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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Friday, October 4, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Explaining What an Encyclopedia Is, Latin Translations, and Spooky Halloween Characters as Misheard by a 5-Year-Old

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


I'm enjoying my new calling as a leader of the Young Women of our ward, even though it requires a lot more work, organization, and planning.

With my previous calling in the church nursery, literally my only responsibility was making sure we had raisins, and I'm not going to lie: that was nice. But I do love the teenagers I'm working with now.

Two men were called as the new nursery leaders, and I laughed when my husband brought me the 3-year-old after nursery on Sunday and told me, "This is how men do nursery."

He spun my son around to show me a giant label affixed to his back that said his name and "NO NUTS" (he has a nut allergy.)

Which just goes to show you, moms and dads do things differently.


My kids were talking about a school project they were doing, and I mentioned I did something similar when I was a kid.

"Did you have to email all your drafts to the teacher, too?"

I laughed in anticipation of blowing their tiny minds and said, "When I was your age, there was no Internet."

"What??" they chorused. "How did you do homework?"

"We went to the library," I shrugged. "And my parents had a set of encyclopedias at home."

Total blank stares.

"You know, like... printed-out books of Wikipedia entries."

After they'd all had a few moments to recover, my 11-year-old pointed out, "I guess in 20 years my kids will be like, 'What? You didn't have hoverboards when you were my age? How did you get from one class to another, WALK?!?'"


For Family Home Evening this week, which is kind of like a weekly devotional we do at home in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we talked about service.

My daughter planned it all out and had us write letters of appreciation to the missionaries in our ward for their service.

Everyone made a card, letter, or picture according to their ability level, and my favorite was definitely my son's which featured a funny mashup of The Princess Bride and the Book of Mormon that I hope amused the missionaries as much as it did me.

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. You should not have done that. But I forgive you. Will you accept this copy of the Book of Mormon?"

We even found out that one of the missionaries had a birthday this week and delivered them on her birthday, so I guess it was nice timing. I just hope she likes The Princess Bride.


My 5-year-old got super-excited about learning how to read, so one night at dinner he pulled out the stack of easy readers on our bookshelf and started reading like a madman.

Carefully he sounded out each word of the story Max's Dad: "Duh... aaaa... duh... 'Dad!' Hhh... aaaaa... sssss... 'has!'" Beaming he announced, "It says, 'Dad has-'"

"A penis!" yelled the 3-year-old.

Well, he's not wrong. It's just not that kind of book.


I've been listening to classical radio in the car lately, and while I was driving my 15-year-old home from school a choral song called "O Fortuna" came on.

You may not know the name, but I bet you've heard it on TV or in a movie whenever they need to set the scene for something epic. The lyrics come from a 13th-century poem lamenting the inexorable fate that befalls us all. And yes, it's intense.

I'm beginning to learn that teenagers are where society deposits its collective knowledge of the most random things on the Internet, so of course, my 15-year-old then directed me to this video of what "O Fortuna" sounds like in English:

That night Phillip was assembling a filing cabinet that came in approximately 3,000 separate pieces, and when he asked me to put on some music you'd better bet I got on the Internet and pulled up "O Fortuna." It just felt right.


Apparently some older kid on the bus told my wide-eyed 5-year-old all about the scariest Halloween monsters (thank you, public school system!) so he's been asking me lots of questions.

"What is a Scream?" A gory 1990s movie franchise starring Monica Gellar. And for the record, kid on the bus who knows way too much about R-rated films, I think he's actually called Ghostface.

"Why does the Grim Reaper kill people?" Well, first of all the personification of Death isn't good or bad, he just takes peoples' souls when their time comes and second of all, he's not real, so where do you want to start?

"What's a 'chainsaw mommy?'"

"A what?"

"A chainsaw mommy. Jack says the Grim Reaper is the scariest but I think a chainsaw mommy is the scariest."

"I think he meant 'mummy,' not 'mommy,'" I explained, making sure to point out that actual mummies aren't alive or bad or equipped with chainsaws.

Then I told him a "chainsaw mommy" is just clearing some heavy brush in her yard and is nothing to be concerned about. And also, he needs a new place to sit on the bus.


This weekend is something I look forward to every six months: General Conference!

In my church, we believe quite literally in a living prophet and apostles (see here for more on what that means to me,) and twice a year they hold a big conference jam-packed with spiritual talks.

Anyone of any faith is welcome to listen in, so consider this your invitation.

Regardless of your religious background I really think if you're seeking a different perspective on life or maybe are just curious about me and what I believe, this is a great place to start.

Viewing times and like a hundred ways you can watch Conference are here! Have a great weekend, guys.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Not Being Jealous, A Place Where All the Cords Can Be Hidden, and the Irony of Having Little Helpers

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


Phillip's been out of town for a while, so I'm running on fumes (because I don't go to bed when left to my own devices) and starting to figure out how to logistically do everything solo.

At first, I relied on sheer memory and ended up forgetting a child's practice or appointment or school open house every day. (Of course, there were 100 other things I did remember each day so frankly, I was still impressed with myself.)

Recently, I've started setting 10-15 alarms per day on my phone to remind me of literally every single time-sensitive thing I have to do in the next 24 hours. It's weird, but it works.


Phillip went kayaking and camping on some island with a group of guys from church.

I assume he had fun on his manventure, but we didn't really get to talk about it because he came home for just long enough to make dinner, do his laundry, and take out the trash before he left again for a work trip.

He didn't mean to schedule the trips back-to-back like that, but it just kind of happened.

Usually I feel sort of jealous when he travels because he eats out at fancy restaurants and stays in nice places, but then he texted me from his hotel in Norway and I was like, "You know what? I'm good."

His legs didn't even fit on the mattress.


I've been on the hunt for a place to charge all of our devices.

Theoretically, there is a designated space for them in an upper kitchen cupboard, but it's really a terrible solution. It quickly gets so disorganized in there that no one wants to use it, so they just dangle cords down to the counter and hook them up to a tangled heap of phones and smartwatches that I have to look at all day.

About a year ago I got so sick of looking at it I threw everything in a trash bag, and while it felt therapeutic the devices came creeping back out and are once again driving me crazy.

I see charging stations online, but I want a solution that doesn't require me to look at any cords! I want that mess hidden.

Recently some friends were getting rid of old furniture and asked if I wanted anything. I looked in their garage and knew I'd found my solution when I saw this:

It's smaller than it looks in the picture, only two feet tall. The small drawers are perfect for devices, all we need to do is drill some holes in the back and it will be a sweet charging station with NO VISIBLE CORDS.

After some paint and new knobs, it looks pretty good:

I'm still not 100% sure where we're going to put it, but whatever happens it will be better than the devices on the counter. Or the trash bag.


The little kids were obsessed with helping me paint. Bless their hearts, but I was obsessed with doing it myself after they were asleep precisely so they couldn't "help."

I let them put on some primer (for about as long as it takes to take a picture and say "Stop waving that around, you're going to get paint everywhere! Put the paint can lid down. Don't wipe your hands on your- stop! I said don't wipe your hands on your shirt! Or your pants! STOP!")

One of the cruelest ironies of motherhood is that the times kids are the most excited to help you is when they're too little to actually be helpful.


In other painting news, I finished the deck! 

You have no idea how excited I am about this. All by ourselves, we sanded and put two coats of stain on every inch of that huge old deck and all 96 of its railings!

Painting railings, as you know, was invented by the devil and takes forever. Especially when there are 96 of them.

Figure 1a: a child enough to be helpful.

The deck looks fantastic now; my only regret is that I didn't remember to take a picture of how terrible it looked before we started sanding.


A friend needed someone to drive her to surgery and back, so I volunteered.

I panicked when I realized I'd committed to a 6-hour day away from home when Phillip was out of town, but it happened to be a half-day from school so my 15-year-old took over for me and it was a seamless transition.

My friend's procedure started around lunchtime, so I walked a few blocks to get Mediterranean food and ate it in the park while reading a book. Totally uninterrupted.

It was really weird, knowing for a fact that no one was going to ask me to get up and take them to the bathroom three times or demand a bite of my food and then tell me it tasted gross.

After lunch I seriously took a nap on a bench like a hobo and loved every minute of it.


One of my responsibilities at church is to help organize and run weekly youth activities for the young women in the ward.

This week I taught them some hairstyle hacks (I used to do my girls' hair all the time when they were little, and I brought my little book with pictures of all the hairstyles for the youth to look at.)

The woman who helps me with these activities also has a big family, although I think she actually knows what she's doing because her kids are older than mine.

We didn't have our kids with us at the activity, of course, but at one point I looked over and randomly realized that between the two of us, she and I have fifteen children.

Good thing they're all so awesome.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

This Is What Happens to Parents When the Village Looks Away

For parents of my age, the idea of the hypothetical village it takes to raise a child is quaint and vague, more of a pie-in-the-sky ideal than anything.

Yet, even without really knowing what the village looks or feels like, its absence still makes me sad.

This summer, my kids and I went on a boat tour. Our guide showed us how a canal lock works and taught us about the local history of the area, but what I really learned that day is why modern motherhood is so hard: it's because the village has vanished.

On the boat tour, sitting beside us was a little boy and his mother  let's call her Beth. 

Beth looked like she was about my age, her son about the same age as my son. On the other side of the boat were Grandma and Beth's sister, who also had a child in tow.

At one point during the boat ride my 3-year-old wanted to see the water better, so he stood up on the seat and leaned over the side. When I turned around to tell him to sit down, I caught the following exchange out of the corner of my eye:

Grandma, worried that my son would fall, was frantically gesturing to Beth and mouthing "Grab him!" Beth, meanwhile, was shaking her head and avoiding eye contact. Exasperated, Grandma threw up her hands and angrily whispered something to her other daughter, who sighed and said, "You can't just grab someone's kid, Mom."

This took place in only a few seconds, but it filled me with a deep sense of loss. What happened to the village? And have we really become so isolationist we'd rather let someone's preschooler fall in the river than interfere?

Clearly, something happened over the last 20 or 30 years to dissolve our villages. Why else would the divide have fallen so neatly across generational lines?

To Grandma and most other parents of her generation, it was a given that you just grabbed the kid who needed to be grabbed, no matter who he belonged to. She was furious at both Beth and her sister for their refusal to get involved when the village was called for.

Today we lament that we can't send our kids running from yard to yard until the sun goes down like our mothers could, but we're forgetting that our mothers had a village.

They knew no matter which backyard we were in, there was some other mother glancing through the kitchen window, keeping an eye on us to make sure we were okay, and if we were misbehaving she wouldn't hesitate to yell at any of us.

After all, our mothers would've done the same for her.

Unfortunately, modern parenthood doesn't come with an unspoken agreement that we're all in this together.

If I were to send my children to roam the neighborhood, there might be a parent watching out the window. Or there might not be.

There just as well could be a parent who looks away because "It's not my job to watch her kids," "It's not my place to discipline someone else's child," or even worse, "Someone's got to call Child Protective Services."

And do you know what happens when the village looks away?

We. Go. Crazy.

Parenting is simply too hard to do it alone. You cannot be everything to your children all the time. In fact, you shouldn't be.

It's not good for any child to learn that rules are only rules if mom and dad are around to enforce them, or that no one else really cares whether they become decent members of society.

Kids of all ages thrive when they have a network of grown-up mentors, not when they're kept in a bubble designed to protect them from other adults' correction or influence.

After witnessing the exchange between Beth and her family on the boat tour, I didn't want to just let it go without saying anything. So I turned to her and said, "Hey, if my kid is going to fall overboard, by all means, please grab him!"

She smiled and said, "Okay, you just never know. I did that once on a whale watching tour and got screamed at."

Now, I don't know all the details about the whale watching incident. Maybe Beth mistakenly thought the child was in danger and the other mom got defensive. That's what happens when society says that you alone are 100% responsible for every aspect of your child's physical and emotional well-being: someone jumping in to help feels like an affront to your parenting.

So today, let's all be a little less defensive. Let's take baby steps back toward the village.

Offer to carpool with another parent on your kid's soccer team. Let people know you're willing to help lighten their load, and even more importantly, ask them to help lighten yours  even if you theoretically could do it by yourself.

Don't just walk by a toddler having a meltdown in the cereal aisle like you can't see it. Tell mom she's doing a good job, and play peek-a-boo with the fussy baby in her cart while she's dealing with it. Maybe even say hello to the kid (when strangers talk to mine it always scares them into silence.)

If no one else is saying "no hitting" to the kid in the playground sandbox whacking other children with a plastic shovel, don't be afraid to say it yourself. Maybe the parent is across the park and doesn't see what's going on. Support that mom or dad.

Assume the best of other people, and resist the urge to be offended by someone who parents differently than you do. If a person offers you unsolicited advice, simply thank them for their suggestion and then either take it or leave it.

When a misguided stranger tries to help your child but isn't actually helpful, recognize their (probably) good intentions with a sincere "Thanks, but we're fine/that's not the way our family does it/my child doesn't need help right now."

And for goodness' sake, stop deliberating and just save the 3-year-old from falling out of the boat.

We need the village. This parenting thing is hard enough without having to do it all alone.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Ways to Wear a Dress, Copious Amounts of Trips to the Hardware Store, and Motherhood in a Nutshell

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


When my daughter picked up my phone, the Pinterest app randomly opened up and the article "12 Ways to Wear 1 Dress" caught her eye.

She was pretty disappointed and a little confused when she clicked through and just saw options for layering clothes on top of it.

"Those aren't ways to wear a dress, That's just wearing different stuff with it!" She complained.

I agreed, the title was maybe a little clickbait-y.

Then we had fun thinking of how we would've written it differently, featuring 12 actually different ways to wear the dress: around your neck like a scarf, as a turban on your head, upside down like a pair of parachute pants...

I never before in my life entertained the idea of being a fashion blogger, but I see now that it could be kind of fun.


Do you remember when people used to say "Let's not and say we did?"

That's become one of my go-to phrases with the kids lately.

At dinner the other day, my son voiced yet another ridiculous/dangerous idea and I responded, "Let's not and say we did."

Usually he just takes that as a 'no' and moves on, but this time he paused and said, "Well, I'd still get in trouble for it, so that's not a very good idea."

"You should do it and then say you didn't!" the 7-year-old piped up.

"But then you'd get in trouble for lying," the 13-year-old pointed out. "So you should probably just do it and say you did."



I was at the hardware store earlier this week picking out some paint for a smallish project I'm working on.

It took me forever to find the right color and when I found a swatch I liked the employee told me it was only available in the super-fancy expensive brand.

I gestured to the promo flyer beside the register and joked, "Maybe I should just come back on Thursday and order it like a pirate."

Arr matey! Be this paint water- or latex-based?

The employee, who was apparently not that into his job, looked at me and deadpanned, "But is two bucks really worth your dignity?"

Okay, first of all, yes.

And second of all, don't you work here?

I laughed and asked, "If someone talks to you like a pirate do you have to answer like one?"

"They don't pay me enough for that," he said, handed me my quart of paint and a stirring stick. "Have a nice day."


We finally finished sanding the deck! 

Like most things in life, I'm glad I didn't know how much work it was going to be when I started, or I never would have done it.

Now we were ready to stain it.

Phillip picked out some stain at the store. The smallest can they had was a gallon so he bought one, brought it home to test it on a spare board we had in the garage, and saw that it looked like baby poop. I refused to entertain the idea of actually using it.

"Are you sure you want to get a different one?" Phillip asked. "It cost fifty dollars."

Ordinarily, I'm a very cheap person, but in this case I just said, "I will happily pay $50 for my deck not to look like diarrhea. Let's go back to the hardware store."

As we got out of the car in the parking lot, Phillip shook his head and said "They're going to know exactly what's going on here. Second trip to the hardware store in an hour but this time the wife comes marching in?"

Like they don't see that every blessed day of the week. No one even batted an eye at us.


So we had the stain, and on the way home it started to rain.

Then I started to cry.

Some people flip houses in their spare time, but I think of us as DIY-challenged, and this overwhelming project was not looking very doable.

We'd worked so hard to prepare the deck for staining, and every time it rained we had to wait another few days for it to dry out before we could do anything, and the way the weather was looking it didn't seem like we'd ever finish.

Phillip is a problem-solver, though, so he went back to the hardware store and got a huge tarp. Once the deck dried out from this rain, he explained, we'd cover it until the next sunny day so we could stain no matter what.

I was deep in a pit of existential despair by then, so trying to cheer me up, Phillip showed me the tarp's product label: "Look, it says right here that it's good for covering houses, trees, and giant cow turds."

It did make me feel a little better, if you're wondering how mature I am.


True to Phillip's word, on the next nice day we started staining.

Because we have about a million after-school activities every night of the week we didn't get started nearly as early as we'd like, and when we did start working the four oldest kids who could've actually been helpful were gone at various practices and appointments.

The only ones home were the 3- and 5-year-olds, who of course were very eager to "help."

But I can hardly take decorating the Christmas tree with them, letalone watch them slinging deck stain all over the place, so all I can say is thank goodness for YouTube and Shaun the Sheep.


People sometimes ask me to share my awesome parenting routines so I'll tell you how my 3-year old's naptime routine usually goes.

First, we read a book and then dim the lights and rock in the rocking chair. I tell him to be quiet while he talks to himself and wiggles around and knees me in the groin ten times until I yell and then we're both mad. Then I put him in his crib and tell him to go to sleep, and after I leave he crawls out and plays with toys for 45 minutes.

But on one particular day this week he was really tired, so he just snuggled his tiny body up against me in the rocking chair and went to sleep.

I was smelling his precious little head and thinking, "I love being a mom so much, this is the best job in the wor-" and then he farted in my lap.

Which is probably the most accurate description of motherhood that has ever been written.

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