Friday, July 3, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Naming Our Technology, Divine Intervention in the Chore Department, and Some Sad News

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

1


We got a new desktop computer! It was definitely time to replace our old one, which overheated and crashed several times a day.

Phillip and our 12-year-old decided to build one since they're both into computers, and they had a good time scouting out the parts they wanted. If you ask me, the gigantic fan they ended up buying is overkill, but at least this computer won't melt like the old one.

Some people name their cars, but I guess in our family we name our computers. Because of the massive cooling system, they've been referring to it as "Ice Beast."

Then the kids realized our laptops needed names (we have two and we're always getting confused about which one when someone says "the laptop,") so they had a vote and named them Phineas and Ferb.

Why? Because "Ferb" is a refurbished laptop.

2


My kids have continued doing daily chores into the summer, much to my 4-year-old's dismay.

I get it. Taking 5 minutes out of your busy schedule of playing every waking moment is a drag.

The other day he was moaning and carrying on about how he didn't want to do his chore, and when I didn't let him off the hook he huffed, "Fine! What's my chore today?"

I consulted the chart and told him it was watering the garden.

With a devilish smile he pointed outside and said, "It rained today, so God did my chore for me." And he skipped away to play.

3


I just finished re-watching all the Hunger Games movies a second time because my 14-year-old read the series and wanted to see the film adaptations.

So I've read the entire series and seen each of the movies twice, and it wasn't until now that I realized, "Waaaait a minute... 'the boy with the bread' was named Peeta? As in pita bread?"

Whether it was or wasn't meant to be a joke, my 16-year-old has most definitely decided that it is now. She's now writing her own Hunger Games fan fiction that focuses on Peeta and his six brothers, who all have the misspelled names of different kinds of bread.

Never a dull moment around here, folks.

4


Now for some sad news about our unfolding rat saga.

As you know, we brought home rats from a pet store about three weeks ago that turned out to be pregnant, and the first one had her babies last Thursday.

The next day, the new mom seemed agitated. Maybe her cagemate was bothering her (they were fighting so we moved her cagemate, but maybe she'd already been set off.) Maybe she didn't like us touching the babies, even though we were specifically advised to do that by a New England rat rescue. Or maybe it was something else entirely.

Whatever it was, Piper abandoned her litter of babies. We waited for hours and hours, hoping she'd start taking care of them again, but she just ignored them.

5


After biting our nails for half a day and seeing that Piper just wasn't going to take up her maternal role, the girls decided they wanted to try to save them.

It's technically possible to hand raise baby rats. It doesn't have a high success rate, but they were determined to try.

They fed the babies with paintbrushes dipped in baby formula, but they were just too weak. By Saturday, we'd lost 9 of the 10 babies, and the last one was just barely hanging on.

For the next 6 hours, my girls put more love and care into that pathetic little baby rat than any animal has had in its life.

They continuously held it, fed it, helped it go to the bathroom (baby rats actually can't go on their own, you need to wipe them down with a wet paper towel to simulate their mom licking them first), then started all over again.

My daughter asked me if it was cruel to even try keeping it alive at this point. "I don't think there's a right answer," I told her. "Whatever we do either way, there's a compassionate reason for it. It's up to you."

They decided to keep trying, and miracle of miracles, the baby rat started to rally.

By the end of the day, it was eating and going to the bathroom and we started to think that it was going to make it, after all! That night we all woke up in shifts to feed it and make sure it was warm, and by morning it was actually looking really healthy.

Then, out of nowhere, it wriggled out of its bedding and onto the heating pad, overheated, and passed away.

For that to happen so unexpectedly after everything was so devastating.

The burial site.

I know how hard it is to raise baby animals. I know there are a hundred things that could go wrong and if it hadn't been that one thing, it probably would've been something else that day or the next day or next week... but I really miss that cute little jellybean.

6


On the same day that we lost the last baby, Scout (the other rat) gave birth to her litter.

My 6-year-old was the first to spot a baby. After licking it clean, Scout promptly rolled it into the nest and proceeded to have ten more.

It was pretty cool to watch, although I feel like that might be creepy to say. Is that creepy to say?

"Wow," my teenager remarked. "It's kind of weird that rats can have 11 babies in an hour when it takes like 12 hours for one person."

It does seem rather inefficient when you put it that way.

7


I've said before that I've been pretty okay with quarantine. Of course not the pandemic part of it. But canceling everything and hanging out with just my family? That part has been just fine by me. I'm pretty sure I could do this forever.

There's one thing that's been bothering me, though. I've been internally freaking out about the kids' cancelled dentist's appointments, and it was getting worse as the weeks and months have gone by.

Thank goodness, dentists in our state are back in business and we were finally able to go in.

I was a little teary-eyed for my appointment, because my dentist is right next door to a vet's office and that made me think of the baby rat. But I was really happy not to have any cavities, and so far, none of the kids do, either.

So all in all, it was quite a week.

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Friday, June 26, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Ten Little Jellybeans, Mariana Trench Confusion, and the Most Underrated Character from the Incredibles

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

1


I woke up yesterday morning to my 8-year-old running in the bedroom yelling, "Piper had babies!!!"

She was not incorrect.

Immaculate conception??

We were confused at first, but it would seem that the pet store sold us a pregnant rat.

Actually, I think they sold us two pregnant rats, because Scout has also been looking enormously fat. Please pray for us.

Since the surprise yesterday morning, I've been doing a lot of research on how to care for baby rats until they're old enough to go to new homes.

I've also been learning how to identify the sex of the pups so we can keep the boys and girls apart, which means I've spent more time in the last 24 hours examining close-ups of rat genitalia than I ever thought I would in my whole life.

2


This is actually the second time something like this has happened to us.

When my teenager was in 4th grade, her science class did a unit of crayfish and let the kids take them home afterward. She named hers Flippy.

After a few weeks, we became aware of teeny tiny crayfish in the tank with Flippy and slowly figured out she must have already been with child when she came to our house.

I'm not sure why this keeps happening to us, I only know that it does.

3


When I went to go check on the rat babies, Piper was inside her little plastic igloo taking care of them. But two were left out of the nest, rooting around for their mother and pathetically squeaking.

In my daughter's words, they "look like jelly beans made out of skin."

I picked up each one and warmed it up, then snuck it back into the plastic igloo to see if Piper would accept it.

She bit me trying to return the second one, but I don't really blame her. After all, I was poking around in her nest full of newborn babies.

I know I've wanted to bite people who annoyed me right after giving birth, too.

It's okay, Piper. I know how you feel.

Piper either didn't notice what I'd done or just decided the two rejects were okay after all, because it looks like she's taking care of all 10 babies now.

4


Before the babies were born Piper and Scout were sharing the little igloo, but now Scout has been kicked out.

Providentially, a few days ago the kids had built a little playhouse out of waffle blocks and left it in the cage, and Scout moved in to that.

Speaking of waffle blocks, they're the best investment I ever made. (Here is my affiliate link if you want to buy some now and set them aside for Christmas because they're amazing.)

The kids have played with them a ton over the last ten years, and lately they've been using them to make rat mazes and design all kinds of creative contraptions where the rats have to find the treat at the end.

My favorite is this little house they built:

Oh, hello.

Because the rats' fancy cage came in a box labeled "Merry Manor Rat Home," they call this little house the Merry Manor Rat Shack.

(As if that wasn't cute enough, my 4-year-old thinks it's "the Mariana Rat Shack" because he's watched an educational video on the Mariana Trench a bunch of times with his siblings.)

Between the rats and the kids, there's just too much adorableness around here for me to handle.

5


Last night at dinner, the kids started a hilarious conversation about who is similar to each parent in terms of looks and personality. They even ended up getting out a piece of paper and putting everyone on a continuum from "mom" to "dad."

Then someone downloaded a face swap app and started doing face swaps with everyone in the family, and it was pretty hilarious.

Can I just say that I never want to go back to real life?? We've always liked each other as a family but when's the last time we just sat around after dinner talking and laughing and just goofing off?

6


Saturday was Phillip's and my 17th wedding anniversary. Our original plan had been to fly his sister here to stay with the kids while we went on a trip, but with things as uncertain as they are in New England right now with COVID, we postponed it.

Sad face emoji.

Instead, we went to a local entertainment place with a bunch of outdoor activities. We got food from the grill and then ate ice cream on a bench while we watched amateurs whack at golf balls on the driving range.

Not exactly what I'd expected, but I'm still happy to be married to the guy after all these years and that's what counts.

7


While we were on our anniversary date, the kids were at home watching the first Incredibles movie.

When we came home, they were all quoting Frozone's wife and agreed that she was the best character in the whole movie.

Which she totally is, even if you never see her face.


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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Zoom Features I Wish I Could Apply to My Life

Before COVID-19, I had no idea how many things could be done virtually.

School, music lessons, church... my son's Gymnastic Ninja class has moved to Zoom, people.

I'll let that sink in.

At first I may have underestimated the power of Zoom, but now that I'm a believer here are 7 features of the videoconferencing app that I'd love to incorporate into my daily life:

1. Muting People


Nothing would revolutionize parenting more than the addition of a "mute participants" button. This is hands-down the #1 feature I would transfer from Zoom to my real life if I could.

Just think of it: no more stories about video games. No more plot summaries of animated movies that are longer than the actual movie.  No more made-up songs where 80% of the lyrics are the word "butt."

I'm getting a little teary-eyed just thinking about it.

2. Waiting Room


If life were a Zoom call and I was the host, I could send the participants to a waiting room until I was ready.

This would obviously be useful in a lot of situations, but probably most of all 5 AM when the kids are at my bedside trying to pry my eyelids open and asking for cereal.

I could also use a waiting room when they're literally lined up behind me waiting for help with tangled shoelaces, minor wounds, and errant mobile devices. Or when someone is going ballistic outside the bathroom door because I've been in there for 10 seconds and they need a cheese stick.

3. Change Your Background


Do you know what could really boost my morale when I'm hunched over the washing machine doing an infinity's worth of laundry? A change of scenery.

My neighbor sets her Zoom background to one of her latest vacation photos, and that sounds pretty good to me.

A white sand beach with some palm trees instead of a floor littered with sofa cushions and a pair of underwear someone tossed on the mantel three days ago would be a nice change of pace.

4. Turn Off Your Video


When I drop the kids off at school, fate ensures I don't see anyone on the mornings when I'm wearing real clothes and am reasonably well-groomed.

It's only when I look like Nick Nolte's mug shot that I have to get out of the car and end up trapped in a conversation about the upcoming PTA fundraiser.

What I wouldn't give for the "turn off video" option at moments like these. If I could've chosen for everyone not to see me looking like a bridge troll, I 100% would have.

5. Automatically Record a Meeting


In our family, we like to sit down with the kids for periodic family meetings. The meeting agenda goes like this: "Mom's about to lose her freaking mind and this is what you guys have to start doing ASAP unless you want me to drop you all off at the fire station."

The kids are contrite. Of course we'll start cleaning up after ourselves, Mother! Of course we'll help out more around the house! We had no idea we were causing you such distress. Never fear, our constant bickering will cease this instant! 

What I really need, though, is for those family meetings to be automatically recorded because 15 minutes later the kids have completely forgotten they ever happened.

6. Screen Sharing


During meetings with his coworkers, my husband finds it helpful to illustrate his points by sharing screenshots and diagrams. This is a feature I could really use with our kids, to be honest.

There are certain seemingly simple concepts that no amount of nagging, lecturing, or explaining can help them understand, like how to flush the toilet or stay seated in a chair during a meal. I think they need a visual.

Would it help if I could share an infographic on bathroom etiquette or the importance of not running around smearing peanut butter all over the house during lunch? I don't know for sure. But I'd love to be able to try.

7. Touch Up My Appearance


I recently learned there's a box on Zoom that says "touch up my appearance." When checked, it applies a skin-smoothing filter to your camera so you look better than you actually do.

I don't generally think of myself as a vain person, but I could totally use this feature in my real life. Especially during that postpartum period when you feel like a shapeless blob and have no time to sleep or shower. (FYI to new moms, this period lasts until your child is about 10 so you're in this for the long haul.)

—  —  —  

Everything is done through videoconferencing these days, and now that my favorite Zoom features have become such a big part of my life, it's easy to see places where I'd love to incorporate them offline.

Is that realistic or even possible? I'm not sure, but after this whole Coronavirus lockdown one thing is for sure: I wouldn't be surprised by anything anymore.

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Friday, June 19, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Cleaning Your Inbox, the Hazards of Fairy Houses, and Times '80s Movies Predicted the Future

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

1


There are two kinds of people: those with a million emails in their inbox, and those who sort everything into folders.

I'm a folder woman, myself.

When I'm done deleting all the emails I don't need and organize everything else into folders, my email shows me this little message with an inspirational GIF of a hot air balloon:


I like it a lot better than the old one. I can't remember the exact wording, but I do remember there was a picture of a trophy and sounded slightly passive-aggressive.

Phillip always used to joke that it said: "Congratulations! You have no friends."

2


Would you like to hear the good news or the bad news about the family hike we took last weekend?

The good news was that my daughter took this picture of Phillip, which I loved:

He was looking up the name of a water snake we just saw.

She's the same one who took the picture I loved in Take #4 here, so I guess we both have a thing for photos with water reflections.

My kids also had a great time running around in a meadow full of grass as tall as they were. We couldn't see the 6-year-old's head most of the time.

Younger kids frolicking; older kids calculating the odds of someone getting lost.


3


Now for the bad news. When we stopped by the brook to take a break, I heard the 8-year-old yell "Mom, I'm making a fairy house!"

"That's great!" I murmured, distracted by the other kids. Several minutes later, I went over to admire her fairy house and saw that she'd built it entirely out of poison ivy leaves.

Poison. Ivy. Leaves.

We scrubbed her off when we got home, but it was too late. Twenty-four hours later, she'd developed a terrible rash all over and her face was so swollen it was unrecognizable. When we went to a small outdoor birthday party the next day, a friend looked at my daughter and asked me if we'd brought along a cousin.

She was pretty miserable until the steroids we gave her kicked in, but as my 14-year-old pointed out, it could've been worse. Just think about the poor fairies.

4


Something interesting I learned this week is that there's this relatively rare thing called black-spot poison ivy.

After my daughter had her brush with the evil plants, I noticed a black spot on her cheek at dinner but didn't think too much of it. It looked like maybe she'd just gotten some ink on herself, and kids draw on themselves for no discernible reason all the time so I didn't even look at it that closely.

The next morning she'd broken out in a full-body poison ivy rash, and I noticed a few more black spots on her arms. They looked like black irregular-shaped melanomas that appeared overnight and all at once, which is a little disconcerting.

But apparently when you get exposed to large quantities of the oil from poison ivy plants (like if you, I don't know, broke off the stems to make a fairy house or something) it oxidizes on your skin and leaves black spots.

They'll go away with the rash in a few weeks.

5


Recently, we watched The Princess Bride. Everyone enjoyed the accidentally prophetic scene where Westley says that masks are "terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future."

"You should meme that!" my teenagers shouted.

I said I was sure someone had thought of it already, so they looked it up and there it was:


We actually found quite a few Princess Bride quarantine memes, but this was one of my favorites:


If you don't get it, go watch the movie. It'll be worth your time, I promise.

6


The kids continue to have fun with our new pet rats. They've taken to calling Piper "Pooper," for the obvious reason that I make them clean up after her when they take her out to play.

As for Scout, they started calling her "Fatty" because she always beats Piper to the food when we show up bearing treats. It's only been a week, but I think she's getting a little portly so we're trying to cut back.

The kids are making rat toys and building play structures out of waffle blocks. Mostly, we just enjoy pretending that the rats run over to the cage door so enthusiastically when we open it because they love us, not because they know we give them food.

7


My kids are finished with the school year! We still don't know what this fall is going to look for our public school, but my oldest daughter decided that she really likes distance learning and she wants to homeschool for her last two years of high school.

I am breathing into a paper bag right now.

For a number of reasons, I agree homeschooling would be good for her. But thinking about homeschooling one of my kids feels like middle school all over again: not only do you not know , you wouldn't even be able to formulate an intelligent question if you had someone to ask. You're so clueless you don't even know what you don't know.

So far, the Google search results for "how to homeschool" are full of vague generalities like "Find what works for YOU!" which just makes me want to throw a shoe through the screen. Like, that's not helpful if I don't know how to find what works for me.

What I'm saying is, if you have any tips or advice on where to begin, please leave a comment below or email me. I'll do my best not to keep my shoes on.

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Friday, June 12, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Papers from School, Some Unlikely Pet Owners, and Fun with Play-Doh

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

1


We got a letter in the mail about a safety recall on our van.

Apparently there's an issue that could potentially start an engine fire. Until we get it repaired, the letter says in very urgent underlined letters to park the vehicle outdoors and away from other vehicles or structures!!!

Seeing as how our van is 14 years old, we probably could've been warned earlier that it could burst into flames at any second.

2


I picked up all the kids' artwork and belongings from the elementary school this week, and looking through it all was quite entertaining.

For instance, every Monday my kindergartner was asked to journal a response to the question "What did you do over the weekend?"

This entry was from the fall, way before the shutdown, but I thought it was particularly timely:

Also what we've been doing for the entirety of spring.

3


My 8-year-old has been begging for a pet for a long time, but quarantine has made her absolutely desperate.

Everyone is getting new puppies and talking about them in her class meetings, and she's losing her mind. At this point, she'd sell her soul for a goldfish.

Unfortunately, Phillip and I are not Pet People. Pets smell, wreck your furniture, make a mess, can't be left alone for very long, and poop everywhere  all things children do, too, but it somehow it doesn't feel worth it when it's not a human baby.

When I leafed through the papers I picked up from my 8-year-old's class, though, something made me reconsider.

It was a persuasive writing piece, in the form of a letter from my daughter. It was addressed to me, and just in case her impassioned pleas for a pet (literally ANY pet) weren't heartbreaking enough, she signed the letter "Your Lonely Daughter."

With a sigh, I knew what we had to do. The letter was dated January, and this was no passing whim. Pet People or not, this girl needed an animal to love.

4


When my 8-year-old giddily announced at her next class call "I got two rats!!!" her teacher literally recoiled in horror.

Some people won't understand our choice of pet. That's okay.

Rats are smart and entertaining to watch. They can even learn tricks. They're quiet and clean, and what mess they make stays contained in a cage. I had a pet rat in high school and she was the sweetest thing. Plus, look at these little faces:



If you could see one eating a Cheerio with both hands like a jumbo donut, you'd understand.

5


The kids named the rats Piper and Scout.


Since one of them likes to lay on the other one, I thought it would be fun to call them Flopsy and Doormat, but I was outvoted.

6


About the issue of cleaning up poop. We made a chart and it's the kids' responsibility to clean out Piper and Scout's cage  I mean, their manor.

That's right, I had a good laugh at the name on the cage's box: the Merry Manor Rat Home.

Merry Manor Rat Home: the clear choice for the discerning rodent.

When we put them into this thing, I halfway expected Scout and Piper to ask if I had any Grey Poupon.

Some sources claim you can actually litter train rats. You put a tray in the corner and then relocate any poops you find to the litter tray until they get the message that's where they're supposed to do their business.

Yeah, I don't know about that, either, but the litter tray was $2 so I guess it's worth a shot. (By the way, the label says "Critter Potty: A Durable Plastic Pan for Bathroom Breaks." If I'd known pet products had such hilarious verbiage on their packaging, we might have gotten an animal sooner.)

7


One thing I like about having a wide range of ages in our family is that it gives the older kids an excuse to do things they technically grew out of years ago, like playing pretend and building with Legos and swinging on the swingset.

Even if the teenagers aren't enjoying it in quite the same way as the 4-year-old, they're still having fun and staying young.

The other day I printed out these play-doh mats, slipped them in plastic page protectors, and gave everyone play-doh and lots of craft stuff to stick in them.

(I am in love with page protectors, you guys. Next to baby wipes, they're the single most useful parenting item there is. You can print out a chart or checklist, put it in a page protector, and you have an easy wipe-off surface for marking with a dry erase marker. We must have a dozen of them hanging all over the house.)

Anyway, the kids were really creative with their play-doh creations. They made beautiful cakes, lifelike people, and a few nature scenes.

But my 4-year-old's interpretation of "ice cream sundae" was definitely the most unique:

Mmm... googly eyes.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

When You're Done


When you're done having babies, you just know.

At least that's what they say.

What I know is that there's nothing more perfect in this world than a nursing baby who lets go and looks up at you to smile.

What I don't know is how to reconcile that with the feeling that I am full. Our house, our car, and our dining room table are at max capacity. Some days, I feel stretched to my limit trying to meet the needs of my children, especially when I'm up all night with the baby and the day starts with a toddler meltdown over a piece of toast.

Sometimes I look at my family and feel like it's complete, but I also know without a doubt that if another baby joined our family I'd look back and laugh, wondering how I ever could have been so wrong.


One summer, my older kids took swim lessons at a local pool that allowed siblings to swim at no cost during lesson time. In our family, you don't turn down free pool time, but believe me: supervising a baby, toddler, and preschooler in the water by yourself every day for two weeks is not for the faint of heart.

As I was trying to distort the space-time continuum to be in three places at once, an older mother at the side of the pool caught my eye.

She looked composed in a way I couldn't even imagine, with an actual hairstyle and non-nursing friendly bathing suit. She was reading in a deck chair, looking up occasionally to wave at her two junior high-age kids jumping off the diving board.

When it was time to leave, her kids would dry themselves off and carry their own stuff back to the car. They'd have a coherent conversation on the way home, and she might even have the energy to say more than a few words to her husband before collapsing into bed at night.

I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't love a day like that. But a whole life?

Every day without chubby baby thighs and milk-drunk smiles and the smell of a newborn's head?

They say when you're finished, you'll just know. 

Is that true?

Right now, all I know is I'm not ready to feel the longing of the empty-handed lady in Target who tells frazzled young moms to enjoy every minute.

My husband  the pragmatist in our relationship  points out that no matter what we do, someday I'll be that lady anyway. He's right, as much as I hate to admit it.

The inescapable fact is that children grow up. Someday we'll no longer need to keep an emergency pair of tiny pants and underwear inside the glovebox of the van.

Someday we won't need a van at all.

We're still saving the baby's clothes when he outgrows them. We've always done that, filling the attic with children's clothing of every size just waiting to be hand-me-downs for a future brother or sister.

But I had no idea how hard it would be packing up a box of 3-6 month onesies and wondering if I'll ever hand them down to anyone again.

No idea how hard it would be folding all the little knit pants with footies and then shutting the box for what might be the last time.

The baby years are messy, chaotic, and exhausting, and just when you think you can't feel any more overwhelmed a stranger in Target tells you to love every minute.

I don't know what the future holds, but as I stand over this box with a roll of tape in my hand and a lump in my throat, the only thing I know for sure is that I did love every minute, after all.

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Friday, June 5, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Our New Hobbies, Why Traffic Cones Make the Best Toys, and Fun with Wildlife

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

1


While I'm mildly freaking out about our dentist remaining closed and some of the kids being months overdue for a cleaning, I could definitely get used to this "no activities" thing.

Yesterday we just went to the beach, in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday just because we could.

On a typical Thursday after school before Coronavirus, we would've had 4 activities going on in different places and "dinner" was a peanut butter sandwich your mom threw at you in the car as she was peeling out of the driveway trying to get you to soccer practice on time.

At some point, the crazy train will start back up again and we want the kids to be involved in stuff, but for now we're enjoying having the free time to do things like...

2


... Paint night.

The finished products turned out significantly better than the last time we did a family paint night.

Maybe it's because we're learning, but it probably has more to do with the fact that this time I bought some good brushes and paint instead of using whatever random supplies we had on hand.

We followed this tutorial from The Art Sherpa and I was really pleased with our results!
Clockwise from top left corner: me, the 8-year-old, Phillip, the 14-year-old, the 12-year-old, and the 16-year-old.

The 4- and 6-year-olds couldn't be bothered with things like tutorials, but they did enjoy using the Q-tips I gave them.

Top: 4-year-old. Bottom: 6-year-old.

I'm loving doing family paint nights, but I'm stuck for what tutorial to watch next.

I've exhausted The Art Sherpa's 30-minute videos, and I don't think the younger kids have the attention span for a longer one. Any hot tips?

3


... Fairy houses.

My kids have been making fairy houses every time we go out. Even when we went to the beach they fashioned a miniature mud hut with a porch made out of lilypads and pebbles.

Here's what they made when we went on a hike this weekend:


They said the little ladder took forever to make, and are considering bringing a tweezers along next time to make the work less tedious.

We Evanses are very serious about our recreation.

4


... And whatever this is.


He wears the cone around a lot, although this is the first time I've seen the ladies' sunhat perched on top.

Last summer, the guys who resurfaced our driveway left three traffic cones behind. Not the flimsy plastic kind you can buy on Amazon. These are legit, highway department-grade cones we're talking about. We waited for months for them to come pick them up, but they never did.

They're the best toys we've ever had.

Have you ever driven over a traffic cone? They're indestructible. Finally, a toy that fits our kids' lifestyle!

5


My son built a bird house years ago at a church activity, which we nailed to a tree in the backyard and forgot about.

A few days ago, one of my kids thought she heard some peeping inside, so we went to investigate and found a nest with three baby birds!

After they move out, we have some redesign work to do.

First of all, we mounted the birdhouse up too high on the tree so we need a ladder to look inside. It's a a pain in the butt, although I guess it does keep the little kids from harassing the birds too much.

Another problem is that the birdhouse doesn't have a hinged roof, and the only way the kids can see what's inside is by shining a flashlight through the little hole on the front. They do this while we stand at the bottom of the ladder yelling, "Not directly in their eyes! Don't blind the baby birds!"

Clearly, we did not think it through.

6


I was taking a walk around the yard with my 4-year-old counting the animals we saw, when we stumbled across a mole (we have a lot of moles around here) that had keeled over and died right in the middle of the front yard.

I know, I know. Dead animals are sad.

But have you ever seen a mole? They're the cutest creatures on the planet. They're like tiny, adorable little grandpas in velvet suits.

If you've never seen a mole, Google some pictures. It'll be the best thing you do all day.

7


As they saw me writing the last take, the kids decided they were going to go out and find a mole.

It took them about 5 minutes. I had no idea they'd be back so quickly.

GAHHHH SO CUTE!

Unfortunately, moles don't survive well in captivity so my kids will have to content themselves with letting them run around in an empty kiddie pool for a few minutes before letting them go again.


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