Friday, December 4, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Christmas Card Peer Pressure, a Year of Unexpected Family Time, and Trying Not to Ruin My 7th Grader's Life

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


You people are all annoyingly on top of your Christmas game. This week, before it was even December 1st, we got four Christmas cards in the mail.


Considering that we haven't even finished raking the leaves in our yard for winter, I'm a little intimidated.


The early Christmas cards reminded me to start writing my own family's year-in-review newsletter, so at dinner I asked everyone to brainstorm ideas.

After claiming that "we didn't do anything this year," which was sort of true, each family member was at least able to think of a few new developments with them this year (learned how to read! started 4th grade! got my braces off!)

I still didn't have much for the 4-year-old, so I turned to the rest of the family and said, "Help me out, guys. What has your little brother been up to? What does he like to do?"

Completely serious, the 6-year-old immediately answered, "Fight with me."

So it's going to be a very entertaining Christmas letter, I can tell.


How do those of you in big families do sibling-to-sibling gifts? What's worked for us for the last several years is something we call "Secret Sibling." 

The kids all draw names at the beginning of December and are supposed to do something nice for their secret sibling each day. On Christmas, they creatively reveal who they are.

Despite repeated warnings not to reveal whose secret sibling he was, the 4-year-old announced it almost immediately. The next day, the 12-year-old's secret sibling left a piece of gum on his pillow and he figured out who it was since he knew only one kid in the family was in possession of gum at the moment.

I guess this year, the emphasis is more on the 'sibling' and less on the 'secret.' I tried.


Lately my 6-year-old, who is a beginning reader, has been obsessed with this set of illustrated scripture stories we have. Whenever he's quiet, we know he's got his nose buried in one of them.

A few days ago he approached me and asked, "What does 'Denny Jesus Christ' mean?"

"Huh?" I answered articulately.

"What does 'Denny Jesus Christ' mean?"

Denny? Like the restaurant? Like my name with a 'D'? What is this kid talking about?

"Umm... can you tell me where you heard it? Like, in what context?"

Of course he's 6 and has no clue what "context" means, so he shrugged and said, "In the scriptures. Like 'Denny Jesus Christ.'"

Finally I asked him to show me, and this is what he meant:

From the illustrated Book of Mormon stories.

Whenever I read the scriptures from now on, the word "deny" will be pronounced "denny" in my head.


One thing I've really liked about this semi-quarantine time is that without very many evening activities left, we're all home together every night. We eat dinner together and we always have everyone there for Family Home Evening, which is kind a like a weekly family devotional.

This week at Family Home Evening, we learned a Christmas song that the younger kids would probably be learning at church right about now if they were having their regular singing time hour, and then we got out the Nativity set and the scriptures and had them arrange the pieces as we read verses to them from Luke 2.

This set has been around forever. The fact that we aren't missing any pieces is a legit miracle.

Then we made and ate sugar cookies and nobody can complain about that.

Looking at this picture with everyone in the same room makes me so happy. This is why, when I look back, I think I will remember 2020 as one of the luckiest years of my life.


My 7th grader was doing online school, and I happened to overhear all of this because I was sitting at the other end of the table reading my scriptures.

In the middle of class, my son's teacher called his name and asked, "Did you go somewhere this morning?"

"What?" my son said, confused.

"Did you go anywhere special?" 

"No," he said, looking down at his polo shirt. Admittedly, it did look pretty dressy, but it was probably just the first rumpled thing he'd pulled out of his dresser that morning. (He was also having a particularly good hair day, if I do say so myself.)

"Oh," the teacher said. "Well, you just look so... dapper today."

He gave me the side eye off-screen and the teacher said, "Is that your mom over there?"

My son turned the camera toward me (luckily I'd showered and gotten dressed already or I would've been hiding under the table) and the teacher asked me, "Doesn't he look dapper today?"

I looked at the on-screen grid view of all my 7th-grader's classmates thinking, "Okay. I'm pretty sure my 12-year-old doesn't want his mom gushing to his entire class about how handsome he is. What is the absolute least embarrassing thing I can do here? Just evaporate?"

Maybe I should have hidden under the table, after all.


It's December, which means that my church's annual Light the World campaign is happening. They do it a little differently every year, but the basic idea is to do something every day to emulate Jesus and feel closer to Him by Christmas.

Yes, it's December 4th, but that doesn't mean it's too late to start participating. I've learned in the past that doing good things imperfectly is better than doing nothing at all.

You can download a daily service calendar or learn more about Light the World at the official website if you're interested. Good luck!

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Friday, November 27, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Burritos in their Natural Habitats, Pitfalls of Internet Dating, and the Way to a Perfectly Poached Posterior

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


Phillip's sister Jenny (yes, it gets confusing with two Jennys in the family) came out to stay with us for Thanksgiving. 

The kids would understandably be excited to see any living person right about now, but they're especially thrilled to be hanging out with Aunt Jenny. I can hardly pull them away to listen to me or do anything resembling online school.

Occasionally, she gets called "Grandma," but that's kind of a compliment, the way sweet elementary school teachers inevitably get called "Mom." We just don't get that many non-Grandma visitors who are so thrilled to see them.


Once Jenny got her negative COVID test and we were officially free to roam the state, we decided to go visit an arboretum.

While we were getting our circus packed in the car, one of the younger kids kept hearing us say 'arboretum' and finally asked, "What's a burritum?"

So for the rest of the day, the joke was that we were going to the burrito garden to look at the burrito trees. 

At this point in the fall, there weren't any leaves (or burritos) left on the branches, but it was still a pretty place to spend an afternoon.


My teenager introduced me to an online video game called Among Us. The premise is that you're part of a crew on a spaceship, trying to figure out which one of you is the impostor. The impostor goes around sabotaging and picking off members of the crew (it's cartoon violence, but I wouldn't let kids younger than 12 play) before you vote him/her off the ship.

The older kids were allowed to stay up late one night and we all (the three kids, Phillip, me, and the other Jenny) started a game of Among Us. We technically have enough people for a game, but it's fun with more people so we created a public game and waited for a few random stragglers from the Internet to join us.

One of them, whose screen name was Lily, sent a message to the group: "im 13 does anyone want to date me" 

We ultimately ignored the comment, but I think it would've been funny for Phillip to message back, "I'm 40, Lily. It's time for you to go to bed."

Although it's quite possible Lily was a 40-year-old man, too, which would just about sum up everything we know about the Internet.


It's that time of year again: the 3rd grade science class is done with their unit studying crayfish, and they are sending them home with students.

On Tuesday, our 9-year-old came off the bus carrying a Tupperware container in both hands, proudly announcing, "I named him Fred!" (She later informed me it's spelled P-H-R-E-D-D.)

I have to say that Phredd is a little terrifying, even for a crayfish. First off, he's twice as big and beefy as the other school crayfish my older daughters brought home in previous years, and he's clearly a fighter since he came to us missing a claw.

I think crayfish can regrow their pincers with some otherworldly regeneration powers, though, at which point he'll probably break out of his tank and sneak into my room to harm me in my sleep.


My boys' room was particularly messy, so I had the idea to play "red light, green light" to get my 4- and 6-year-olds to clean it up

When I covered my eyes and said "Green light!" they put away toys as fast as they could, and when I uncovered my eyes and said "Red light!" they had to stop cleaning and be as still as statues.

It was hilarious watching them freeze in place when I called "red light," and even more hilarious when one of them tooted and my 4-year-old, standing rooted to the spot, said seriously, "Farting doesn't count."


We bought a minivan in July and one feature that I absolutely love is the heated seats. I've been using them daily since early October since I get cold so easily.

The kids are also enjoying the heated seats  not so much using them, but inventing names for them. A few I can recall off the top of my head include:
  • The Booty Broiler
  • The Tushy Toaster
  • The Rump Roaster
  • The Heiny Heater
  • The Fanny Fryer

Please, someone stop my children.


Our Thanksgiving was great, thanks for asking. 

Jenny gave me a delicious cream cheese and jalapeƱo-cranberry dip recipe that I might make and eat once a week for the rest of my life now, and Phillip outdid himself making a fantastic feast like he does every year.

This father-daughter hug sort of looks like he's holding our daughter back from diving face-first into the turkey, which he probably should've been doing because it was that tasty.

Now begins the Weekend of Pies, which is a Thanksgiving tradition we look forward to every year. 

Each day Phillip makes a new pie: this year our plan is apple on Thursday, pumpkin on Friday, pecan on Saturday, and strawberry cream on Sunday. What's your favorite kind of pie?

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Friday, November 20, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Failing Not-So-Spectacularly, a Weird Sort of Time Warp, and Things I've Come to Accept about How I Do Housework

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


When the 4-year-old walked by the computer, the main page of Unremarkable Files was on the screen. Pretending to read (but really just recognizing the logo,) he furrowed his brow in concentration and slowly said: "Unremarkable Files."

We all thought it was funny, but mostly because he put kind of a southern twang to it so it sounded like "unremarkable fails."

Phillip chuckled, "That's a different blog, buddy."

Well... not entirely.


A friend from church somehow acquired a record of fiddle music, and because our daughter is a violinist he gave it to us. We don't have a record player, but I knew a friend whose teenage daughter does, so I called and asked to borrow it.

I was nervous because I've never used a record player and didn't want to break it, so I made them give me detailed instructions when I went to pick it up.

Let me tell you, it's a really weird experience being 40 and not understanding how to use technology from your parent's generation until a 15-year-old explains it to you.

Playing music on a turntable has a definitely aesthetic appeal and I get why people like it. 

Even though the record we had was a 45 so it only had two songs, the kids wanted to play it over and over. I guess that's not surprising since they listen to the same ridiculous songs on YouTube over and over, too.


After my appointment with my rheumatologist, he sent me to the lab for some blood work. I would've eaten breakfast before I came if I'd known he was going to do that, but it would still be okay... probably. Right?

Let me explain: I pass out when I get blood drawn. Not every time, but often enough that it's always a possibility. And if I'm hungry, or thirsty, or tired, or freaked out, or I watch them do the blood draw, or I look away but think about what they're doing... it's actually pretty darn likely that I will faint.

But I figured whatever, I'd steel myself and get through this. I can do this. I am strong. I am woman, hear me roar.

My self-confidence wavered when I sat down in the chair and the nurse plonked down THIRTEEN TUBES on the counter.

After digging around with the needle in my left arm, she blew out the vein (I've got to find out what that means because it sounds terrifying) and then moved to my right. She drew two vials but then something happened and that  vein blew out, too, and then I started to feel light-headed.

I think you can guess what happened next. There was an embarrassing spectacle involving a flashing emergency light that conveniently alerted everyone in the packed waiting room to the show, and three nurses trying to revive me. Then those same nurses leading me by the elbow like a geriatric patient across the waiting room (smile and wave, it's like a parade!) to a different station with a reclining chair to finish the blood draw.

It was so exhausting that I laid down and slept for an hour when I got home.


On the recommendation of an Unremarkable Files Facebook fan, I started reading the book Confessions of an Organized Homemaker

I've read a lot of personal organization and time management books so many of the principles were familiar, but I did find some parts really helpful. I was actually in the middle of reading a section on meal planning that made a lot of sense to me and I was excited to try it, but then I lost the book.

I know it's somewhere in my house... perhaps under this??

Feeling less and less like the intended audience for Confessions of an Organized Homemaker all the time.

But I did make weekly menus the way she suggested, and I think it's going to eliminate the worst 30 minutes of my entire week: figuring out what to eat for dinner and making the grocery list. 

I'll now be spending that 30 minutes looking for my lost book.


The other day I noticed a cobweb on the ceiling and grabbed a broom to sweep it away. Then I noticed the curtain rod directly beneath it was kind of dusty, too. 

As I dusted it, I noticed the curtains could use a wash, so I took them down and hand washed them in the sink. But once the curtains were off, the windows looked visibly smudged and splattered with who-knows-what so I removed the screens, hosed them off outside, and squeegeed the windows. 

Compared with the sparkling windows, the windowsill now looked dirty so I gave that a cleaning. And when I surveyed the scene I realized that putting a few coats of plyurethane on the sill and window frame has been on my to-do list for about eight years and I never do it because I'd have to take down the curtains and screens first, so I might as well do it before putting them back up.

So a mere four hours later, I had finished taking care of that pesky cobweb on the ceiling!

On one hand, I feel like I should have more self-restraint so I don't get carried away like that. On the other hand, that's honestly the only way things get done around here so I can't say I regret it.


Thanksgiving is coming. I'm excited because (1) I'm not the holiday cook, Phillip is, and (2) I love our Thanksgiving centerpiece.

One of my kids made it at a church activity years ago and it's my favorite. Not only is it a frugal, easy-to-replace decoration if it gets broken (it's literally a stick in a mason jar,) but it also doubles as an activity.

In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, we always go around the table and write things we're grateful for an hang them on the Thankful Tree.

I don't even think we had to throw out any ridiculous entries this year!


Lastly, this afternoon I'm going to be watching an 11-minute video and you're all invited to join me. 

In my church, we regularly hear messages from our prophet a few times a year at General Conference, but a special worldwide address like this on a random day of the week is pretty rare so this must be important. 

I'm not exactly expecting him to say "Mark your calendars, the Second Coming of Christ is on Tuesday," but I do feel confident it's going to be a timely and important message for everyone affected by COVID-19. So basically, all of us. 

You're welcome to listen in with me, regardless of whether you belong to my church or any church.

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Friday, November 13, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Adventures in Driver's Ed, Alternate Vacation Plans, and the Upside of Tossing Your Cookies While Running

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


My 16-year-old recently got her permit, and it turns out that teaching a kid how to drive is a lot like teaching them how to tie their shoes: when it comes time to explain how you do it, you realize you actually can't.

So that's been humbling.

I've found that people are way nicer to you on the road if you have this magnet on your car.

It hit me as I was getting in the car to take her out driving the other day that Phillip and I just finished 12 years of teaching people to ride bikes, and now we're starting 12 years of teaching people to drive cars. 

Twelve more buttcheek-clenching years of this, folks. I can't wait.


My 4-year-old was playing in the yard as the 16-year-old and I got in the car for a driving lesson.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"I'm teaching your sister how to drive."

"Oh," he nodded. "So she's going to be our new mom?"

First, I love that he assumed I was training my replacement. 

Second of all, it's so funny that in his mind, the sole purpose of driving and motherhood can only be one thing: shuttling your kids around all over town. Which is actually sort of true, now that I think about it.


Phillip turned 40 this week! His birthday was not at all like we thought it would be (originally we'd planned to go on a big trip to celebrate and that didn't happen,) but it was a really nice day, just the same. 

Instead of presents, we all decided to make him a list of 40 things: the 16-year-old wrote 40 dad jokes, the 14-year-old made a list of 40 things he taught her, the 12-year-old found 40 creative acronyms for DAD, the 9-year-old listed 40 memories of him, and the 6- and 4-year-olds worked together to make him a book of 40 pictures with captions. 

I planned to find my 40 favorite pictures of him with the kids but I couldn't narrow it down to 40 so I just made a slideshow and then wrote down 40 things he's built, made, fixed, or replaced around the house that I'm grateful for.

Then we made him this chocolate orange cake from scratch, and the pictures don't really do it justice:

Sorry about the bad lighting and junk in the background (and foreground.) Apparently I don't do my best work with 7 people yelling at me from the dining room "Come ONNNNN! We want to eat caaaaaake, stop taking piiiiiiictures!"


So we didn't end up taking our grand birthday trip, but Phillip has been working overtime and really needed a break. 

In the days and weeks leading up to his birthday, he kept sighing "I need a vacation," so we took an impromptu 24-hour getaway to a cute little coastal town.

We don't have any family around to stay with the kids, but we do have a lot of kids and this is one instance where many hands make light work

I break down everything that needs to be done, and the older kids all sign up for shifts watching the little boys, cooking meals, and whatever else. No one gets overwhelmed because they share all the responsibilities, and they also get permission to watch movies and bake cookies so they think it's a great deal.

In an ideal world Phillip and I would've gotten to decompress for a bit longer, but it was 70 degrees and we were at the ocean so I really can't complain.

And I loved this shot of a bird taking flight from the water that I happened to get at just the right moment:


Remember how Phillip kept saying he needed a vacation? Well, we looked it up when we got home and then it all made sense, because he only took one vacation day from work all this year.

In January we'd made big plans for his days off, all of which fell apart in the face of COVID, so we didn't end up using any of them (except for one, when we went camping in August.) 

We lose them unless we use them by December 31st, so now he's taking off the whole week of Thanksgiving and two weeks at Christmastime.

I'd better have a finished basement by the end of 2020.


My 16-year-old is working hard at cross-country. At the beginning of her first year, she was kind of slow but she earned the "Most Improved" award by the end of the season. This year, she's worked her way up to fourth (or fifth, depending on the day) on the team. 

I love watching her run, but because of COVID restrictions spectators are only allowed at home meets. So at away meets, I text her to get the scoop. 

I guess she has good and bad days as a runner, but she's always brutally honest.

Of course, not throwing up on the course is always preferable, but it does mean that you've pushed your body to beyond its absolute limit and kept going so she still gets my admiration. 

According to my daughter, it also made for a locker room speech from the coach that was as funny as it was inspirational: "You guys were really gutsy out there today!" were his congratulations. "Some of you... even literally."


I was recently introduced to Line Riders on YouTube by my 12-year-old. It's the best! If you have kids and you want them to learn to love classical music, show them these.

They weren't specifically designed for little kids, but they're a fun visual way to learn about music and musical notation. After watching several times, I can even see a preschooler having a "favorite" classical song. 

Currently, my 4-year-old is spellbound by this little stick figure sledding along to Beethoven's 5th Symphony:

Have a great weekend, you guys!

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Friday, November 6, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Two Seasons in One Photo, My Life Philosophy Summed Up by a 4-Year-Old, and Learning the Story Behind the Meme

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


We've been having such weird weather here. 

First of all, the fall colors have been unusually vivid. I've lived here for 10 years and never really drooled over the changing leaves like I have this year, so either they really are more beautiful or I'm just getting old and things like that are exciting now. I guess both are possible.

Usually all the leaves fall off first due to wind or rain, but this time it randomly snowed on top of them, then started melting to result in weird pictures like this one:

Fall colors on the top, winter white on the bottom.

This weekend it's supposed to be almost 70 degrees.


How was your Halloween? Our town decided to cancel trick-or-treating (a decision I felt was unnecessary and just mean since trick-or-treating is one of the easiest activities to make low-risk,) but the kids had already finished their costumes and were excited about them, so we put them on, took some pictures, and went for a Halloween walk to look at the decorations in people's yards.

The walk sounded like a fun idea, but to be honest it was actually kind of depressing. 

I usually love the energy out on the streets with all the excited kids on Halloween night, so without it the only thing to be excited about was my 8-year-old's Princess Leia shadow.

Which was pretty cool, by the way. The light source for the shadow was the arc reactor in my 16-year-old's Iron Man costume so I enjoyed that thoroughly.


After the sad Halloween walk, things got better. We went home and took a jack-o-lantern we'd carved earlier that day, and blew it up.

Well, we didn't exactly blow it up. Phillip filled it with some sort of flammable powder and billed it to the kids as "a pumpkin sparkler."

Lighting the fuse and running away.

The kids were entertained and delighted by the results, and I'm sure Phillip is already thinking about how to make it bigger and better next year.

Not the biggest explosion I've ever seen, but not the smallest one, either.

Then we had a candy hunt in our yard. We taped 300 glow sticks to 300 pieces of candy (put on some music and get the whole family to pitch in, and it's not as bad as it sounds) and I scattered them all over the yard, including the forest immediately surrounding our house.

Apparently glow sticks don't really show up on camera, so you'll just have to believe me when I say the end result was breathtaking. In the pitch dark, glowing neon colors covered the yard. The ones I'd balanced on bushes, the swingset, and tree branches looked like they were floating.

Actually, the kids agreed that the glow-in-the-dark candy hunt was better than regular trick-or-treating (plus, you randomly discover candies for the next few days afterward.) So maybe we'll do it again, even if the town doesn't cancel laughter and general merriment in 2021.


After putting the kids to bed, Phillip and I watched the first episode of Stranger Things. We've been looking for a show to watch together, and we don't have Netflix but I found the first two seasons on DVD at the library. 

The fact that we started on Halloween night was random coincidence but man, was it appropriate. That show is creepy. 

Nobody tell me what happens, though. I mean it.


I continue to be surprised at how much my kids love our pet rats. 

My 14-year-old taught Piper to run across the room, climb up her leg, and perch on her shoulder for a treat when she makes a clucking noise. 

Phillip and I call the 8-year-old The Rat Whisperer because she regularly hypnotizes Scout into going to sleep cradled in her arms on its back like a baby.

I just wish all the kids were old enough to know how to be so gentle. Our youngest still needs heavy supervision to make sure he doesn't squeeze or hurt them accidentally, so watching him play with the rats is like handing your toddler a pop-up book from the library. Easily the most nerve-wracking thing you'll do all day.


I laughed the other day when I overheard my 4-year-old in the next room telling his sibling, "I know everything about life, except I don't."

If I wrote a book, that would most likely be the first line. Most of the pages after that would be blank.


Lately I've been watching a BuzzFeed Video series called "I Accidentally Became a Meme." 

If you're a social media user, and especially if you go out looking for funny content to share like I do on Unremarkable Files' social media channels, you've seen a handful of super-popular memes (like Bad Luck Brian and Success Kid) a hundred times captioned a hundred different ways. 

This series finds those people in real life and asks them how it happened.

Inexplicably, I showed a few of these videos to Phillip (who goes on social media like twice a year) and he thought they were boring. 

I've since realized it's kind of like when he shows me sports stuff; it's only interesting if you're into that world already and know who people are. Otherwise, why would you care?
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Friday, October 30, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Growing In to Adulthood, Massive Surprise Cakes, and Doing Arithmetic with Spiderman

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


Well, we finally did it. For the first time, we put Christmas lights on the outside of the house, just like real grownups.

I'm 38 years old, and I don't know why but I've always felt like there was some association between competent adulthood and having it together enough to string some LEDs from your roofline.

And we have arrived.


A child in our house requested a "surprise cake" for their birthday this week, and I knew that this child had in mind the time we surprised their brother with one of those pinata cakes where M&Ms spill out when you cut into it.

So I did some thinking about what similar (but not quite the same) thing we could do, and I settled on this 6-layer rainbow cake

I was right, this was such a surprise.

It required two cakes' worth of batter and 2.5 canisters of frosting (I wanted it to be thick enough so the birthday child couldn't see the colored layers before cutting into it.) 

The finished product was so heavy we needed a wheelbarrow to bring it to the dining room table and now we all have diabetes.


Phillip and I started making the cake after the kids went to bed for the night and it took forever

We made it from scratch instead of using a boxed mix because it had to be gluten-free (storebought GF vanilla cake mix is ridiculously expensive and tastes like cardboard.) Then we had to divide the batter into separate bowls and get all the colors just right, and after that we had to bake it in installments because we only had 3 pans.

By the time we'd taken the last pan out of the oven, Phillip was exhausted and so was I. We got ready for bed, and just as we were lying down I said, "You go to sleep, I'm just going to take the cakes out of the pan and I'll be right back."

Then I stayed up until 1:45 putting the whole thing together and frosting it.  

I knew if I hadn't tricked him into going to sleep, he would've tried to convince me to finish it in the morning. But when I envisioned trying to assemble this behemoth cake with little fingers sneaking frosting and little voices asking "can I help?" while being on-call to solve problems with the kids' online schoolwork and trying not to spoil the surprise for the birthday child... well, I wanted to avoid that even more than I wanted sleep.


The other kids all made "happy birthday" cards and the one from my 4-year-old was so cute. 

Apparently he's been listening to me talk to the 1st grader about punctuation because when he showed me the card he'd made, the whole front was filled with exclamation marks.

"Wow, that's a lot of exclamation points!" I said, and he answered, "Well, yeah. Because it's exciting!"


My kids, still on a quest for the best dubstep remixes on the Internet, stumbled across this gem on YouTube. 

This Harry Potter remix didn't sound like much to write home about at first, but the beat drop caught us all by surprise and was hilariously perfect.


Our elementary school usually holds a costume parade during the week of Halloween, which isn't happening this year due to COVID. In lieu of the parade, kids were told they could wear their costumes to virtual school.

Which turned out to be pretty amusing and probably more enjoyable for me to watch in the end.

Spiderman, Spiderman, learning whatever a spider can.


The nonexistent school parade and the lack of our church's annual trunk-or-treat activity didn't bother me, but after all the kids' hard work making their costumes, it really ticked me off when the town voted at the last minute (really, it happened on Monday) to cancel trick-or-treating this year.

How the town can tell my family we aren't allowed to go for a walk around the neighborhood tomorrow night (which we totally are) or tell residents they can't leave bowls of candy on their front porches if they're so inclined (which some undoubtedly will anyway,) I don't know.

But whatever. We're blowing up a pumpkin instead.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

7 Quick Takes about My New Favorite Stickers, the Internet Spying on Me Again, and What Not to Buy For Anyone's 40th Birthday

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


I was at the store this week and saw my new favorite product:

"Didn't cry" is my favorite.

Seriously, as a society we have this "everybody gets a trophy" mentality all backwards. Kids don't need participation awards for just showing up. Being a kid is so easy that someone else washes your underwear. Adults are the ones who need the encouragement just for doing the bare minimum some days.


My four younger kids are enjoying hybrid school. I wasn't sure how it was going to go, but they're enjoying going to school in person and on the days when they're on the computer learning from home, it's turning out to be great.

On remote days, the 8-year-old likes having long lunches if she finishes her work early, and the 6-year-old enjoys simple pleasures like being able to slip into a Spiderman costume and run around the house on his 15-minute break in the morning.  

Which seems like a pretty awesome break if you ask me.


My 16-year-old recently told me about Sabaton, a Swedish heavy metal band that sings about historical battles. 

Okay, first of all, I love the idea. Do I love heavy metal? No. But I am so in favor of things that are so unique, other people couldn't come up with an idea like that if they tried.

I also love that my daughter sometimes looks up the lyrics and researches the battles they're singing about. (I just hope she's not counting that as her homeschool history work.)


Lately I've been experiencing a series of serendipitous coincidences, and it's kind of freaking me out.

Recently we realized that our daughter needed a better chair if she's going to be homeschooling full-time, so I was on the hunt for a good deal on an office chair. And then when I was driving to drop her off at cross-country practice, I happened to drive right by one on the curb with a "FREE" sign that seemed like it was placed there especially for us.

Less than a week later, our vacuum went on the fritz and I started shopping online for a new vacuum (just looking, not buying quite yet.) The very next day, I was taking someone to soccer practice and drove right past a free vacuum on the curb outside a different house. It was the exact brand I'd been looking at online and there was even a package of vacuum bags propped up next to it.

You know how sometimes you mention something random, like tea cozies, to someone in conversation and then all of a sudden you're eerily seeing ads for tea cozies all over Facebook? It's been like that, but in real life.


Phillip is turning 40 soon, and I've been doing a little research just to give me ideas.

After doing a Google search, I clicked on an article in The Strategist. I haven't heard of The Strategist before, but it appears to be a very sophisticated, black-and-white shopping website that even says "New York" on it, so you know it's classy. The article promised to contain "the best 40th birthday gifts, according to people who've turned 40 or are about to turn 40." 

It turned out to be the most unhelpful thing I've ever read on the Internet.

It started out okay. There were some luxury kitchen gadgets, which actually could be something the right 40-year-old could indeed appreciate.

But by the time I got to the $91 scrunchie, I was dying. At the $198 tie dyed T-shirt, I was laughing so hard I couldn't even keep reading.

I was so thoroughly amused that maybe I'll just send Phillip a link to the article for his birthday. Laughter is, after all, a gift.


While we were eating dinner, I mentioned that I was tired and my 6-year-old randomly looked at me and said, "You're like a queen."

Then he added, "But you're kind of like an old woman, too."

"How am I like a queen and an old woman?" I pressed.

"Because you're tired."

"Okay, so I'm tired like an old woman?" I said. He nodded so I asked, "And how am I like a queen?"

"Well, I guess you're not, really." He picked up his fork. clearly ready to be done with this conversation. "You're just like an old woman."


I used to be an avid journaler. Over the last decade, I've written in my journal less and less frequently until it was basically just a token entry every few years when I had a baby. 

But I figured quarantine was a good opportunity to start again, both because I had more time and it might be more interesting for posterity to look back on one day than the usual "today I drove to the high school four times and used half a tank of gas shuttling kids to soccer practice."

Anyway, now my journal is getting full and I've been shopping online for a new one. I was hoping to find a nice one, maybe leather bound with a nice design on the front or something, but so far I've been disappointed. 

It's all compasses and script admonitions to "Let the Adventure Begin," and all I want is something a bit more representative of me. Like a cover with a picture of a hamster on a wheel, or maybe the words "At Least She Tried" hastily scrawled across the front.

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