills while the younger kids ran around in goggles and swimmies they found in the garage.

I'm not even sure what is happening here.

They seemed to have fun, the windows are clean, and the lawn is well-watered now.


A few years ago I made this, and it rang especially true this week:

This happened in the same day. For lunch I served the kids a green smoothie, and when the 3-year-old came to the table he asked 100% earnestly, "Is this poisonous?"

For dinner, I made a different kind of stir fry and when a few people said they liked it, I looked over and noticed that the 3-year-old was making a sour face and silently giving a double thumbs-down. Not saying anything or making a show of it at all, just putting his opinion out there.

(I should say that last summer we made a list of table manners to follow, which we still take out to review sometimes, and one of them is "No complaining about the food." But I guess non-verbal complaints are kind of a gray area we'll have to address later.)


The driveway in front of our garage is the lowest point of our entire yard. FYI, this is not a good quality in a driveway.

As a result of gravity there's almost always a small puddle there, but during the rainy spring months, the puddle sometimes stretches to the entire width of the two-car driveway and more closely resembles a pond. If we have company over, they have to swim to the front door.

Anyway, my kindergartner was assigned to make a Venn diagram of things you'd see in towns versus cities, and I had to laugh when for "towns" he drew a house with a ginormous puddle in front.

It's not all bad, though. The puddle/river/pond in our driveway has provided endless hours of quarantine fun for my kids.

The 8-year-old has been experimenting with making boats out of leaves, sticks, and bark to sail across it.

Behold the armada.

The 3-year-old was less successful. He might have been copying something another sibling said, but I heard him happily yelling, "Mine is the Titanic!"

I'll never let go, Jack.


Every night after dinner, each kid gets a kitchen cleaning chore. We used to write the different jobs that need to be done on popsicle sticks and draw lots, but we kept losing the sticks and since my 11-year-old likes programming, he made a random chore picker on the computer that works a lot better.

He's always tinkering with the chore picker, adding new backgrounds, music, or fancy effects. This time he recorded new background music: his voice bellowing "DO YOUR CHORE!!!" on continuous loop.

When he ran the chore picker after dinner and the new soundtrack started going, I started laughing, and then the other kids started laughing. After a while, my 11-year-old started getting annoyed that everyone was just standing there laughing and tried to redirect everyone: "Guys. GUYS! Do your chores! Stop guys, DO YOUR CHORES!"

At that point, I was laughing so hard I couldn't even talk. He was yelling "do your chore" over the sound of his own voice yelling "do your chore" and that's basically parenthood.

He's going to be a great dad someday.


There's a trail leading through the woods behind our house that lets out onto a dirt road, so I decided to take a walk along it with my kids.

My 6-year-old soon said he had to pee, and since it's a dead-end dirt road with about three houses on it and there's never any traffic, I told him to go ahead and do his business. I didn't think it was necessary to take him deep into the woods or hide behind a tree for privacy because, like I said, there's never anyone on that road.

As I'm sure you can guess, a man in a pickup truck rolled by at that precise moment and gave us a friendly wave. It was slightly embarrassing, but I've lived through worse.

Seeing his brother, my 3-year-old suddenly remembered that he had to pee, too. Just as he pulled his pants down and started watering the local flora, a second car drove by. What. Are. The odds.

I'm sure I will never again see a car on that road as long as I live.


My kids have been a little bored lately, mostly due to the obscenely rainy and dreary weather, and have been rediscovering old favorite YouTube videos from years ago.

I hope you enjoy this hilarious video as much as I did, both the first time around and the second:

Have a good weekend, and stay healthy!

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Friday, April 24, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Expressing Feelings with Song, Honest 'Before' and 'After' Pictures, and Unique Ideas for Your Homemade Pretzels

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


We already expected it, but this week my kids' school was officially canceled through the end of the school year.

As a parent, I relate to this music teacher's sentiments on a deep level:

No really, distance learning is going okay. Most of the time.

The hard part is when I'm trying to upload a picture of someone's assignment to Google Classroom while someone else is complaining that the printer doesn't work and my kindergartner is asking me for the third time to turn his video back on because he keeps fidgeting with the computer during his class Zoom call.

So many technical issues. And seriously, stop pointing the webcam at me! Everyone in my kids' class is already well aware of what I look like with my wet hair up in a towel.


Something I do like about quarantine, however, is the absence of pressure to do anything amazing.

Normally on weekends and holidays, I felt like I should plan something. What a failure was I if the kids went back to school and had nothing to report except playing in the yard and reading a book!

But now that an elaborate day trip isn't possible and the kids won't be going to school on Monday to compare weekends, I feel total freedom to just let our family have a good time without the need to make it spectacular.

This weekend:

  • we worked on the basement
  • my girls and I made some stepping stones to replace ones that have been broken for 2 years, and 
  • I gave my 8-year-old her first lesson on how to use a sewing machine (also on my to-do list from 6 months ago)
In the past I may have seen that as a waste of a day off, but in reality it was great and everyone was happy. I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to carry the positive things I've learned over this quarantine into my normal life going forward, and that is definitely one of them.


We're making progress on finishing the basement! One-third of it is now fully insulated and Phillip put down the floor on Monday:

Forgive me, I'm drooling.

Since this part is going to be a storage/workshop area we're not putting drywall on the walls or doing anything on the ceiling, so it's completely done!

However, I don't want to give you a false impression of what it's like finishing a basement, so in full disclosure this is what was directly behind me as I took that picture:

Wall-to-wall disaster, as far as the eye can see. 

Clearly, we still have some work to do.


For Family Home Evening this week, which is like a weekly family devotional, we reviewed what we believe about God's plan.

As Latter-day Saints, we believe that we started out in heaven with God, were sent here to good ole Earth, eventually die and go to the spirit world, are resurrected and judged, and then live forever in one of three kingdoms of heaven.

I have little laminated pictures of each step, which we laid out and asked the 3-year-old to tell us about as he made a Lego guy hop from picture to picture.

This wasn't my idea, but when the Lego man passed "death," my 3-year-old insisted on taking him apart (are scattered plastic Lego people remains on the floor gruesome? I don't know) and then when he got to "resurrection" he put everything back together, explaining that "Jesus was making the guy alive again."

I was patting myself on the back thinking, "You're such a good teacher! He really gets this!" when the 3-year-old grabbed the Lego guy's scuba tank accessory and said, "Wait! Jesus has to put on the ballistic missiles."

Ah, yes. Let's not forget the ballistic missile portion of the resurrection.


Normally, I only make soft pretzels for lunch on special occasions, when the kids are out of school on a break or they have friends over.

But now that we're all at home all the time, we can make them every day if we want to. (In a purely theoretical world where the grocery store consistently has flour, anyway.)

We busted out our soft pretzel recipe and I mostly made the standard pretzel shape, but the kids got quite creative with theirs. We had music notes and Harry Potter symbols as well as assorted initials, but my favorite was this magnified image of a novel Coronavirus:

Marked with a 'C' for easy identification.

It was delicious.


In our family, we didn't plan to have two sets of kids, it just happened.

There's the oldest three who are close together in age, then a gap of three and a half years, and the three youngest kids who are also close in age. (Sometimes Phillip and I casually talk about having another set of three in front of people, just to watch their heads explode.)

It turns out that having a big kid for each little one is very advantageous, especially when you go for a walk in the woods and the littles get tired:

Actually, this happened spontaneously and I just happened to catch it on film. 

I think one of them was giving a piggyback ride to a younger sibling and the others thought it would be funny to copy it.

(As I type this, I realize I missed an opportunity to get my own ride because Phillip was just walking quietly next to me and not doing anything at all.)


I've been enjoying re-reading the talks from general conference a few weeks ago. Yesterday I reviewed one of my favorites and wanted to share it with you.

If you've ever wondered why Latter-day Saints do what we do or why we send missionaries all over the world, this is your answer (text version is here:)

I don't always feel happy or have everything figured out, but I can't imagine my life without the clarity, hope, and understanding of my purpose that is outlined here.

Congratulations on making it to Day 2,407 of quarantine (give or take,) and hang in there! You can do this.

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