Friday, November 8, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Seeing Beavers and Rich People, Reclaiming Saturday, and Cute Baby Overload

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


I was patting myself on the back for remembering to put out some Halloween decorations this year.

Only a few days ago did I remember that when you put up seasonal decorations, you also have to take them back down at some point.

So I went to take down the festive blocks spelling out "Happy Halloween" in our front entryway and realized how perfectly appropriate it is that not only is it November, but my sign is also missing a letter and was at some point rearranged by a child to say "__ HPY P  HALLOWEEN."

Click to read the funniest summary of the week from your favorite family of 8 on the block! This week's 7 Quick Takes will make you laugh, cry, and feel better about your family chaos.  #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #funny #real #bigfamily


My kids had Tuesday off from school because the school gym is used for elections, so we had a full day on our hands.

I pulled up a map of conservation land for the town next to us and chose a trail we'd never been on, and it turned out to be awesome. Not only were all 6 of the kids together (kind of a rarity now that the 15-year-old has so many after-school activities,) but part of the trail went along a beautiful pond with an apparently vibrant beaver community.

We saw several trees that had been chewed (or were in the process of being chewed) by beavers, and two beaver dams. My 2nd grader just read about beavers in school so she immediately flipped into tour guide mode and was telling us all about them.

Click to read the funniest summary of the week from your favorite family of 8 on the block! This week's 7 Quick Takes will make you laugh, cry, and feel better about your family chaos.  #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #funny #real #bigfamily
Skipping rocks.

We took the wrong fork in the trail on the way back, which at first seemed like a disappointment but turned out to be great. Instead of going through the woods to get back to the car, we walked through a really hoity-toity neighborhood and gawked at all the fancy houses.

I enjoyed myself when I wasn't hissing at the kids, "Stay off the rich peoples' grass!!"


Soccer is over for the season! 

I'm not sure why I continue to pay the activity fees when most of the time I'm desperately doing rain dances in the backyard to get every practice and game cancelled.

All I know is that when the ref blows the whistle at the end of the last game of the season, it makes me involuntarily do this:

Click to read the funniest summary of the week from your favorite family of 8 on the block! This week's 7 Quick Takes will make you laugh, cry, and feel better about your family chaos.  #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #funny #real #bigfamily

And this:

Click to read the funniest summary of the week from your favorite family of 8 on the block! This week's 7 Quick Takes will make you laugh, cry, and feel better about your family chaos.  #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #funny #real #bigfamily

And I think I even do this:

Click to read the funniest summary of the week from your favorite family of 8 on the block! This week's 7 Quick Takes will make you laugh, cry, and feel better about your family chaos.  #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #funny #real #bigfamily

BECAUSE WE HAVE OUR SATURDAYS BACK AGAIN! I know soccer is great exercise and the kids get to learn the reward of hard work and practice and they enjoy running around on a team with their friends... but do you know what's better than that?


Click to read the funniest summary of the week from your favorite family of 8 on the block! This week's 7 Quick Takes will make you laugh, cry, and feel better about your family chaos.  #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #funny #real #bigfamily

Really looking forward to this Saturday.


My 5-year-old is really into dinosaurs right now. I admit to engineering his newfound passion, because we may or may not have recently acquired a big box of plastic dinosaur toys that will make a great Christmas gift for someone who's very interested in dinosaurs by December.

I'm sort of a gift opportunist.

We check out a big stack of dinosaur books from the library every week, and he loves them. In fact, I read them to him while he's eating to trick him into staying at the table. I don't know why, but that kid eats like a bird and wanders away after two bites, even if he's actually hungry.


While we were stocking up on dinosaur books at the library, I also checked out Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to introduce it to my 3-year-old. He calls it Chicken Chicken Boom Boom and I'm sorry, but I'm just not correcting that.

Coincidentally, this week my 8th grader came home incensed over a "new" version of the alphabet song (it's actually 7 years old from an ESL learning site but apparently it just went viral, the Internet is weird.)

As a side note, I'm writing this with my 3-year-old sitting on my lap who is now laughing hysterically because "they're doing it wrong!"


I've been going through our old pictures and making a slideshow for our 8-year-old's upcoming baptism.

In our church, we don't baptize babies. We wait until they're older because (1) we want them to understand what they're doing, and (2) we believe in baptism by immersion (a.k.a: the full-body dunk.)

Anyway, we need to fill the time when she's getting dried off and changed after going under the water, so I'm making a slideshow of her from birth to present day to play in the interim.

Going through 8 years of pictures might be torture for some people, but it means I get to go look at cute pictures like this, so I really can't say I mind.

Click to read the funniest summary of the week from your favorite family of 8 on the block! This week's 7 Quick Takes will make you laugh, cry, and feel better about your family chaos.  #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #funny #real #bigfamily
I'm so tired in this picture I probably don't even know my own name.

I started by scrolling chronologically through our entire photo library, but learned halfway through that Amazon photo storage has amazing facial recognition capabilities that made the process a million times easier.

It could identify my daughter's face from the time she was a few weeks old, which boggles my mind, considering I usually can't tell which newborn I'm holding without looking at the date stamp.


Speaking of babies in the house, we watched a friend's kids for a few hours on Wednesday. My  middle schoolers happened to have an early release day so they had fun holding and playing with her 6-month-old, who is probably the happiest baby I've ever met.

As he grinned wide-eyed and drooling at my 13-year-old, she commented, "He kind of looks like a crazy person who is also really adorable."

Yep, that's a baby. Insane, super-cute, and with a disproportionately huge head. Is it any wonder we love them?

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Friday, November 1, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Faking Trust at Great Clips, Riding with Darth Vader, and Distressing Things To Put On Your Floor

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


Up until about an hour before we went trick-or-treating, I wasn't sure at all how it was going to go, or if it was going to happen at all.

It's been raining here for the past four days (I know because the kids left a bunch of their outdoor toys outside and I keep waiting for them to dry out before dragging them back in the garage and it's not happening.)

But about an hour before trick-or-treating, the rain mysteriously stopped. So I threw a broccoli quinoa casserole in the oven for a quick meal (apparently I wanted everyone to eat zero bites of dinner and save plenty of room for candy) and all 8 of us went out trick-or-treating, after all.


It was, I think, the best Halloween we've ever had. It wasn't raining. It wasn't cold. Everyone had fun and no one complained or had to be carried for the last 20 minutes.

The 3-year-old was a lumberjack, the 7-year-old was a ballerina, and the 13-year-old was an elf. She made the coolest elven headpiece using wire from the basement and some craft jewels and hot glue:

Pull up a chair and laugh along in this week's 7 Quick Takes Friday, where Jenny of Unremarkable Files gets real about Halloween, haircut roulette, and distressed rugs. #7qt #7quicktakes #unremarkablefiles #bigfamilies #funny #real

The 11-year-old was a banana for the third year in a row, and the 15-year-old and the 5-year-old decided to do a joint costume and be Loki and Thor. I would show you pictures, but you'd die from the cuteness.


This week, I got a haircut that was several years overdue.

I don't have a regular hairstylist. I just walk into Great Clips when my hair has gotten so long it's driving me crazy and ask the nearest person with scissors to get rid of it.

After looking at the picture of the short cut I wanted, the random guy doing my hair sat me down in the chair and asked, "Do you trust me?"

I said yes, which is code for "not really, but it's hair and it grows back and I have a coupon that expires this week and I have to pick up my son from soccer in 35 minutes," and he chopped it all off.

Pull up a chair and laugh along in this week's 7 Quick Takes Friday, where Jenny of Unremarkable Files gets real about Halloween, haircut roulette, and distressed rugs. #7qt #7quicktakes #unremarkablefiles #bigfamilies #funny #real

Pull up a chair and laugh along in this week's 7 Quick Takes Friday, where Jenny of Unremarkable Files gets real about Halloween, haircut roulette, and distressed rugs. #7qt #7quicktakes #unremarkablefiles #bigfamilies #funny #real

And do you know what? It was the best cut I've ever gotten playing the Great Clips roulette game.

Usually, I have to trim it up so much at home afterward that I'm basically giving myself a second haircut, but this time I barely messed with it at all. I guess I should have trusted him.


My 8-year-old got her ears pierced. There may have been some peer pressure factoring into her decision which kind of irritates me, but I suppose there are worse things. Her friends could be jumping off bridges.

Anyway, she's very happy with her new earrings and enjoyed showing them off to the rest of the family when we came home from Claire's.

My older two daughters, who have never had one iota of desire to pierce their ears, agreed that they were nice, but just... why.

"I mean, I understand why you'd want your ears pierced because they look pretty," my 13-year-old said. "It's just... 'I'm going to poke holes in my ears so I can hang stuff from them?' I'm sorry, that's weird. I don't get it."

They get their freakishly disproportionate sense of practicality from me, I'm afraid.


When we went to Claire's for the ear piercing, we pulled up next to this car in the parking lot which gave me a laugh.

Pull up a chair and laugh along in this week's 7 Quick Takes Friday, where Jenny of Unremarkable Files gets real about Halloween, haircut roulette, and distressed rugs. #7qt #7quicktakes #unremarkablefiles #bigfamilies #funny #real

It's just a sticker in the window, but my 5-year-old was convinced it was a real guy in a costume and steered clear.


We've been shopping for area rugs online and saw a lot of "distressed" rugs.

I can see how the distressed look adds a whimsical, sort of rustic charm to some things, but I don't think it applies to rugs. Doesn't a distressed rug just look like... a worn-out rug?

Maybe if all the rest of your stuff is nice, people will get that your rug is only distressed in an ironic way. But in our house, everything (including me) looks distressed because it genuinely is, so when I pay money for something I'd like to enjoy it looking nice for at least a little while before the kids completely wear it out!


In other good news, my 3-year-old won the Halloween coloring contest at our local grocery store. We go to pick up his prize (a $50 gift card to the movies!) this afternoon.

We're really excited, even though the winners must have been randomly drawn from a hat because he's only three and, to be perfectly honest, it wasn't even his best work.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

7 Things People Don't Understand about Big Familes

I have 6 children, and over the years I've fielded my fair share of curious inquiries, raised eyebrows, and occasional shocked silence about it.

Most people aren't straight-up rude. But it's clear many of them share some common misunderstandings about big families, and today I'd like to set the record straight.

Big Family Fact #1: The Kids Don't Come All At Once

Some people assume I had 6 kids because I possess some magical quality that makes parenting super-easy for me. I wish that were true, but no. I've always been at my max as far as parenting goes.

Fortunately for me, a basket full of 6 children wasn't delivered to my doorstep when I became a mom. The kids came one at a time, as kids usually do, and I figured it out as I went.

Think of it like this: if n is the number of children you can handle, when you have a big family all you have to do is + 1. You do that once, then twice, then three or more times, and that's it. That's the secret.

(And remember, that also means anything less than n is comparatively easy. Even though I was once completely overwhelmed by the daily care and feeding of two tiny humans, today if 4 of my 6 children are out of the house it feels like I'm vacationing at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun.)

Big Family Fact #2: The Kids Are Not All the Same Age

When people hear "six kids" and I see the look in their eyes, I think they're picturing me at home with 6 toddlers or trying to buckle 6 kids in their carseats every time we run errands.

But in reality, the older ones are independent and helpful while the younger ones are affectionate and cute and able to lift the moods of everyone in the family.

If you've spent much time with children, you'll know that every age and stage has parts that are really hard and parts that are absolutely delightful. So it makes sense that big families mean both more hard work and more delight.

I really don't think having a large family is harder, it's just more. Of everything.

Big Family Fact #3: The Younger Kids Learn From the Older Ones. Mostly Good Things.

Once I went to a botanical garden with a friend who had one toddler, and she couldn't believe how well he was staying with us. "If it was just me and my husband," she kept saying, "we'd be chasing him all over the place. But he sees all your kids walking away and he's like, 'Oh! The bus is leaving!' and runs after them."

That kind of thing happens all the time. For better or for worse, I feel like the kids have a bigger impact on each other than Phillip and I sometimes do.

The younger kids are always watching the older ones, and more often than not they're learning good things. Not always, mind you, but I think it's a net positive. So in some ways, having a large family actually makes the younger kids a little easier to raise.

Big Family Fact #4: Kids Aren't Exponentially Harder (Or More Expensive)

One comment I get all the time is "Wow, six kids?! I can barely handle my one/two..."

I get why people might assume 6 kids are three times harder than 2, or six times harder than 1, but it doesn't actually work that way. In some ways it's harder (I do more multitasking and have to balance very different sets of needs) but in other ways it's easier (I have babysitters and drivers, and the kids can play together while I'm occupied.)

That's actually the same reason I hate the USDA child cost calculator, which assumes I'm buying a new crib, a complete wardrobe, a bigger house, and a larger car with the birth of each child. Like hard work, new family members add expenses to the family  but not exponentially.

Big Family Fact #5: There's No "Typical" Big Family Mom

Oddly enough, the other comment I get most is: "Really? You don't look like you have six kids!"

I'm not sure if that means they think I look too skinny or too happy or what, but let me tell you there are all kinds of big family moms. We don't "look" like anything.

I know a lot of women with 5+ kids. Some are super-organized and some are dumpster fires. Some planned all their kids and some didn't. Some are ridiculously wealthy and some aren't. As far as I know, there's not a typical big family mom.

Big Family Fact #6: There Are Lots of Ways to Spend Time Together

Sometimes people talk as if you can only create good family relationships with weekly parent-child "dates" to Super Fun World for bowling and mediocre pizza. But I disagree.

Not only do I think time together can be just as meaningful when siblings or the whole family is around, I also believe that what really counts is the sum of the ordinary interactions we have with each other.

There may be two or three kids sharing my lap when we read bedtime stories, but it doesn't mean we don't have fun and create positive moments together every day.

Big Family Fact #7: It's Not Hard to Tell My Kids Apart

Really, it's not. It's hard for you to conceptualize when you see all 6 of my kids piling out of my van in the parking lot, but I know each one of them as well as you know your children.

Most of the time, I forget we're a big family by most people's standards, and when I see another group of 8 people walking around I think, "Oh my gosh, do we really look that huge?"

I may accidentally call my kids by the wrong name 75% of the time, but that's not exactly a problem unique to big families. I know because I grew up with one brother and a dog, and I learned to respond to their names as well as my own.

—   —   —   

Do these 7 actual, true facts about having a large family seem obvious to me? Yes.

But based on the comments and wrinkled-up noses I've gotten when I tell people I have 6 kids, I think they still need to be said.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

7 Quick Takes about the Fountain of Youth, Unearthing Memories That Should Stay Buried, and Not Shoplifting from the Drugstore

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


This morning I checked my phone and found a glorious text: a friend was cancelling plans we had for today.

It wasn't even that I didn't want to see her, it's just that I was checking my phone after a 30-minute whirlwind of barely getting the little kids to the bus stop in time (rush them without yelling or they get flustered and go slower! remind the 5-year-old to keep eating or he'll get distracted and end up consuming .75 calories for breakfast!) while the 3-year-old followed me around hitting me for not immediately producing a freshly-made breakfast smoothie (now that the bus is finally here, he's in time-out.)

It's hard to wake up feeling behind every morning. (Case in point, it's 9:21 AM and I'm just now writing my first of 7 Quick Takes while the kitchen counter is in danger of collapsing under the weight of all the dirty dishes.)

The simple solution is to just get things done the night before so I feel like I got shot out of a cannon into Wal-Mart on Black Friday every morning, but to do that I'd have to first figure out how to catch up which I'm clearly having trouble doing in the first place. Any suggestions?


Phillip is what I like to affectionately call a food snob. Among other endearing attributes, food snobs are constantly obsessed with one "miracle food" or another, particularly if it's:
  • healthy
  • all natural
  • bad-tasting
  • expensive
  • hard to pronounce
They can't stop talking about this food, touting the health benefits of it, and putting it in all their meals. That's okay. Once the fad runs its course and they've moved on to a new food obsession, you're left with a pantry full of chia seeds, coconut oil, and quinoa which are legitimately good for you and you can use them like a normal person instead of like a zealot.

And truth be told, I think Phillip is rubbing off on me.

Recently, he went on a trip with some guy friends and discovered that one who we always thought was our age (Phillip and I are 36 and 37) is actually 57 YEARS OLD. The man looks 20 years younger than he actually is. So under cover of darkness in a clandestine location, Phillip asked him where lies the fountain of youth and his friend replied: cod liver oil.

I think you can guess where this is going.

But this time, Phillip convinced me to come along for the ride and now here we are, drinking a teaspoon of cod liver oil every day with all the kids making fun us, and you know what? It isn't even that horrible. Plus, I'm going to look 17 again any day now. So.


After the Great Closet Shutdown of 2019, Phillip built new shelves that are actually capable of holding up all our stuff, but then the real work began: I had to put everything back in the finished closet.

As often happens with closets, lots of things had made their way in there over the years that had no real business being in a closet, so there was a lot of decluttering to do first.

But after several days of effort and lots of trash bags, it looks beautiful. I only felt slightly bad about throwing away our wedding video on VHS. (Don't worry, we kept the DVD! We were just married in that weird inbetween period when people were still using both.)


One of the items unearthed from the closet was a box of my old journals that I'm not sure what to do with. I would feel bad burning them, but they also contain personal details I never want anyone to read about, ever.

Not only are they embarrassing, but in my younger years I swore like a sailor and did/thought about a lot of things I would never do or think about now, and the last thing I want is for my grandkids to gather round someday after I'm gone to read about my life and THAT is the legacy I've left behind!

So anyway, as I was staring at the box mulling over that very dilemma, my 7-year-old walked in and asked "What's that? Your journals? Can I read them?"

I told her to go away but then felt bad for dashing her interest in my life, and called her back. I fished through the box to find the oldest one, written when I was in first grade, and figuring there couldn't be anything too bad in there, I handed it to her.

I kid you not, after about 5 seconds she started giggling uncontrollably and squealed, "'Jonathan kissed me on the bus'???" Indignantly I grabbed it back, packed up the journals, and put the box on the highest shelf while she ran out of the room yelling "Hey guys, Jonathan kissed mom on the bus!"

I was just debating buying a padlock on Amazon when Phillip, who knows I dated a guy named John in high school before I met him, yelled from the other room: "Wait, there was another John?"

The bonfire will be this weekend.


I always think it's hilarious when my kids have to draw family pictures in school or church. With 8 people in the family, it just takes the poor kids so long!

My 5-year-old recently brought this page home from kindergarten entitled "My Family."

"Nice," I said, examining his picture. "Who is who?"

Their dad and I are mostly finished (please notice my two different-colored eyes, which is not that noticeable in person or in photos, but the kids ALWAYS include it in their drawings of me) but the rest of the family are just disembodied heads, and one person is missing altogether.

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday with the Unremarkable Files family! Come for the honest truth about parenting and life with kids, stay for the laughs. 7 Quick Takes is a hilarious way to start your Friday! #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #funny #real #lifewithkids

When I asked about the missing person, my 5-year-old just shrugged and said, "I couldn't fit any more heads."


In some towns in New England, plastic bags are banned altogether. But even in places where they aren't, there seems to be a concerted effort to avoid using them. Cashiers always ask now if I want a bag instead of automatically bagging my purchase.

On my last couponing trip to CVS, I happened to see a few backpacks on clearance, so I tossed one in my cart for future use. When I paid for all my stuff at the register, the cashier asked, "Should I just put everything in the backpack?"

"Sure!" I answered, thinking it sounded like a great way to save the planet. Only as I was walking out did I realize it was a really bad idea.

When I simply leave a store without buying anything, I already feel like everyone suspects me of shoplifting. That feeling is magnified by a factor of about a million when I'm literally walking out of the store WITH A BACKPACK FULL OF MERCHANDISE.

"Act natural, you're innocent!" I kept telling myself on my way out the doors. Somehow I made it to the car without being tackled into the bushes by security, but next time I'm definitely bringing my reusable bags from the grocery store. Just in case.


I felt really proud of myself this week for going up in the garage loft and taking down our small box of Halloween decorations. It's been years since those things have seen the light of day.

My kids sometimes ask why we don't really decorate for holidays, and honestly it's because I feel like life is too chaotic already, and seasonal decorating is one of the things I have consciously chosen to let go of. (Except for Christmas, but even then it's pretty minimal by most peoples' standards.)

This year, though, I tried. The kids particularly loved the string of jack-o-lantern lights on stakes that I placed along the front walkway, which I somehow acquired years ago but have never, ever used.

The high lasted for just under 24 hours, when my 3-year-old ran into the end one with his trike and broke it, resulting in a long lecture about Why We Can't Have Nice Things™ that went completely over his head.

Seriously, though, this is why I don't bother putting up seasonal decorations. The kids break them in less time than it takes to set them up.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Closets That Gave Up, Theories about the Universe, and People Not to Call if You're Dying

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


This week our closet shelves, after 10 years of faithful service, gave up the will to live.

They collapsed in the middle of the night with a gigantic crash, and while it made Phillip jump 3 feet out of bed like a cartoon character, I was sleeping so soundly I barely heard it.

On this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes, the Unremarkable Files family takes on everything from mermaids to closets to Forrest Gump. Get ready to laugh. #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #reallife #relatable #funny
This mess was brought to you by cheap wire shelving, with additional support from too much crap.

In the morning I surveyed the remains and sighed, "At least there wasn't a baby in there," since over the years we've sometimes had children sleeping in a Pack 'n Play in the closet.

"I thought of that," Phillip said, "But I wasn't going to say anything because I didn't want you to worry."

Ha! As if he could ever beat me to a worry.

By the time he worries about something, I guarantee you I've not only had that worry, I've also worried over worrying too much about it.

Which is exactly why I made him move the last baby out of the closet when we had him sleeping in there a few years ago. #MomsCanSeeTheFuture


So our Columbus Day was spent rebuilding the closet. It took all day, but Phillip designed, bought materials for, and installed new shelves that aren't going anywhere this time.

On this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes, the Unremarkable Files family takes on everything from mermaids to closets to Forrest Gump. Get ready to laugh. #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #reallife #relatable #funny

The 3-year-old had fun "working," which mostly meant carrying Phillip's studfinder all over the house and moving it around on random walls.


While Phillip was busy with the closet and the little kids were running around losing his tools, I took the older kids winter clothes shopping.

I never do this, but I spotted an ICEE machine by the registers in Target and asked if they wanted to get one. I have fond memories my parents buying me an ICEE when we went shopping as a kid, and I haven't had one for decades.

Back then, the only two flavors were cherry and blue raspberry, but I saw they'd added to their repertoire:

On this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes, laugh and cry along with us as the Unremarkable Files family takes on everything from mermaids to closets to Forrest Gump. Get ready to laugh. #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #reallife #relatable #funny
"Mermaid" is now a flavor, apparently.

"Mermaid?" my daughter asked, "What does that taste like? Fish and human flesh? Gross."

I tried it, and I can tell you now what mermaids taste like: sugar. Lots of it.


Fashion in the last few years has gone back to the 90s, and lately I've been noticing some 80s creeping in. Are we going backward through time at an accelerated pace? And if so, when will it stop? By the time my 15-year-old graduates from high school, kids might be wearing bonnets and petticoats. I don't even know.

I mentioned this one day to my daughter, and she had a very interesting theory. "You know how people thought the world was going to end in the year 2000?" she said. "Well, maybe it did, and now we're just going backward."

Kind of like how scientists think the universe is expanding, but eventually it will start contracting until it eventually collapses in on itself. Makes sense.

Actually, when I was in Target I saw mannequins wearing Doc Martens and a fannypack (80s! 80s!) so she's probably right.

On this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes, laugh and cry along with us as the Unremarkable Files family takes on everything from mermaids to closets to Forrest Gump. Get ready to laugh. #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #reallife #relatable #funny
The end is nigh.


I'm just as shocked as you are, but this is the earliest I've ever been on top of things for Halloween.

I finished everything yesterday, and all that's left is buying a stocking cap for one of the kids' costumes and making sure they don't break the things we already made by playing with them before Halloween.

I'm not sure why I'm keeping up better this year than ever before. Maybe it's because three of my kids are old enough to get their costumes together entirely without my involvement.

Actually, that's definitely it.


I was going through a stack of medical bills and calling the relevant office to pay them. (Frugal tip: never mail a bill and you'll save hundreds of dollars over the course of your life from all the stamps you never had to buy. You're welcome.)

First I called our pediatrician, and then I called urgent care, and at each office the automated recording started with the standard medical spiel: "If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, hang up and dial 911."

Fair enough. But then I called my dermatology office and heard those exact same words.



My kindergartner and 2nd grader wait for the bus at the top of the driveway. Sometimes I go out to wait with them (when they request it) and sometimes they go out alone.

Lately they've been asking me to stay inside and let the 3-year-old walk them to the bus stop. Since it's literally in our driveway, I say sure, why not.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy watching out the window as he waits with them for the bus, stands there patiently as they get on, and waves vigorously as they drive away to school, looking exactly like a 3-foot tall Forrest Gump.

On this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes, laugh and cry along with us as the Unremarkable Files family takes on everything from mermaids to closets to Forrest Gump. Get ready to laugh. #7quicktakes #7qt #unremarkablefiles #reallife #relatable #funny

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Friday, October 11, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Joining the 1%, Learning about U.S. History at Breakfast, and Bar Graphs You Just Don't Feel Like Making

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


Attention, everyone! This week, I received this personalized congratulations from CVS in the mail:

7QT is a weekly recap of the big (and loud) Unremarkable Files family! Laugh along with us in this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes! #bigfamily #7qt #7quicktakes #lifewithkids #real

You know all that stuff you hear about the elite "top 1%?" That's me now.


When Monday morning rolled around, anyone walking by us at the bus stop must have assumed we'd been running a weekend fight club at our house.

My 5-year-old had a black eye from colliding with his brother while they were playing in the leaves on Friday, and my 3-year-old had a cut and a fat lip from tripping while jumping on some cushions on the floor on Saturday.

I've never seen anyone's upper lip swell like his did, by the way. For a few days, he could barely close his mouth and looked a lot like a snapping turtle. As my 7-year-old put it: "His lip is so huge! It's funny but also gross and kind of sad."


My kindergartner pulled the oats out of the kitchen cupboard and furrowed his eyebrows at the canister.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

Pointing, he said, "Is this George Washington?"

7QT is a weekly recap of the big (and loud) Unremarkable Files family! Laugh along with us in this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes! #bigfamily #7qt #7quicktakes #lifewithkids #real
Disclaimer: not a U.S. president.

He was probably confused because he'd never seen the Quaker logo before; I always buy the store brand of oats.

But I'm in the top 1% now, guys. I need to start living like it.


Our house is looking so good right now! 

In the last month we sealcoated the driveway, finished the deck, and had an embarrassing amount of water-damaged trim repaired on our house. Now we're having the house exterior painted and I LOVE how it looks.

They did paint right over our house number, though. When I pointed it out to one of the painters he asked in all seriousness, "You don't like it that color?"

You know those moments when you don't even know what to say so you just make a weird choking noise in the back of your throat?

So I guess I'm off to the hardware store today to buy new house numbers.


One thing I love about 3-year-olds is that they're masters of shutting you down with a stinging one-liner.

Phillip was putting our preschooler down for a nap and told him, "I love you to the moon and back."

With a totally straight face, the 3-year-old retorted, "Well, I don't go to the moon."

Fair enough.


As you know, General Conference was this weekend. My family had a great experience and I feel really motivated to make some changes for the better.

One of my favorite talks was this one by Stephen W. Owen. I often feel like my brain has been replaced with a hamster wheel and as a result, my priorities are sometimes backward.

Elder Owen told a story about some well-meaning people who put out hay to help a herd of stranded deer get through the winter. Hay doesn't provide the nutrients deer need, so even though they ate it, they still didn't survive until spring. "Many of the messages that bombard us in the information age are the spiritual equivalent of feeding hay to deer  we can eat it all day long, but it will not nourish us." Amen.

I also liked Michelle Craig's talk answering the question "How can I tell when God is trying to tell me something?" In it, she gives three excellent tips for recognizing answers to prayers and hearing God's voice.

I already used her talk as the basis for one Family Home Evening lesson and I think anyone, regardless of their age or religious affiliation, can get a lot out of it.


A few times a year, I like to volunteer in my elementary schoolers' classes. I went into my kindergartner's class for the first time this week and was so impressed.

I was there for an hour and saw the kids make a craft, play pretend, do math problems with their teacher, free play, do yoga, talk about the calendar, and do a Halloween-themed freeze dance. No wonder my son likes kindergarten so much.

7QT is a weekly recap of the big (and loud) Unremarkable Files family! Laugh along with us in this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes! #bigfamily #7qt #7quicktakes #lifewithkids #real
Very busy doing some serious art.

For part of the time I was at the math rug, where kids were flee-playing with toys. My job was to (1) make sure they didn't throw anything and (2) encourage math-related play (they were playing with things like snap-together blocks, counting puzzles, and interlocking bears with numbers on them.)

At one point I suggested using the snap-together blocks to make a bar graph showing their age, their sibling's age, and their parent's age. Most of the kids were excited about the idea but one boy looked at me pitifully and asked, "Do I have to? My dad's 72."


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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

13 Verbs from This Weekend (A General Conference Recap)

Typically, weekends at the Evans household are mostly me grumbling about soccer (Saturdays) and trying to herd everyone into the car while 3 people choose that moment to tell me their church shoes are lost and/or don't fit (Sunday,) but this weekend was different!

Some things we did this weekend included:

...watching General Conference. Twice a year, the leaders of my church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) hold a worldwide broadcast for all the members and any interested friends or curious gawkers. General Conference is kind of like a collection of religious TED talks, given in five 2-hour sessions. That's right, we watched TV for 10 hours. Don't judge.

...coloring. About a week ago we bought a new filing cabinet, and using the Kondo thank-and-release method, got rid of the ugly one we got off Craigslist for free 10 years ago. While transferring our papers, I came across a stack of adult coloring pages and there couldn't have been anything more perfect for occupying the kids while they listened to Conference.

Even the 5-year-old was really into it.

... noticing a few specific themes. General Conference speakers aren't assigned topics, but since they prepare their talks prayerfully and have made it their business to know what's going on in the church and the world, you can usually pick out a few common threads. 

Keeping Christ at the center of our lives was one of them. Our prophet President Nelson was quoted more than once as saying, "The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives." (Here is an excellent talk on that.)  

...completely forgetting my 11-year-old's soccer game. We remembered my younger daughter's game because it was first thing in the morning, but my 11-year-old's game was during a session of Conference and we just plain forgot about it. Oh, well. I have no regrets.

...eating lots of snacks. Every 6 months without fail, several people ask, "ARE YOU DOING THE CONFERENCE SNACKS???" Even people who aren't members of my church seem to be heavily invested in this tradition.

So yes, we did the snacks.

We printed out pictures of the prophet and apostles of our church ahead of time. The kids attached each one to a snack and when that person spoke at General Conference, we got to eat his snack.

As per tradition, the kids put Elder Quentin L. Cook on the package of cookies.

My kids love Elder Cookies most of all.

They kicked their wordplay up a notch this year by also putting Elder Rasband on the raspberry pastries.

Ba-dum ching!

The kids love this tradition, and I'm only slightly concerned that they seem to remember which apostle had which snack far longer than the content of their message.

...counting calories. My already-tiny 5-year-old lost weight over the summer, and after investigating food allergies we decided to keep track of his daily calorie intake and discovered he just wasn't eating enough. So now I'm following him around, measuring all his food and calculating the calories of everything he eats all day. Let's just say that all the snacks made for a good calorie weekend.

...being judged. Our house painters showed up when we were watching the Conference sessions on Saturday. They could see us through the windows and undoubtedly noticed we were sitting around the TV eating junk food for 4 hours, and I can imagine they made some assumptions about us. (I was just glad they didn't come back on Sunday to see us doing the same thing.)

...summarizing.  One talk began with a story about some boys who mistook a skunk for a kitty, and then explained how this is similar to the way the devil might want us to believe dangerous things are harmless. When the 7-year-old asked what Elder Stevenson was talking about, the 5-year-old (who was engrossed in his coloring and didn't appear to be listening) immediately answered "Skunks!"

Everyone also summarized each talk on a piece of paper and put it in a baggie along with the speaker's picture, so we can talk about it later. Such as during the next Family Home Evening when we've forgotten to plan anything... not that that's ever happened.

Little Ziploc-sized packets of inspiration, right here.

...resolving to do better. One of the things I love about Conference is that I always come away with increased motivation to improve and a better perspective on the challenges I like to whine about.

Something that hit home for me this time was the importance of priorities and being fully committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you also struggle with this, or if you just really love long Lord of the Rings analogies, you've got to read this talk from Elder Uchtdorf

...debating going to urgent care. My 3-year-old took all the cushions off the sofa and then hit his face on it. Even though it was upholstered, somehow he gave himself a nasty cut above his upper lip. We debated whether it would need to be stitched or glued shut, but in the end decided it would heal fine on its own. 

When I remarked to my son that he might have a scar and not be able to grow a nice-looking mustache when he grew up, he yelled indignantly "I'm not gonna be a mustache when I grow up!"

...loving the humanity of our prophet. For some people, the idea of having a prophet at the head of your church  like a modern-day Moses  is just weird. And foreign. And maybe calls to mind images of a stern Charlton Heston. But for me, having a prophet is something very warm and personal. 

As President Nelson looked out at everyone gathered in the Conference Center he said "I'd like to claim every one of you as part of my family." And then he went "off script" (it's not in the official transcript but it is in the video) and joked, "So if you're looking for an extra grandpa, give me a call." And I bet people will. He's that kind of a guy.

...inventing a new word. During one talk, our video froze but the audio kept going. One of the kids commented that Elder Eyring talking without moving his mouth looked like he was doing ventriloquism. Only she couldn't remember the word "ventriloquism," so she called it "muppetry." That one still makes me laugh.

...missing almost all of Elder Cook's talk because the kids were having an animated discussion about cookies (Elder Cook's snack, you remember.) Phillip and I were particularly irritated because this was the announcement of some procedural changes to the church's youth program, which affects both of our callings so we kind of wanted to hear it! I also missed most of the last session when the little kids were getting stir-crazy and started whacking everyone with train tracks. There's a limit to what even a boatload of Conference Snacks can do.

As good as this past weekend was, though, the best (and hardest) part is afterward, when I can evaluate the inspiration I've gotten and try to put it into practice. 

To be honest, I lost steam after the last Conference and didn't act on half of the things I felt compelled to do, which I guess is why we need General Conference every six months. Or at least I do. 

If you watched General Conference, what were some memorable moments for you? If not, what's a question you have about how General Conference works?

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