Friday, March 24, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Water Leaks That May Have Been Inspired, Motherly Pride, and a Moment of Appreciation for the Sky

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you buy something using them I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

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


A few years ago, a local girl scout troop started a soccer equipment swap and then wanted to turn it over to the community. Having had 6 kids go through the town soccer program and being passionate about kids' hand-me-downs, I figured this a made-for-me volunteer opportunity if there ever was one and I said I'd do it.

I believe it's a good thing, it's just a lot of work at a busy time of year. So I was sort of dreading it as I emailed the president of our local soccer club to ask about the start date of the season so I can begin planning.

Imagine my surprise when he emailed me back explaining that unfortunately, a massive water leak in the shed where we keep the equipment for the swap ruined everything, so we won't be able to hold the event this season.

I know that legally, a burst pipe isn't considered an act of God... but sometimes it sure feels like it.


My 16-year-old daughter is getting ready for her solo violin recital at the end of April. It will be about an hour of music, including her first full concerto performed all at once. And in her words, it will probably be the fanciest event she's ever been to.

This week we delivered music to our accompanist, took her dress to get alterations done (we recently inherited a gorgeous prom dress from a family friend,) and designed invitations for the recital that I was particularly proud of. 

I'm getting really excited about this recital. I'm trying not to go into full proud mom mode here, but I can't wait to showcase my beautiful, talented baby so everyone can appreciate her (almost) as much as I do.

I'm trying not to, but I think I'm failing.


How was your St. Patrick's Day? In the past I've made a green breakfast for my kids, but I couldn't get it together to pull off such a thing in time for school (we're still struggling after Daylight Savings, to be honest) so we had it for an after-school snack instead.

I made shamrock-shaped pancakes topped with green whipped cream, and they drank milk colored green with food coloring.

I envisioned it being a really fun thing but like many things you envision differently in parenting, it was actually a lot of mess and work for not very much excitement from the kids. And then my son got in trouble for knocking over the milk by bouncing a ball in the dining room after I'd told him to put it away about 8 times. 

Not the whimsical afternoon of magic I'd anticipated.


The older I get, the more I appreciate the sky. I am constantly pointing out pretty sunsets and cool cloud formations to my kids, who usually couldn't care less. I think it's my version of how old people suddenly get really interested in birds (language warning on this very funny/accurate post). 

But anyway, I digress. 

Look at the sky outside my 11-year-old's indoor soccer arena when she went to play her game this week:

It's hard to get a picture of the sky, because the sky is pretty big, but it was pretty amazing. The spotty pattern of the clouds and the way they were arranged in waves made the sky look like the ripples at the bottom of the lake near the shore. Or, now that I look at the pictures, like the inside of a Sherpa-lined hoodie.


This week I set the settings on my phone to Spanish. It doesn't translate English websites or anything I've previously typed in English, but now all the little buttons and widgets are in Spanish and I think it's going to make a big difference in how automatic my vocabulary becomes. 

Right now there's a huge disconnect between how well I can read (decent-ish) and how well I can speak (badly) and it's because I've learned a lot but I still haven't internalized it through repetition.

I also set my GPS to Spanish. I haven't used it yet so we'll see if I get hopelessly lost. I anticipate problems because 'right' is derecha and 'straight' is derecho, but we'll just cross our fingers and hope I don't end up stranded in a field somewhere.


I read about an interesting survey from the Pew Research Center about religious attitudes in the U.S. People were asked how positively/negatively they felt in general about 7 different religious groups: Catholics, mainline Protestants, Evangelical Protestants, Latter-day Saints, Jews, Muslims, and atheists. 

40% of people didn't hold negative views toward any groups, but those who did apparently weren't impressed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which I belong to. 

But actually, I didn't think that was the interesting part. I thought the really interesting part was how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had an overall favorable opinion of every other religious group, and in most cases their attitudes were overwhelmingly more favorable than anyone else's attitudes in the survey.

That's right, we love you guys.

To me, it confirms that one of the core beliefs of our religion is still alive and well: look for the good in everyone and everything, and recognize truth everywhere (because it is everywhere.) 

It's an interesting paradox that while we believe our church is the only place on earth where you can find God's entire revealed truth, we also recognize and appreciate every belief system in the world for the truths it contains.


My 14-year-old is watching a documentary in school called The Social Dilemma. I know about this because it's rated PG-13 so I had to give my permission for him to see it.

After going to watch the trailer, I wanted to see it too but I don't have Netflix. I'm actually not sure how they're showing this to entire classrooms because of copyright, but I'm going to stop talking about that so I don't get anyone in trouble.

My son reports that the documentary is a little over-the-top with the drama, but it makes some really good points. 

I've been reading a little bit of a book called How to Break Up with Your Phone that's been saying some of the same things: every minute you spend on social media and the Internet in general is a minute you're allowing someone else to make money off of you by literally selling your attention. Are you sure you want to spend your free time making money for someone else? 

So with that, go outside today. Enjoy spring. And have a great day!

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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

What It's Like Working Inside a Latter-day Saint Temple

When I sent my youngest child to kindergarten, I found myself wondering what I should do first: enjoy an uninterrupted morning shower? eat meals comprised of more than his leftovers? have an existential crisis? In the end I settled on a little of all three, but one other thing I really wanted to do was start volunteering at the temple of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Since May, I've been working at my church's temple twice a month, and I really love what I do there. But it's unfamiliar to many people, so I wanted to write this post.

First Thing's First: What's a Temple

If you want to know what I do at the temple, it helps to know what a temple is. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian religion, and temples are buildings where our most important ordinances (i.e: ceremonies/rituals) are performed.

Right now, there are 168 Latter-day Saint temples in the world and something like 100 more that are either being planned or built. 

Latter-day Saint temple in Houston, TX.

Latter-day Saints have a great respect for the temple, so much so that we don't discuss specifics of the ceremonies when we're outside of the temple, even with other people who've been there. But it's not breaching any confidences to tell you that there are four different ordinances done in temples:
  • Baptism for the dead - like a regular baptism, but you do it on behalf of someone in your family tree who has died without being baptized
  • Initiatory - preparation to make further promises with God, symbolizing the washing and anointing done in the Bible to prepare people for priesthood service
  • Endowment - learning about God's overall plan for humanity and the central role of Jesus Christ in that plan, starting with the creation of the world; it culminates in making promises of faithfulness to God
  • Sealing - like a marriage but with two important distinctions: (1) sealing lasts for "time and eternity" and not "until death do you part," and (2) it doesn't just seal the two spouses together, but their children or future children as well
June 20, 2003: Phillip and I were sealed in the St. Paul, Minnesota temple.

After Latter-day Saints come to the temple for their own ordinances of initiatory, endowment, and sealing, they can come back to do them on behalf of ancestors who've died.

What Do You Do in the Temple When You Volunteer?

Like everybody who comes to the temple, I drive there wearing my Sunday best and when I get inside, I change into white clothes. (Because I work there, I also get to wear a snazzy name tag.) Everyone wears white inside the temple to symbolize holiness and purity, which makes for a pretty striking visual reminder that we're in a heavenly place.

Sapporo, Japan temple.
The workers attend a short prep meeting that consists of a devotional and some training on our responsibilities. There are logistics to cover, but what's emphasized most is the sacred character of what's going on in the temple. You can practically feel the heartfelt desire of everyone in the room to simply be a facilitator in God's holy work that day.

Then, for the bulk of my 6-hour shift, I'm helping in various capacities in the temple. 

I could be involved with any of the four ordinances I mentioned a few paragraphs ago: guiding youth groups around the baptistry as they get baptized for their ancestors, delivering the words and prayers of the initiatory ordinance, assisting people as they go through the endowment ceremony, or witnessing a sealing to make sure it's done correctly. My role in the ordinances is always different, but I feel the same spiritual significance every time.

I accommodate people who come to the temple with special needs, from language translation to physical disabilities, and answer questions for people who are new to the temple and might not know what to do next. 

Depending on the day, I could also be welcoming people at the front desk or lending white clothes at the clothing desk to people who didn't bring their own. Whatever I'm doing, I try to do it with a kind smile and a gentle voice so that everyone who comes to the temple can feel the presence of God in His house.

What Do You Think of Your Experience So Far?

The 98-year-old president of our church sometimes mentions spending a lot of time in the temple with other church leaders (most of them in their 70s and 80s), and halfway through my first shift I said to myself, "Ohhhh... so this is why they live so long." 

Entering the temple is like hitting the 'pause' button on everyday life, and I can't help but think the regular reset-and-refresh is good for my mind, my spirit, and possibly even my physical health.

It's powerful to go somewhere that is completely devoid of anger and loudness, where every single person is there out of a common desire to follow Jesus and help others (remember, people come to the temple to participate in saving ordinances for themselves or others). 

Temple in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It's hard to accurately explain the peace I feel in the temple, but the best I can do is say that when I'm there, there's a very palpable sense that I'm in a holy place. The temple's influence makes me a better, more patient person  even after I leave. 

I don't think it would be exaggerating to say that the long stretches of time I get to spend there as a temple worker have become the highlight of my week.

LDS temple in Madrid, Spain.

I suspect there are probably people on the Internet who are happy to breech the sacredness of the temple by sharing plenty of details both true and false, but I appreciate you respecting how special the temple is to me and other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you have more questions, shoot me an email or see the church's website

And if you want to see more pictures of temples worldwide, here's a photo gallery. Most are exterior pictures, but there are also several interior pictures from the Rome, Italy temple. Enjoy!

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Friday, March 17, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Time Changes, Not Being a Cool Kid, and Getting Tricked Into Promising Things to My Kids

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


How did the time change go in your house? My regular 7:30 AM leadership meeting on Sunday before church felt particularly excruciating, thank you for asking. 

One person there actually didn't know it had been Daylight Savings; her cell phone just automatically updated and her alarm just went off an hour earlier. When she realized it at the meeting, her eyes widened and she said, "So that's why I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a truck!"


To get out of our funk that afternoon and try to feel normal again, Phillip and I took the kids on an walk through the woods.

It took an ridiculously long time to get everyone to just stand still for .5 seconds so I could take this picture.

Abandoned cars across the brook from the trail.

It was nice to get out and get some sunshine, and it did help a little. But seriously, why do we have to keep doing this twice a year?!?


My 9-year-old has been obsessed with this sports drink called Prime. Apparently all the kids at his elementary school are drinking it and it's become sort of a status symbol. 

I'm usually somewhere between 2% and 5% concerned about making sure my kids fit in with what "all the other kids" are doing, but when I stopped at a different store with my teenager this week I told her I wanted to check if they carried Prime so I could surprise the 9-year-old with a bottle of it.

"Be careful, Mom," my 16-year-old warned, "This is a slippery slope. Being a cool kid is expensive."

In the end, they didn't carry Prime either, so crisis averted, I guess.


The other day I texted Phillip, asking him to pick up our 16-year-old who works at a grocery store:

When he came home that evening, it was with a confusing assortment: mint chocolate chip ice cream and a 2-liter bottle of cream soda. It sounded pretty weird to me, but he assured me that he saw it online, and I was willing to try it.

And you know, it grew on me. 

But I still don't know if I can endorse it as a legitimate dessert option. Where did he find this? Is this something just one random guy on the Internet does, or is this an actual thing? Have you ever heard of mint cream soda floats?


There's a zipper on my 14-year-old's backpack that keeps coming off the track. I've tried numerous times to fix it but it keeps breaking again, so he decided he's just not going to use that compartment anymore. 

The problem is that he keeps forgetting and pulling the zipper tab, then it's hanging open all day. I suggested taking off the tab so he just can't use it anymore, and he thought that was a great idea. With his characteristic high-energy, he bounded down the basement, snatched his dad's wirecutter, then ran upstairs and neatly lopped it off.

"Wait, was that even the right zipper!?" I yelled.

It was not.

When Phillip was younger, he fashioned a zipline from a high platform on a tree with a friend, and he was so excited to try it out that he leaped off the platform without first grabbing onto the zipline. Looks like it's hereditary.


My 11-year-old loves animals and has been begging us for a pet for a long time. Unfortunately she's allergic to everything, including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, horses, and rats. Yes, even the pet rats we purchased with her specifically in mind, she was allergic to.

Now that the rats have both passed away, she's on my tail to get a new pet. Hopefully one that doesn't make her break out in hives. 

She's latched on to the idea that a parakeet would be a good pet. I'm not even sure how she did it, but she got me to accidentally promise her that I will get her a bird if she saves up enough money to buy a birdcage and accessories for it. She was just so earnest, and her strategy wasn't begging but presenting all her research and asking how she can prove to me that she'll take full responsibility for said bird once we have it.

I think she knows I'm a sucker for kids who are independent and responsible, and she's using it against me.


I happened to watch the cutest little video with my kids, called "Sofia Stands for Right." At their request I watched it with them twice, and tried to cover up the fact that the antagonist on the bus was secretly making me die with laughter both times:


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Friday, March 10, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Out of Order Sinks, What Is Going On with Jeans, and the Problem with Phone Filters

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


The drain in the bathroom sink in the kids' bathroom had been draining slower and slower lately, which I kept meaning to bring up with Phillip (our resident taking-care-of-icky-stuff guy) and forgetting.

Luckily, one day I went it to see that the sink had been covered with Saran wrap that had the words "OUT OF ORDER" written on it, which I took to mean that Phillip intended to take care of it as soon as he had the time and he wanted the kids not to use the sink and flood the bathroom in the meantime.

Several days later, I found out that the OUT OF ORDER sign was the 11-year-old's doing and Phillip never had any idea there was anything wrong with the sink.


Every time I go clothes shopping, I learn something new. Probably because I don't go clothes shopping very often.

This time, I brought my daughter to the mall and discovered that 1990 is alive and well in the junior's department:

I haven't seen a pair of low rise or bootcut pants since 2005.

I saw so many buttcracks in the '90s. I'm not sure I'm ready.


However, there appears to be a bizarre branching of the multiverse going on in, because I also saw these jeans being advertised simultaneously (in a different store, but on the same day):

Coming soon: Armpit jeans! Shoulder pad jeans!

My kids once showed me this Studio C video and I thought it was dumb, but now it's looking more and more like what I'm actually seeing with my own eyes:


One last interesting thing I saw while shopping was these mannequins at Forever 21:

The hair. Why?

The bangs are getting freakishly long and the jeans are getting freakishly high. What will happen to us as a society when when the two finally meet? 


My daughter's friend went to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and came back raving about it, so my daughter wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Broadway is a little out of our depth right now, but I checked out the 2004 movie version from the public library and we watched that together. I always like introducing movies I know to my kids for the first time and seeing it through their eyes. 

As I popped the DVD into the player, I asked, "Do you remember Edward and Bella from Twilight?"

"Ugh, yes," she rolled her eyes. She can't stand their toxic, creepy relationship.

"Well... buckle up," I told her.


My kids were playing with my phone, taking pictures of each other and putting funny filters on them. They showed me one particularly hilarious picture that I just had to show Phillip.

Only he was in the shower at the moment, so I went into the bathroom and said "Hey, look at this" and held the phone up over the shower curtain so he could see it. 

"Gah!" he yelled. "What are you doing??"

Apparently, the phone had gone out of gallery mode and back into camera mode with the filter on, so when Phillip looked at the phone it wasn't the funny picture of my son I'd intended to show him. He saw himself in his birthday suit, but with angel wings and a halo.


To be honest, it's been hard to find 7 things to talk about this week, because it's been a pretty low-energy week. I've just been tired lately.

So how about a YouTube video to finish off this installment of 7QT? 

There, now you get a funny video and I get to say that the time I spent vegging out this week was simply research for my blog. Win-win.

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Friday, March 3, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Washington, D.C., Being Very Territorial about Snow, and Times When Life is Actually Like a Box of Chocolates

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


Where I live, the kids have a random week of school vacation that is cleverly entitled, "February break." No one knows why. We decided that we would take the opportunity this year to go to Washington, D.C. instead of being bored and cold at home.

And because we seem to be unable to take a vacation anymore without making it super-complicated, we coordinated with my dad and stepmom so they could meet us there and we could all vacation together.

It turns out that this is an awesome time to go to D.C. This is the lowest tourist point of the year, so hotels were dirt-cheap and there were no lines or crowds. And this year, the winter has been so mild that the weather was in the 50s practically every day. One day, it got up to 70°. We saw daffodils starting to come up and cherry blossoms starting to bloom on the trees.

The sky when walking around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial. There's no iconic scenery in this picture, but it's my favorite from the trip.


We were driving there, which was economical but made for a long road trip. Before we left, I sought out one of the teenage girls in the youth organization I lead at church and asked her for tips, since she travels cross-country with her family all the time. 

"Bring lots of snacks," she said immediately and emphatically. "Food is the best way to prevent murder."


The younger kids don't really remember our last trip to Washington, D.C., and the older kids only had faint memories of it. 

This time, we took a tour of the White House and got tickets to go up the Washington Monument, and saw the Declaration of Independence.

We enjoyed the beautiful greenhouse at the National Arboretum (I had to laugh when I saw this sign posted inside the bathroom stalls:)

The National Arboretum: making literally every moment of your visit educational.

We saw the First Ladies' inaugural gowns and the original R2-D2 and C-3PO costumes from Star Wars at the American History Museum. 

We looked at the Hope diamond and a endless displays of different animals at the Natural History Museum.

"Ugh. It's a gross thing eating an even grosser thing."
-the 16-year-old, who hates sweet potatoes more than anything

We went to the Air and Space Museum, where it was confirmed to me once again that I'm pretty bored by both air and space. 

And the kids were alternately confused and horrified by the modern art in the Hirshhorn Museum (we didn't stay there long.) 

We also went to the National Spy Museum. In my opinion, it wasn't nearly worth the ridiculous ticket prices, but I really did enjoy some of the interesting tidbits I learned there: 

See: "birds aren't real." Google it.


Just before we left on our trip, our second pet rat, Piper, passed away. The kids were more attached to Scout and she died just 2 months ago, so they weren't as broken up this time. 

We could tell Piper was getting old, but she must've had a stroke or something and was mostly paralyzed when we woke up one morning. The few movements she could make, she didn't really seem to be in control of. It was awfully pitiful to see.

What happened next depends on your age in our family. If you're under 12, the official story is that she died peacefully that night in her sleep. If you're over 12, she was euthanized via carbon dioxide after the younger kids went to bed. 

I cannot emphasize enough that Googling instructions for a homemade gas chamber is NOT what we envisioned when we thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to get pets for the kids??"


We got some snow this week after what's been a really un-snowy winter. The kids had a snow day on Tuesday and went out to play in it first thing in the morning. 

By the time I got my snow gear on and went out to join them, the youngest three were all busy dividing the backyard up into various large circles.

I asked what the circles were for.

"This is my licking area," the 6-year-old explained. "And that's hers. I'm going to go make another licking area in the front yard, be right back."

Kids from big families are weird about food, and will either hide or label a special treat so it doesn't get devoured by their siblings. Apparently it's the same thing with backyard snow. Which apparently tastes different than front yard snow.


My 16-year-old was given this Taste Test of Caramels, where you blind-taste the chocolates and guess their flavors, and she's been debating who to share it with. 

She finally decided that her dad and I were two of the most discerning chocolate connoisseurs she knew, and asked if we wanted to try it with her:

Do we want to? What a silly question.

With great ceremony, the three of us tested the chocolates one at a time. We cut each one into quarters, and after smelling and tasting our slice we voted on what flavor we thought it was and how sure we were. When we got to the end, we elected someone to try the remaining quarters to double-check our answers and make the final call.

How did we do? Well, we removed one chocolate ahead of time because it was espresso-flavored and Latter-day Saints don't do coffee. And we got two flavors mixed up, although we were all skeptical about what the box said and pretty sure of our own guesses. But that leaves a total of 9 correct guesses, and I think that's pretty good!


The results for National Geographic's Picture of the Year contest are out, with both the winning picture and the runners up. 

Check them out if you have some free time this weekend, because they're awfully stunning. Which one is your favorite?

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Friday, February 17, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Living Things, Really Specific Bedtime Routines, and Celebrating Your Birthday with Sugar Cereal

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


I died laughing last week. It's probably why I missed writing a 7QT last Friday: I was still trying to get myself under control.

About a month ago, one of our pet rats Scout passed away. She was old and it wasn't a surprise, but my 6-year-old still took it kind of hard. He's been working through his feelings.

Recently, his class was doing a science unit introducing basic biology concepts, and he brought this home:

The eyes are X's, you guys. I am crying laughing.

I feel like when his teacher assigned this, this is not what she was expecting.


Ever since my kids were tiny, I've been baffled watching parents tell their kids for 30 minutes that it's time to leave the soft play while their child ignores them, sometimes giggling and clearly watching for their reaction. 

Don't get me wrong: it's not a case of clutching my pearls and judging how other parents let their kids behave. I'm not even thinking about the kid. I'm genuinely confused at how in the world you as a human can summon the patience to be disrespected 100 times in a row by someone whose butt you have to wipe without totally losing it?

Me, if I had to say "let's go" more than 3 times.

I don't know where they find the willpower. Maybe that's why some people drink. But I don't drink, so my kids have to listen.

Which is why I was pretty surprised when I showed up to pick up my 8-year-old from basketball practice. He was shooting around for fun at the end, and when I told him it was time to go, do you know what he did? HE SAID 'NO' AND KEPT PLAYING. So I turned around and walked out.

I was fully prepared to drive the car around the block and let him panic a little in the parking lot thinking I'd left him, but he ran out after me and we went home.

On the ride, I explained that if he'd asked to stay longer I would've said yes, but since he chose to be disrespectful we had to leave. So now he'll never do that again, and I'm glad.


After the first sham of a wisdom tooth consultation, I took my 16-year-old to another office for a second opinion. This doctor actually began by looking at her teeth, which was a good sign. 

He still was of the opinion that she needs them out, but he seemed a lot less weird about it (and their office charges less than the other place) so we're going to go with them.

This was the display in the consultation room, though.

I think all the skulls were there to show how the teeth are situated in the jaw, but when we entered it looked a little macabre.

My daughter was already a little squeamish about having four teeth surgically removed from her face, so it might not have helped to point at the skulls, lean over to her and whisper "You're next."


Ever since he was tiny, my 6-year-old has kissed me on both cheeks like a little Frenchman at bedtime. I don't know why he does that or where it came from, but it is what it is. 

Until recently, when it's somehow morphed into a full-blown ritual. Now after he kisses me on both cheeks, I have to do it to him, then I have to do it to his stuffed animal, and then his stuffed animal has to do it to me. In that order, or we have to start all over.

I try not to be annoyed because I've had enough kids to know that it won't last forever, and too soon I'll miss the thousand-step bedtime ceremony.

But his other new thing is going "I have something to tell you," then putting the phone on mute and saying it. In fact, sometimes he calls me just to do that... and you know, I think there are also certain things he'll outgrow doing that I will NOT miss.


An electrician came to check the wiring in the basement that we're finishing, and when he walked in my first thought was, "That is the tallest guy I've ever seen." He practically had to duck going through the doorways.

I directed him to the basement and then went to tell Phillip, who was working from home that day, that a giant was in the house. 

"How tall is he?" asked Phillip, who at 6' 2" is taller than most people we meet on an average day.

"I don't know, but he's really tall."

Later when the electrician had finished examining the wiring, I saw him and Phillip standing next to each other chatting, and realized they were the exact same height.

I guess I just get used to it. In fact, I know I do because whenever Phillip goes out of town for a while, I'm always surprised at how tall he is when he gets back.


On their birthdays our kids get to choose (1) their birthday dinner and (2) their cake. They always have a definite opinion on dinner, but recently they've just been requesting "a surprise cake," which has led to some interesting creations.

We had a birthday in our family recently and this time, Phillip was in charge of making the surprise cake. This is what he came up with:

Yes, those are Fruity Pebbles.

This breakfast cereal cake has ground Fruity Pebbles in the batter, and the whipped cream inbetween the layers and covering the cake is made by soaking Fruity Pebbles in heavy cream overnight and then straining it out. (I think he used this recipe for inspiration.)

After the cake came the exchange of handmade birthday cards, which was full of eye-rollingly age-appropriate humor:

Charming, I'm sure.


I've been having trouble turning my brain off at bedtime, so I decided to give guided meditation a try. And then the YouTube algorithm, little superspy that it is, just happened to start serving me Jason Stephenson "sleep talk-down" videos. 

What a coincidence.

They're maybe just a little bit hokey (the one I listened to last night had me repeat to myself "I am willing to let go,") but they work and they put me out like a light every time. I actually really like them.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and as my friend Jason Stephenson would say: Sleep well, my friend. Sleep well.

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Friday, February 3, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Movie Ratings, Mistaken Identity at Shake Shack, and Free Concerts

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


Over dinner, the kids were asking me about movie ratings and what they mean. When they got to "R," the 6-year-old wanted to know why a movie would be rated R.

"Well," I explained, "Things like lots of people swearing, or people killing, or-"

My 16-year-old looked up. "Or people saying 'irregardless'..."

Don't even get her started on when they pronounce 'nuclear' wrong. She would make that NC-17.

This mug {affiliate link} is a related reason why our family is a delight to be around.


It's been about two months since I've touched my language exchange app, where I have conversations with Spanish-speaking people. I've been studying, but haven't practiced speaking at all (except occasionally to myself.)

Part of the reason is that I've been legitimately busy since Christmas. But the other part, if I'm honest, is that I'm such a beginner that more often than not, conversations are just harder and more embarrassing than I have the energy to initiate on a regular basis. I'd sort of decided that I just need to get a better handle on the basics before I start attempting to converse with people in the wild.

But when one of my old practice partners popped up on my phone asking ¿cómo has estado? I started to feel kind of bad, because I just disappeared but he still says hi every couple of weeks. So I picked it up and had a short conversation with him.

And I was definitely out of practice, because when he asked about my extended family, I accidentally told him that he loved me (instead of saying that I loved them.) So that was great.


My 16-year-old needed to shake up her French curriculum for homeschool so she decided to watch a French language movie, and invited me to watch with her.

But the thing is, I don't know a word of French. So we decided on Big Hero 6 with French audio and Spanish subtitles, so we could both practice our respective target languages. 

It was a little disorienting at first, but once she adjusted to ignoring the subtitles and I adjusted to ignoring the audio, it was fun.


When I picked my 6-year-old up from gymnastics, the first words out of his mouth were "What's for dinner?" 

"Fettucine alfredo," I answered. I haven't made it before, but I've been trying some new recipes lately.

"Is it disgusting?"

Which tells you how the new recipes are being received so far.


Phillip was out of town this past weekend. He used to travel a lot, before COVID, so there's a pretty marked difference between how things are now versus how I remember it being when he left me with babies and toddlers.

With littles, it's all spilled juice and diaper blowouts as far as the eye can see, and being constantly pawed at for days without a break. It is extremely emotionally draining.

But here's the thing about when they're older: it's not as emotionally draining, but it is physically impossible. We had several nights where 3 kids had 3 separate activities in 3 locations that are nowhere near each other at 6pm, and I'm currently the only licensed driver in the house. 

At least now they sleep through the night and are happy to let me use the bathroom in privacy.


The night after Phillip came back was our daughter's orchestra concert, and we even managed to sneak in a sort of date beforehand. We grabbed some dinner and then headed over to Shake Shack for dessert. And when our shakes were ready, the lady at the counter looked at Phillip's name on the order and yelled, "PHIL!"


What is it about his name that causes every stranger to compulsively shorten it? I swear, that man has never been called by his full name unless he's specifically corrected them: "Oh, it's Phillip, actually." (Which he only does if I'm present and I shoot him a withering look, otherwise he just sighs and lets them call him Phil until one of them dies.) 

I'm starting to think maybe he should just start going by 'Flip,' so people start getting it right. Or closer to right, anyway. At the very least, it's what he should write on our Shake Shack orders from now on.


Tickets for our daughter's orchestra are no charge, because it's a student orchestra of a music conservatory, and while we were going in, Phillip said something to the effect of "It's nice that we get to go to a free concert!"

But we both realized pretty quickly that wasn't exactly true, and not just because the conservatory's tuition to be in the orchestra is ridiculous. We also got a parking ticket while enjoying the free music.

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