Friday, January 22, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Home Depot, Weird Ads for Pants, and Annoying Goose Chases at the Allergist's Office

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

1


My kids are enjoying all the books they got from the librarians last week. My 14-year-old is currently reading some YA novel and I happened to see this page:


I feel like this should be the title of my autobiography, and the cover art should be a picture of my living room by the end of the day when the kids are bouncing from couch to couch like pinballs because they are SO TIRED OF ONLINE SCHOOL.

2


On Monday I got so much done. I mean, I felt really accomplished. I had a great day, spent quality time with the kids, I felt amazing about it. 

I was still reveling in it while driving the older kids to school the next morning, when I slowed down for an oncoming jogger. Two joggers, actually, and the one in back was wearing a bright yellow vest that said 'BLIND.'

There's nothing like seeing a blind guy out for a run to make your getting a load of laundry washed and folded in the same day seem a little less impressive.

3


After he got done with work, Phillip and I went out for a date night. We were saying goodbye to everyone and my 4-year-old asked where we were going. 

"On a date," I told him.

"UGH. Again??"

I wasn't sure what to say, but my 9-year-old piped up with exactly what I was thinking: "What are you talking about? They've gone on a date, like, once."

Then I asked my 4-year-old if he was going to be a good listener for his siblings while we were gone, and he thoughtfully responded "I... don't know." 

4


Apparently we've been married for "date night means eating take-out in the car and going to Home Depot" years, but trust me, it was fine. I was actually excited about it.

I got Phillip some nice planters for his home office area for Christmas, now he needs something to fill them with.

And I can't even with these cute little succulents we bought at Home Depot.


Look at this cute little biome.

I'm not really a plant person but I think I want to buy 100 of these things. So cute.

5


Phillip is also in need of some running pants,
so I was doing a little research for him. 

Most of the pants I was seeing were thin and not really suitable for outdoor use in New England winters, so I changed my search from "men's joggers" to "men's lined joggers." 

On the second page of results were these pants that are definitely lined:


Not only is this a super-weird (and unflattering) way to show off the lining, but the thighs and ankles of this model don't even appear to be the same race. I am so confused.

6


Weeks ago, my son had blood drawn for some labs at his allergist's office, but I hadn't heard back about the results. 

When I called the office I sat on hold for a long time and got transferred to two different receptionists, and finally I spoke to someone who told me "our records say that the nurse called you about it and left a message on your voice mail."

Annoying, but fine. I thanked her and hung up to go check my voice mail

Sure enough, there was a message from the nurse. And all it said was, "We have the results of your bloodwork, please call the office to discuss it."

GAH!

7


Every Sunday in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
 instead of a sermon given by a pastor or priest we listen to talks given by different people (men, women, and teenagers) in the congregation.

We're not all excellent public speakers, but it's insightful hearing from people with different backgrounds and perspectives each week.

One of the speakers at church this week was a biologist, and he talked about the importance of the biological process of decomposition. Hear me out.

If you look at a forest, it's messy. There are dead branches and fallen leaves all over, most of it in various stages of decay. The beauty of a forest. biologically speaking, is how the process of decomposition contributes to its life. Decomposing organic matter attracts insects (as well as all the birds and animals that eat those insects) and puts nutrients in the soil for the trees' future growth.

Like the biological process of decomposition, God also allows for a spiritual process of repentance. While messy and at times unsightly, the existence of all our mistakes and weaknesses open the way for this process of repentance to transform us. 

Repentance doesn't just erase our sins like they never happened, it's actually an essential step in our growth to becoming wiser, more compassionate people.

I got two things out of this talk: one, it's okay if your life is messy. You could never grow from your mistakes if it looked pristine and perfect all the time. 

And two, never judge someone else for their downed branches. You never can tell what could contribute to their future growth  maybe that process is even happening now, and you just don't know it.

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Friday, January 15, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Alternative Places to Pray, Homemade Battle Accessories, and Drawing Exercises that Aren't for the Faint of Heart

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

1


Did you make any New Year's resolutions this year? I came across this video on YouTube called "The 5 New Year Resolutions" and started laughing my head off about one minute into it.

"This is you!" I yelled to Phillip , "Ha, ha, the second person in this video is totally you!"

I made him come over to watch and then proceeded to eat some humble pie when #3 was totally me.


(Except for the coffee part. I don't drink coffee and even if I did, I'm way too cheap to ever buy it at a drive-thru establishment.)

2


Usually I say my morning prayers in my bedroom, but it happened to be quieter in the living room one day so I knelt down there. I should've known it wouldn't stay quiet for long.

4-year-old: [wandering up] Why are you praying here?

Me: Because you can pray anywhere.

4: Even underground?

Me: Uhh... I guess.

4: Even in lava?

Me: Especially in lava.

3


In other cute misunderstandings, I told the 4-year-old we were making a special dessert on Thursday.

"What is it?" he asked, already salivating.

"Mini fruit tarts."

He looked really confused, and it took a few minutes of question-and-answer before I finally figured out why. He didn't know the word tart, and thought I was saying "mini fruit tarps.

He'd been envisioning the blue woven plastic sheeting we use to cover things outside when it rains. Albeit in miniature form.

4


For the first time, I find myself trying to prop up books in a too-empty bookshelf, instead of tearing my hair out because the kids keep trying to cram in twice as many as will actually fit.

My kids are avid library readers, but the library is closed now with the exception of curbside pickup of specific books you put on hold. Pre-COVID they chose most of their books by browsing the shelves, so this has been hard.

However, I recently learned something: our library will assemble an assortment of books based on a survey you fill out about your reading preferences, and my kids were ALL OVER THIS. They all wanted to fill out a survey immediately, the result being that I was summed to the library the next day to pick up 53 books.

Before COVID we probably checked out that many books at once every week, but we did all the work of collecting, scanning, and schlepping them to the car. This time I had to stand there while two librarians went back and forth, back and forth, carrying stacks of books for me, and it was kind of embarrassing.

Maybe next time we'll space out the surveys a little and have one kid per week do one so I'm not to ashamed to go back.

5


I finished getting ready one morning and my preschooler told me, "That was a quick shower!"

It hadn't been particularly quick, so I figured he must have been really absorbed in an activity. "What were you doing out there?" I asked.

He shrugged.

"Because sometimes when you're doing something super-fun, it seems like time goes really quickly."

"I wasn't doing anything fun," he said. "Something super-fun would be like... I don't know. Like something with you!"

Cue all of the feelings.


6


My kids got a fort-building kit for Christmas.
They're busy building structures and covering them with sheets, but lately they've also been constructing these battle objects and trying to hit each other with them when I'm not looking.


The kids claim it's a club, but I think it looks like a coronavirus on a stick.

7


The mini fruit tarts from Take #3 were the treat for Family Home Evening this week. 

My daughter had the idea to take a photo, divide it into a grid, have each family member copy a section on a different piece of paper, and then tape them all together to see how it looks. She chose one of me and three of the kids making funny faces.

Afterwards, the kids topped their own mini tarts with fruit slices.


Made by the 6-year-old.

So how did the replica drawing we made turn out? 

Horrifying, thanks for asking.

The ogre in the top right corner is me, by the way, and I'm sorry in advance for haunting your dreams tonight.


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Friday, January 8, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Life Through the Eyes of a 6-Year-Old, Dueling Cashiers, and Sweet Things You Might See on TikTok

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

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you use them to buy something I will receive a commission for referring you.   

1


Because of concerns that students might have gotten COVID during travel or family get-togethers during Christmas break, the kids' first week back to school this week was entirely remote.

Today the school district is supposed to decide if it's safe to return to our normal hybrid model (2 days in person, 3 days remote), and I sure hope so. Yesterday I had to call my 6-year-old inside from running around in the yard so he could sit in front of his computer for gym class.

2


Something I enjoy about having the kids do school from home is the chance to see more of what they're working on during the day. I see them writing stories, drawing pictures, designing projects... and I learn a lot.

My 1st-grader's teacher assigned them to write and illustrate a journal entry of something they did over the break, and of course mine wrote about how every Christmas we make gingerbread houses and then smash them with a meat tenderizer on New Year's Day.

This is a kid living his best life.

Until I saw my son draw his life, I had no idea he sees it in such epic terms. In his mind, the meat tenderizer is a Medieval mace with a club the size of his torso. 

I have no idea what conclusions his teacher is going to draw from this assignment.

3


I ordered toilet paper from Walmart.com, and it came in a big box cushioned with a giant roll of plastic air pillows. 

I thought it was pretty silly, first of all because it doesn't really matter if toilet paper bangs around inside the box while shipping  it's not exactly fragile. In fact, you could technically ship something breakable using toilet paper to cushion it if you wanted to.

The second reason I thought it was ridiculous because the sleeve of air pillows was 35 feet long.

You have no idea how much fun my kids had with this.

The kids were wrapping themselves up like mummies and running races with it and finally just laid it all out in a straight line and bunny hopped across it to pop every single one. I'm deaf now.

Normally I can't stand waste or excess, but because it brought my kids so much joy I really can't be too mad at the guys at the factory who legitimately went nuts filling my box with air pillows. 

Also, having learned that air pillows are this satisfying to make, I have to be honest: I'd probably do the exact same thing in their position.

4


Often our weekly Family Home Evening lessons are more spiritual, but this week was just a fun one. 

First, the kids used our new ice cream ball which makes a pint of ice cream by just rolling it around and playing with it for 10 minutes. They reported that it was 2,500% more fun than turning the hand crank of our old ice cream maker for 40 minutes.

(I mean, to feed everyone we also had the old 4-quart one going at the same time, but when Phillip and I are empty nesters we are going to use that ball all. The. Time.)

Then we got out some of our new Christmas board games. Phillip played Planet with the little kids and they had a great time. 

I love pretty much every game from the Blue Orange company, and if I had to describe it in terms of copyright infringement I'd say it was Catan Lite for Kids™. The box said "8 and up" but our 6-year-old played with no problem and even the 4-year-old could do it with a little help (although the strategy part went over his head.)

While they were doing that, I took out Architects of the West Kingdom with the big kids. I knew it was a serious gamer's game but man, it is a Gamer's Game. We sat reading the novella of instructions it came with and just figuring out what all the pieces were for an hour. 

We took both games at the same time, but by the time we actually started our first round the little kids had already finished, cleaned up, and gotten into bed in their pajamas. Now that we know what we're doing, though, it's going to be super-fun and I can't wait to play again.

5


Our house is 5 minutes from two grocery stores. One is directly to the east of us, and the other is directly to the west. 

Both of our teenagers started working at the grocery store 5 minutes to the east, but one decided she didn't like it and searched for a job elsewhere. What she found was — you guessed it  a job at the opposite one.

So my daughters have jobs at rival grocery stores now, and I keep feeling like more jokes need to be made about that around here. 

They need to have a Who Wore It Best? contest with their uniforms. Or at least face off in a rap battle but with produce codes instead of lyrics. Or something.

6


Knowing that I'm mildly disturbed by the beloved children's book Love You Forever, a friend sent me this Huffington Post article called "Writer Reworks 'Love You Forever' To Take Out the Creepy Parts."

I'm not sure how legal it is to rework a book like this, but I do have to say it was a breath of fresh air to see the grown man finally setting some healthy boundaries with his mother and stopping the cycle of intergenerational stalking that's clearly going on.

7


I don't know anything about TikTok other than that it's spelled wrong, but sometimes they have TikTok challenges where they ask users to do something and film what happens.

Sometimes people make compilation videos of the results, and when "Babies Seeing Daddy Without a Beard for the First Time" popped up in my YouTube feed I watched it.

(Phillip grew a beard for about 6 months, and when he shaved it off and went to say hi to our 4-year-old the boy rolled on the floor with hysterical laughter like it was the silliest thing he ever saw.)

Now that I've watched one, YouTube is showing me a bunch of them. Some TikTok challenges are kind of like pranks so I don't like or watch those, but I can recommend a few of my favorites. 

If you're a pet-lover, you'll enjoy "Tell Your Dog a Story With His Favorite Words."

My favorite is "Cuddle With Your Kid While They Are Watching Cartoons." It embodies everything I love about having little kids. They're simply always happy to see you and be with you. Always.


If you don't cry while watching this, we probably don't have much in common. 

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Friday, January 1, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Happy Messes, Space Missions, and a Really Bizarre Experience Googling Fruit

Happy New Year! It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! 

1


Our Christmas Day was a happy one. We started out like always, corralling the kids in an upstairs bedroom to read Luke 2 before going downstairs for a full day of opening presents and playing with new stuff.

My gift from Phillip.

We tried to clean up the living room in between presents, but mostly it looked like this all day:

The happiest mess of the year.

Christmas is the one day of the year I don't mind the house being completely trashed. I mean, the next day I totally lose my mind, but for 24 hours I'm super-Zen about it.

2


The next morning we woke up and saw our Nativity set all disheveled among the wreckage from the previous day, and I have to say: it was a pretty accurate visual representation of how Phillip and I were feeling right about then.


3


I had one of those moments where I couldn't remember why I went in a room, so in hopes of jogging my memory I said out loud, "I was going to..."

My 4-year-old looked up and said, "...move to another planet?"

So I laughed and we started talking about planets. "Have people gone to Mars?" he asked.

"I don't think people have been there," I told him, "but I think we've sent robots to check it out and tell us about it."

"Wait  we  have?!"

Well, I meant "us" in the general sense of "humankind," not that Phillip and I have personally financed one or more unmanned missions to Mars. But I love that he thinks we could or did.

4


My 16-year-old has always been an adventurous eater. She's up for trying any new and different food. Even if she doesn't really like the taste, she always enjoys the experience.

So when I'm grocery shopping, I sometimes keep an eye out for "weird stuff" (i.e: things I can't identify and she therefore might like to try.) 

In the produce department saw this random fruit placed equally between the signs for "persimmon" and "passion fruit." I didn't know what either of those were, so I figured I'd get one for her.

My other daughter, who works at a grocery store, informed us it was a persimmon.

Once I'd gotten it home and we figured out what it was, my 16-year-old pulled out her phone to find out more about it. 

The first description to pop up on Google did not sound very appetizing:


Well. That sounds 95% like a scene from Alien and 5% like something I'd want to eat. And I'm being generous here.

Next, she tried this article from Treehugger and it didn't get any better.


I've never enjoyed a food  or even eaten a food  that I'd describe as "silky and slippery." What does that even mean when applied to food instead of kimonos or wet linoleum?

I do like mangoes, though, so I cautiously read on:


Wait, wait, wait. Hold on just a minute. 

So this fruit starts out "furry" and then ripens into a gelatinous mass of goo? And we can tell it's ripe, as the article goes on to explain, when it "feels like a not-quite-full water balloon?"

I cannot wait to see the look on my daughter's face when she finally tries this thing.

5


How are you all buying clothes during this pandemic? Stores around here have had their dressing rooms closed since March. 

That's okay for buying shirts, but shopping for jeans requires a dressing room. Jean shopping demands a dressing room.

If my teenager tries on 15 pairs of pants and one of them fits, we get so excited we roast a pig and have a full-on luau in the backyard. 

Am I really supposed to go buy hundreds of dollars of jeans, take them home to try them on, and then return hundreds of dollars of jeans that don't fit? That can't be what everyone else is doing, can it?

But we're desperate. One of my daughters has exactly one pair of pants and is just wearing shorts every day. Help!

6


We always make gingerbread houses during the week between Christmas and New Year's. We used to use kits, but last year we started making our own (using the shortcut of substituting graham crackers for gingerbread) and I love seeing the kids' creativity every year.

I love the two gummy bears sitting on the front porch.

This one has a flower garden with a toothpick fence around it.

I was blown away by the real shingles on this house.

Santa and his reindeer on the roof were a nice touch.

My son tried to make a person in the yard pointing at Santa by sticking a toothpick in a Sour Patch Kid, but it kind of looked like it was just aiming a bazooka at him so he took it down.

7


The second part of this tradition, and the real reason my kids love it so much, is that we let each of the kids smash their house with a meat tenderizer on New Years Day.


Except they didn't want to wait, and because not much else about 2020 has been conventional, we decided to just go ahead and do it on New Year's Eve.


My favorite was how these gummy bears were still just sitting calmly on the porch afterward like "This is fine."

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 in 12 Photos

I almost feel responsible for the unexpected way 2020 went, because it was the first year that Phillip and I got our acts together enough to sit down on January 1st and plan out our entire year. We should've known that was asking for disaster.

We were going to travel! Use every one of his vacation days to the fullest! It was going to be such a great year!

And in a lot of ways, it was a wonderful year for our family — just not in any of the ways we were envisioning.


This year I blogged less than I have in any other year, probably because for the last nine months the kids have all been home 24/7. By the time I'm finished getting everyone snacks, it's about time to go to bed.


In January, I watched Cool Runnings with the kids, stayed up late reading a book about cadavers, and got a cold for the first and last time this year. (Turns out that when my kids aren't allowed to lick other kids at school they bring home way fewer germs. Weird.)

I wrote 56 practical tips for raising independent kids, my daughter chose an unusual violin mantra, our Christmas tree from 2019 just wouldn't die, and we went to the library and ended up watching a fire dancer.


I learned in February that if you've never seen 6 excited kids meeting 10 excited puppies, you don't know what chaos is. 

My 8-year-old got in trouble for running up a $200 tab on her school lunch account (guess it's all that independence I wrote about in January.) I tricked Phillip into making a triceratops cake and remembered why I was so exhausted when the kids were little and I had to drag them all to the store all the time.

We got new couches and I took a 90-minute dip in a sensory deprivation tank. I also took a shot at being wise and cobbled together 30 lessons I've learned from 15 years of parenting.


Watching everything grind to a halt in March felt like watching a car accident happen in slow motion. The kids were slightly disappointed when all their things were canceled, but we adapted. Having home church and spending so much time together ended up being a huge blessing.

Phillip finished his grow-a-beard experiment and ended it by trolling his parents into thinking he'd shaved it into a bushy 1980s mustache.

Lastly, an obscene amount of traffic suddenly started arriving at my post 20 Things to Do When You're Trapped Indoors with Tiny Humans, which unfortunately was a sarcastic post I'd written years ago that was no help whatsoever for beleaguered parents in quarantine, so I decided to write a real one.


Quarantine still felt like an excessive April Fool's joke, but we tried to make the best of it. Phillip made some serious progress on finishing the basement while the kids and I floated homemade boats in our driveway puddle and made up themed days of the week.

We watched General Conference and made one teensy visit to urgent care so the 6-year-old could get his head stapled shut. Apparently where there's a will there's a way, and kids can hurt themselves even when they aren't allowed to leave the house or see other children.


My blog joined Instagram but just between you and me, I think I'm about 10 years to old to even be on the platform. I have no idea what I'm doing there.

We called 911 when my 11-year-old fell and had a seizure, and in tamer moments, we made our own ice cream and I celebrated my 38th birthday.


After a full year of pleading from the 8-year-old, we finally caved and got two pet rats. Though we love Scout and Piper, both turned out to be pregnant and we lost both litters in the most traumatic way; none of us even want to talk about it.

We got in touch with nature and made birch beer floats from scratch (we boiled sticks from the woods and everything) and played with a mole we caught in the yard

On the blog, I published some musings on when you're done having babies as well as a roundup of 7 Zoom features I wish I could use in real life


In July we bought a van! Our old one was on its last legs and hardly made it to the dealership. I also wrote what reality shows would be like if parents wrote them.

With nothing else to do all summer, our calendar was wide open for our annual pretend trip around the world. Usually we have enough free time to cover 4 or 5 countries; this summer we covered 9. 

This month we lost our minds over falafel in Israel (in general it was a really good summer for international food), visited a butterfly garden in Mexico, and got totally confused about how Komodo dragons work in Indonesia.


In August, we took a family camping trip to the most beautiful campsite I've ever been to in my life... even if it did have pit toilets.

In our continuing fake trip around the world, we learned about MoroccoThailandSaudi ArabiaCuba, and Somalia (my favorite moment: when we sat down to watch a movie about Somali pirates and the standard pre-show warning came on that "piracy is not a victimless crime.")

In real life, we sourced two huge couches from Facebook Marketplace and put them stadium-style in the basement to watch movies, I fell in love with Alanis Morisette all over again, and the kids entertained themselves with a bag of rice and a package of balloons for an entire weekend.



Society hesitantly decided to try life again this month. My 14-year-old had a weird outdoor masked violin recital and the kids started hybrid school, which sure made for different "first day of school" pictures than in years past.

We met our friendly neighborhood black bear for the first time (but not the last one), my 9x13" pan shattered in the oven, and I was almost maimed by shards of glass from an exploding bottle

It was an exciting month.


I could not stop drooling over the fall colors in October. This unedited picture was taken with my about 15 minutes from my house. (I don't have a nice camera, I just live on the cover of a Hallmark card.)

I enjoyed the simple moments like watching a tree removal company at work with my little boys, and even when our town made the jerk move of cancelling trick-or-treating at the last minute we still had a great time at home

I got trapped in a giant hedge maze with a child who needed to pee and stayed up until 2 A.M. making a massive rainbow surprise birthday cake. On the blog, I suggested some new parenting-related dictionary entries for consideration by Merriam-Webster. 


In November, I started teaching my oldest how to drive, Phillip turned 40, and we took a quick couple's trip to a little artsy town on the coast while our kids held down the fort at home. 

A friend's teenager taught me how to use a record player and my 9-year-old talked us into letting her get a crayfish named Phredd. Phredd kind of creeps us all out, but it's not his fault. We're just not that into disgusting-looking crustaceans.


Since we didn't really go anywhere (remember all those plans we made at the beginning of the year? Pfft.) Phillip took all his vacation in a big chunk at Christmastime and got a ton of work done on the house. 

The kids drew names for "Secret Sibling" and told the secret immediately, but I guess it's the thought that counts. We also waited too long and couldn't find a Christmas tree anywhere, so we had to improvise and I actually loved the end result.

2020 was an unconventional year that called for bottomless reserves of adaptability, understanding, and resilience. Pretty much everything from March onward was either canceled or bore little resemblance to how it usually looks. 

But it was a year where my kids became better friends and our family scripture study became more regular and meaningful. I think we're all thriving, and a lot of it is directly due to the unique circumstances 2020 handed to us.

Happy New Year's, and see you in 2021!

(Want more? Never fear, you can still read the Evans family's "12 Photos" updates from 2019. 2018. 2017, 2016, and 2015!)

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Shady Google Assistants, the Butterfly Effect, and A Little Holiday Trigonometry

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

1


My 16-year-old has been giving away handmade cards to our friends and family during the holiday season, and a few days ago she came to me. 

"All of a sudden I'm getting a bunch of ads for greeting cards," she said. "Is Google spying on me?" 

I started to answer, but my 14-year-old just picked up her phone to ask Google Assistant about it directly. This was how it defended itself against the accusation:




I don't know. That sounds, as the kids say, immediate sus.

2


Lately I've been on a homemade snacks kick. I kind of always am, but now I'm actually making the recipes instead of just Pinning them.

First I tried these green smoothie bars (except I made them in muffin form,) but nobody liked them. Some were more diplomatic about it than others. I asked my teenager what she thought and in a super-positive voice she answered "They taste... healthy!" Bless her heart.

I had more success with fruit leather. For my first attempt, I chose a banana orange recipe and was told by several of my kids that it's "like eating banana bread." I mean, actual banana bread is way less work so maybe next time I'll just do that, but still.

3


You all know I love parenting booksso I was intrigued when I saw this TED talk entitled "Why Most Parenting Advice Is Wrong." 


Several times this week, I've caught me debating myself over the content of this talk. This TED talk is the verbal equivalent of the optical illusion that is two pictures at once, but no matter how hard you try you can't see them at the same time. Do we matter or don't we?

Whatever the answer, we can at least agree with speaker's choice of opening metaphor. In comparing parenting to the Butterfly Effect, she likens children to the hurricane  and we all know that children are always the hurricane.

—4


My 14-year-old, who is a cashier at the grocery store, was so excited to go to work on Christmas Eve. She could barely contain her excitement as she told me, "It's my LAST DAY of listening to Christmas music!"

As much as I love little Michael Jackson singing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," I can imagine it would get old after 40+ hours.

Everybody likes Christmas music, except for people who work in retail.

—5


Our family has had to improvise a lot this Christmas. We usually stay here for the holidays, but COVID has impacted our plans in other ways.

For instance, looking at Christmas lights. We drove around and picked the house with the best light display like always, but instead of ding dong ditching a plate of thank-you cookies at their doorstep we just left a note in their mailbox. (That was a little disappointing, because watching my teens take a running leap into the van as Phillip peels out is one of the highlights of the season for me.)

We also couldn't find a ham for our traditional Christmas dinner. I planned to pick one up on my regular weekly shopping trip and they were out, and Phillip later went to three different grocery stores before he came in triumphantly announcing, "I got the last one in New England!"

Lastly, there was a run on Christmas trees. I guess it makes sense, since everyone is staying home and getting a tree instead of traveling and enjoying their mother-in-law's tree or whatever. We planned to get one sometime this week, but by then it was too late and the places we looked at were sold out.

—6


The truth is, we didn't really look too hard for a tree. Our family is good at adapting, and I didn't want to take the last tree away from someone who would be devastated not to have one on Christmas.

We'd be fine with a substitute; it could even be fun. But what? We thought about making a full-size dowel Christmas tree, but by the time I priced it all out it was too expensive.

Here's what we came up with: 


Using boards left over from replacing our front porch (I believe the Pinterest term is "reclaimed wood,") Phillip built a 6' triangle. Cutting all the angles correctly requires some pretty intense mathematical calculations, so we jokingly call it "the trigonometree." 

The boys helped pound nails around the sides at 4" intervals. Then we strung Christmas lights from the nails, propped it up on the wall, and hung ornaments from it.

Don't worry, it's anchored to the wall with a nail and some wire.

In the end, our one-time makeshift solution was something we liked so much that we're keeping it to use again. Not every year, but it will definitely be back.

Sincerely looks like something you'd see on Instagram.

—7

A few nights ago, it occurred to me that we should get a 2020 ornament. We always buy an ornament whenever we go on vacation, so decorating our tree at Christmas is like taking a walk down memory lane.

We didn't go anywhere this year, but it was such a significant event that I decided to order this ornament from Etsy. It says "the year we stayed home."

Because we were lucky enough to enjoy good health and a good financial situation, "the year we stayed home" was the most magical year of my life. 

Instead of going their separate ways to their separate activities, my younger kids were having school recess together in the yard and my older kids were hanging out and binge-watching shows together. The unexpected gift of so much time together led us to grow spiritually and emotionally more than I thought possible.

I think that's definitely worth having an ornament to remember it by, don't you?

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Friday, December 18, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Sorcery with Bread Products, Adjusting Your Rear Climate, and a Middle-Aged Person's Rant about Appliances

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

1


My oldest daughter was given a copy of the French version of Harry Potter


As she read, she was sharing a few choice differences from the English version with me, like the fact that Hufflepuff becomes "Poufsouffle" or that Voldemort's middle name is Elvis so the letters make sense as an anagram later in the book.

But my personal favorite is that all the French witches and wizards run around with magic baguettes. I mean, "baguettes magiques."

Upon further investigation, my daughter found that the French word 'baguette' refers to any small, thin object. Like chopsticks and, I guess, the loaf of bread.

Okay, but still. 

I'd pay money to see a shot-for-shot remake of the original movies, but with Hogwarts as a bakery and all the students performing their spells using rolls of delicious French crusty bread.

2


I told you how I've been enjoying the heated seats in my new van, and how much the kids are enjoying inventing new names for the heated seat feature.

But now there's a new joke.

It all started when my daughter got off work early and got cold while waiting outside for me to come pick her up. When I pulled up she jumped in the van and immediately started searching for the button to turn on the heated seats.

Her outstretched finger hovered over the console, moving from the picture of the heated seats to the words "rear climate" and then back again, unsure of which one to press.

We burst out laughing, sure that the designers of the console never anticipated the confusion. The phrase "rear climate" refers to the temperature in the backseat, but you have to admit it causes some momentary uncertainty when you're looking to adjust the climate of your own rear end.

3


My kids were arguing with each other over who was the weirdest, and in what way. 

I was committed to staying out of it, but the discussion ended with my 16-year-old telling me "Your uterus is a weirdness amplification machine."

Which is something the baby books frankly don't tell you to be prepared for.

4


When I wrote our family's Christmas letter to mail out with our cards, I really had to hold myself back from just complaining about appliances the entire time.

Not only have all the appliances that were in the kitchen when we moved here 10 years ago died, we're also starting to go through the replacement generation.

Our fridge was a very nice fridge, and it died this summer after about 5 years. Then our oven, which was also a splurge item for us, started getting finicky about recognizing when the door is shut. In November, our microwave (which was not our first or our second, but our third microwave since moving here) died.

We didn't replace it for a month, we were so mad.

We decided we were idiots to keep buying new appliances that would break immediately, anyway, so this time Phillip went on Facebook Marketplace and bought a used microwave for $50.

When he got home I asked "How'd it go? Did you get the microwave?"

Phillip laughed and said, "I got it. The guy had it out in his barn, so I'm following this stranger out to his dark barn thinking, 'I'm going to die for a $50 microwave.'" 

But it turns out he wasn't a serial killer and the microwave works great. We'll see for how long.

5


The next day, our washing machine's spin cycle broke down. This wasn't totally unexpected. In fact, it's a miracle it hasn't had problems until now. It's the original one that was here when we moved in, and since then we've used it for 10 years doing an average of a load a day.

I had to remove the wet load of laundry from the washer and wring it out by hand before throwing it in the dryer, which was awful. I will never again romanticize anytime before 1908 when the electric washing machine was invented.

One thing I love about being married to Phillip, is that when I tell him something is broken he immediately takes it all apart, spends 30 minutes on YouTube teaching himself to be a Kenmore repairman, then diagnoses the problem and orders the part needed to fix it.


6


The reason Phillip was able to get to the washing machine so quickly is because he's on vacation. He's taking a long stretch of vacation from now through New Year's when we'd hoped he could get so much done on the basement, but unfortunately that's not the way it's been going so far.

We could look at it two ways: either it's super lame that the minute he gets free time everything breaks, or it's really fortunate that everything broke when he had the time to fix it.

I'm trying to have the second attitude, and it's working about 55% of the time.

7

When I was a kid and my mom worked as a prepress technician, sometimes when they needed extra help assembling the newspaper inserts in the back room they'd call in the kids of employees to help. A bunch of us would stand in a row at a long table in front of stacks of papers that we had to pile together in a certain way and stuff in envelopes.

I carry on that same proud tradition with my own children now, except that instead of getting paid in cash they're working for cookies, and they're stuffing envelopes with our Christmas card and letter and putting stamps on them. I love seeing my table of busy little elves hard at work.

We were set up assembly-line style and my daughter, whose job was sticking on these Snowy Day stamps I got from the post office, asked "Are these Teletubbies?"

Sorry, Ezra Jack Keats.

So merry Christmas from Po, I guess. Dipsy, Tinky-Winky, and Laa-Laa say hi.

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