Wednesday, April 7, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Really, Really Domesticated Animals, Cackling Over Hand Towels, and Almost Catching Spiderman on Camera

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


When my 4-year-old wandered into the room, I made the mistake of saying hello. He looked annoyed and said, "I was counting to 1,000 and you just messed me up."

"Oh, sorry," I apologized.

"I'll just start over and 100," he sighed, and went back out.

I heard him playing with some toys in the other room for a few moments, then there was a pause and he reappeared in the doorway. "Actually, I'm going to start at 150."

I nodded seriously and said "Okay, sounds good," and out he went again.

I didn't think it was a good time to remind him that he doesn't know any  of the numbers he'd been talking about for our entire conversation.


This weekend was pretty crazy. In 48 hours, our family observed Easter, watched general conference, and celebrated a family birthday. 

Frankly, it was too much. Each of those events included 756 tiny things for me to buy, make, or do ahead of time, and I crashed. 

Instead of cooking the special birthday dinner I'd planned for Saturday, I fell asleep and Phillip ordered pizza. We ran out of time to dye Easter eggs, not that we could have done it anyway because I'd remembered dye but forgotten to buy eggs.

Oh, well. I tried.


After all those special events and their attendant treats, we're all roving wild-eyed through the house with no idea what to do with ourselves now that it's all gone. 

Not only was there Easter candy and birthday cheesecake, but alllll the General Conference Snacks.

The best part of this was learning that my 7-year-old thinks Sour Patch Kids are called "Sour Pouch Kids."

General Conference Snacks is an Evans family tradition. Before this biannual religious broadcast, we print out pictures of the church leaders who will be speaking and tape them to different snack foods. When someone speaks, the kids get to eat the snack their picture is on. 

Elder Christofferson is speaking, who I believe was chocolate-covered almonds this year.

My absolute favorite talk of conference was this one given by Russell M. Nelson, who is the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

If you have 15 minutes waiting in the school pick-up line or for a bus or something, listening to this would be an excellent use of that time:


The 12-year-old taught our pet rat Scout to eat vegetables in his arms lying on her back like a baby.

This is even cuter in person.

It's stinking adorable, but sometimes I just watch her doing it and say, "Look at you! You're a disgrace to your wild ancestors!"

She doesn't really seem to mind as long as we keep the fresh veggies coming.


Someone called The Minimal Mom showed up in my YouTube feed one day, and aside from the fact that I pegged her Minnesota accent exactly 10 seconds into this video (can you hear it if you're not from there??) I really loved her perspective on minimalism.

I didn't agree with everything in this video, but it inspired me to rid my kitchen of a bunch of stuff I've owned since George W. Bush was president and never used. And it gave me permission to pare down the 20 coffee mugs crammed into the cupboard.



As I was looking around the kitchen trying to decide what to tackle next, my eyes settled on the hand towels hanging on the oven handle. 

And by that I mean the hand towels lying in a crumpled heap on the floor in front of the oven, because that's where they always are. 

They're always slipping off, which drives us all crazy. My kids have tried to get around the problem by simply grabbing a new towel out of the drawer every time they need to dry their hands. When they're done they shove the wet towel back in the drawer, because kids apparently love drawers full of damp, smelly towels.

After a little Internet sleuthing, I did two things:
  1. Followed this amazing DIY hand towel hack to secure the towels to the oven handle so they'll never fall off again, and
  2. Hide everything inside the drawer so the kids will have no choice but to use the designated towels in Step 1.
All day, I was cackling like Tom Hanks in The Money Pit every time I saw the kids open the drawer to grab a new towel and it was EMPTY. They just stood there, slack-jawed and confused, until they reluctantly went over to the oven and used the hand towels. 

If all goes well, I'll be able to put the drawer towels back in a week once they're properly trained. 


My 9th grader needed to take
some perspective shots for her photography class, so she enlisted her her 4-year-old brother to help. 

She dressed him up in a Spiderman costume and had him crouch on the ground, then arranged some other things in the picture so she could rotate the photo 90 degrees and make it look like he was climbing on the wall.

After they were done, he went inside and started playing with a Minion stuffed animal on the couch, and it was so cute. I tried to sneak in and take a picture, but apparently he heard me coming and these were the two shots I got:

Behind the sofa is an excellent place to hide from the paparazzi.

I guess superheroes can only stand being photographed so many times in one day.

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Friday, April 2, 2021

7 Quick Takes about How Androids Do Leisure Activities, the Great Backpack Cleanout, and Things I'm Looking Forward to About This Easter

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


There are many suboptimal things about Zoom church, but one thing that's kind of cool is how you can join in from anywhere, even if you live nowhere nearby. 

When my kids have played musical numbers or when I gave a talk in church, my out-of-state parents have loved being able to watch. And conversely, we can do something similar.

On Sunday, I learned through the grapevine that Brandon Flowers from The Killers was doing a devotional in his home congregation in Utah and, thanks to a Zoom link courtesy of my daughter's seminary teacher's cousin who lives there, we were able to "be there," too (because I really like The Killers.) How cool is that?


I've been with Phillip for 23 years, and I've never seen him do a puzzle. Well, maybe once. But I can't recall if he actually participated in putting it together or he just hovered nearby while the rest of us did it.

So I was pretty surprised when he sat down and joined us working on the 1,000-piece monster I brought home from the library exchange last week. 

It turns out that Phillip's approach to doing puzzles would best be described as "computer algorithm." 

I was so fascinated watching him fill in the puzzle from left to right, organizing the loose pieces in rows according to shape so he could quickly eliminate the rows that wouldn't fit.

Was it efficient? Yes? Did it look enjoyable? Not really.

"Are you having fun?" I kept asking skeptically. "It just doesn't really look like you're having fun."

"Well, how do you do puzzles?" he finally asked me.

I shrugged. "I don't know, I look for one about the right color and try it if it looks like it might fit."

After a few moments of silence Phillip said, "That sounds horrible."

On a related note, when I was a kid watching Star Trek with my dad, I had a crush on Data. I'm not sure if that's relevant here but I have a feeling that it is.


My kids went back to full-time, in-person school this week. Up until now they've been doing hybrid (two days at school, three days at home) so they had quite a few materials to bring in that they've been keeping at home or carrying back and forth with them.

Last weekend I asked everyone to clean out their backpacks and get them ready, but the 9-year-old told me "there's not really anything in there."

Girl, please. I've been hearing lies like that longer than you've been alive. You can't fool me.

This is what "not really anything" looks like.


The kids are starting spring soccer soon, so this week's project was to inventory their soccer gear and order anything they don't have. 

My 4-year-old is going to be playing soccer for the first time, so finding him some shin guards was my first task. I know from the review that the ones I ordered will be perfect because this is exactly how pee-wee soccer works:

Next, I bought some more water bottles because my kids keep losing/breaking theirs, and found a kindred mom of 4 in the reviews with the same problem. She planned on buying a second round of water bottles, but wisely noted this at the end so I knew she was a seasoned parent who could be trusted:


I'm really looking forward to this weekend, because it's general conference! Twice a year, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do a worldwide broadcast where they share inspiring messages that help me be a better mom, friend, and Christian.

Want to watch with me? You don't have to be a member of my church or any church, and you don't even have to put on real pants because it's all online. 

This special invitation from the president and prophet of the church gives you a preview of what you can expect, and it explains why I love it when general conference coincides with Easter:

A list of viewing times and ways you can watch general conference are here if you're interested. I hope you join in!


Because we'll all be watching general conference instead of regular church this weekend, my local congregation had its Easter-themed service last Sunday.

During the service I was leaned over, whispering explanations into the 4-year-old's ear to help him understand what we were talking about.

"But why did He have to die for us?" he asked.

In a whisper, I tried to explain that Heaven is a special place where there's no sin allowed. Heavenly Father really wants us to live there with Him, but it's impossible because we all have sins and make mistakes! So Heavenly Father sent Jesus to suffer and die for us, and take away our mistakes  then we can be resurrected and go live with Him and God again after we die.

That must have been kind of heavy for a 4-year-old to absorb, because he just sighed and said loudly, "Okay, but that still doesn't give me a clue."


Having finished the puzzle from Take #2 with the kids, I decided to pick up another one from the puzzle exchange table at the library. 

Being Easter this weekend, I thought The Last Supper would be appropriate.

Another 1,000 piecer. Somebody help me.

The kids are off school today for Good Friday and it's going to be kind of chilly, so this will be a good thing to do indoors all day. 

Happy Easter!

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Alphabetical Advice for Surviving the Teen Years

It's alarming when your child wakes up one morning 6 inches taller, capable of eating his/her own body weight in cereal and speaking a new language composed mainly of monosyllabic grunts. But don't worry, this condition is known as 'adolescence' and is completely temporary. 

You've cruised through many ages and stages before, but this one... well, take these ABCs of parenting teenagers, buckle up, and enjoy the ride. 

As much as you can, anyway, while you're sitting in the passenger seat stomping on an imaginary brake pedal. (Unfortunately, that image is both literal and metaphorical.)

A is for Asking. Giving orders is the adolescent equivalent of waving a red flag at a bull, so instead of saying "Go do your homework" you should play dumb and ask "So what's your plan for finishing your history project?" Even though it's 10:55 PM the night before it's due and there's clearly zero plan.

B is for Be available. But not, like, too available. Provide structure and direction, but also allow your teenager to experience failure at the same time. It's hard to say whether your teenager needs you to step back or step in at any given moment, but at least you can be reasonably sure you're doing it wrong.

C is for Cry. For goodness' sake, your baby is going to be leaving you in just a few years and IF I EVER AGAIN HEAR THAT SAD SONG FROM TOY STORY 2 IT WILL BE TOO SOON.

D is for Date nights. Say, do you remember that person you made your teenager with? You're about to be spending a lot more time alone together so this is probably a good time to check in and see how they've been doing for the last 10-15 years. 

E is for Eyerolls. Fifteen-year-old me had no idea that every time I rolled my eyes at my mother, she was dislocating her sockets right back at me after I turned around.

F is for Food. Teenagers love food. A great way to build goodwill with your teen is to show up, give them food for no reason, and back away without saying anything. Try to avoid doing anything embarrassing on the way out.

G is for God. You'll need to pray a lot at this time in your life. Trust me.

H is for Humor. If you have to remind/threaten/cajole teens to do something, do it with humor (i.e: "Come quick! It looks like there's been a struggle in the mudroom! Someone broke in and threw your shoes and school stuff all over the place!") If you do it right, they'll clean up while thinking you're a dork instead of a nag.

I is for Insurance premiums going up. And you thought driver's ed was expensive. You had no idea.

J is for Job. Not only is it good for teenagers to learn to earn, save, and manage their own money, it's also good for them to have an adult who isn't you telling them what to do for once. Seriously, let their manager at Burger King teach the life lessons and absorb the eyerolls for a few hours a week. It takes a village.

K is for Knock before entering their room.

L is for Lower your expectations. Your child doesn't have to be running a Fortune 500 company by age 35. In fact, if they're not in jail or still living at home when they're 35, you should be thrilled. It means you did a good job.

M is for Magnitude. Teenagers can be (and often are) delightful, but their problems are of a completely different order of magnitude from when they were little. You'll feel crushing self-doubt you never knew existed, and that's saying something because you were once in a new mom group on Facebook.

From 4BoysMother Melissa Fenton.

N is for Noticing the good stuff. It might not seem like it, but your teen needs positive reinforcement now just as much as they did when they were potty-training. Give lots of compliments, but always make your praise specific and sincere ("Your essay thesis was really insightful" vs. "You're so smart!") Even if you can't think of anything, at least they're not still peeing on the couch.

O is for Opinions. Teenagers love being sought out for their opinion on anything from current events to what shoes you should wear with your outfit. Ask what they think about a topic, any topic. It's even okay to disagree, as long as you're as polite about it as you would be to a friend with different views than you.

P is for Perfection. Don't expect it. Teenagers will fool you into thinking they're almost adults with their giant shoes and driver's licenses and mature stances on foreign policy, but it's a lie. They'll get the entire house sopping wet giving the dog a bath like they were 6 years old.

Q is for Quiet. When your gut reaction is to freak out, err on the side of silence. Toddlers and pets need immediate correction for bad behavior, but teenagers will be okay if a few hours or days go by while you think about how to respond.

R is for Respect. Talk to your teen like an adult you'd meet in polite society, and expect them to do the same for you. That means you can't scream "When are you going to get your #%$^ together?!" and if they criticize you in a mean way you should absolutely say "I don't like to be talked to like that" and leave. It goes both ways.

S is for Screaming into a pillow from time to time. Some things are best left unsaid, or at least muffled behind a closed door.

T is for Try not to take it personally when they come home from school grumpy, ask you for help and then get mad at you for trying to help, then turn around and come alive with a million-watt smile for their friends. Although it feels pretty personal when someone you love more than life itself is twisting a dagger in your heart, it's weirdly not.

U is for Unconditional love. Don't forget to enjoy spending time with the marvelous person that towers over you but still calls you "Mom." Your teenager is pretty awesome  not because of their accomplishments or talents, but just because they're yours.

V is for Very scary. I once read it's actually a good thing if your teenager tells you scary things. I used to think that only meant confessing terrible misdeeds, but now I know it can mean anything from being honest about things kids their age are doing to confiding in you about a mental health issue you never saw coming. Hard to see that as a positive when what you really want to do is peel yourself out of your skin and run away, but you can try.

W is for Well, it's their life. Repeat that over and over to yourself: Well, it's their life. With a few important exceptions, you shouldn't be more invested in any given aspect of your teenager's life than s/he is.

X is for the Xtremes you'll go through. You can be actually sobbing with pride over some amazing accomplishment of your child, and not even 5 minutes later they'll do something so dumb you can only shake your head and think, "They're never going to make it."

Y is for yelling. Yelling, like name-calling, is a good idea precisely never. (See 'R.')

Z is for Zillions. When the time finally comes for your teen to move out of the house, you'll realize with horror the zillions of things you're not sure you taught them. Do they know how to register to vote? Will they remember not to wash their red clothes with their whites? Have they got enough confidence to stand up for themselves when they need to? You'll panic over all these things and more, but luckily you've had a lot of practice biting your tongue over the last several years. Even if your child didn't have Google for all that, and even if you weren't permanently available on a consulting basis, things would still turn out okay. Hug your grown child tight and relax: you raised a young adult who's capable enough to figure it out. 


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Friday, March 26, 2021

7 Quick Takes about a Thousand Things, the Cycle of Delinquency at the Library, and Discoveries on a Nature Hike

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


Our library started a puzzle exchange, where you can take or leave any puzzle on a table near the door. 

As a challenge I brought home this 1,000-piece puzzle and it's currently all over the dining room table while we work on it, just pushing it all to the inside of the table at mealtimes.

In our family we assign kitchen cleaning chores after dinner and now "clear the table" is everyone's absolute least favorite. It's almost guaranteed that someone will start whining, "But I don't wanna clear the table! There's, like, a thousand things on it!"

And for once, they're not exaggerating.


I didn't catch what started it, but I had to intervene in an altercation between my 4- and 6-year-olds. As far as I could tell, the 6-year-old was upset because his little brother accused him of "smelling like fart."

Forgetting the cardinal rule of parenting, which is never ask 'why' because it's the most pointless question of all the questions, I told the 4-year-old, "That wasn't very nice. Why did you say he smells like fart?"

Predictably, the answer came: "Because he does."



Who likes to laugh and/or is hugely pregnant right now? It's been a while since I was carrying a little human, but this hilarious video from Dude Dad took me right back to those achy, itchy, edema-laden days. 

I think he did a spectacular job describing pregnancy, especially for someone who hasn't been through it personally but has only watched. Except for the ridiculous move at 1:35. I can't even do that when I'm not pregnant.


Parenting is tough because
 each child has an infinite number of needs, so even if you're doing a good job overall it's hard not to feel like a failure because you still see so many unmet needs glaring at you. 

My middle schooler has been struggling with online school, and talking about it at home hasn't been very fruitful, so I decided to sign up for spring conferences.

Our school district actually does student-led conferences, where the child fills out a survey about their school performance and leads a discussion based on that, with the teacher there just as a facilitator. I've actually never gone to one of these before, thinking, "I'll just talk to my kid at home without the intermediary, thankyouverymuch" but with the struggle it's been this year I felt like we needed to be there.

So I already felt sheepish going into the meeting, feeling like the fact I even needed to go to this conference was evidence of my failure.

When the conference started and my son had forgotten to fill out the questionnaire, that was just icing on the cake.


In other areas where I need to improve, I really have to get better about returning our library books on time. 

Particularly because the library quarantines your books for a week after you bring them back, which means that your account gets blocked and you can't renew anything you already have out.

Right now we have 27 overdues, which I took back to the library so our account gets unblocked, but while they sit in quarantine limbo a few dozen more are about to go overdue... I really can't see an end to this cycle, honestly. 


By and large, this has been kind of an annoying week. 

I'm doing things like rounding up overdue library books, sorting out a frozen credit card account due to suspected fraud (although I called and they can't figure out why the system flagged our account in the first place,) and filling out more paperwork than when we bought the house so my youngest can go to kindergarten in the fall.

So I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post, but this is just not an Instagrammable life over here right now.


At least I can throw some pictures of our latest hike on here, though. All living things are still looking pretty brown and dead, but the sun was out so we were excited to get outside.

My younger kids were also excited to see that some mature vandal had carved the word "poop" on a bench and they all took turns "sitting on poop."

It's the little joys in life, apparently.

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Friday, March 19, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Admirable Mothering, Shamrock Pancakes, and Nicknames That Aren't Catchy But At Least They Remind My Kids To Change the Toilet Paper Roll

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


On a remote learning day, I saw my first grader watching a video on the couch about women in history. He then came to me for help with the assignment at the end, which was to say something about a woman you admire and why.

"Do you know what 'admire' means?" I asked. (Sometimes their schoolwork means well, but the vocabulary used goes way over their heads.)

He shook his head.

"'Admire' means you look up to someone. Like, you think they're cool or you think they're good at what they do."

He absorbed that information, thought quietly for a minute, and then yelled, "You! You're good at what you do! You're a good mom."


We had a few days of 60-degree weather this week! I decided on one of them I should go for a run, since I got into running practically every day over the summer but stopped once it got cold.

I took my regular route, which probably wasn't a good idea since I haven't moved much since November. My body had NO IDEA what was happening. I'm pretty sure it thought I was having a stroke. My blood was in my ears, my limbs were itchy... it was brutal.

Then the weather turned cold again, and I was happy to throw my running shoes in the back of the closet and forget about it until spring arrives for real.


I wasn't planning on doing anything for St. Patrick's Day. One of the things I love about it, actually, is that you don't have to do anything and no one expects you to.

However, the night before my 9-year-old asked "Are you going to make us green pancakes and milk in the morning, Mom. Are you??"

So I did.

Slightly wonky green pancakes. I did my best.

Green pancakes and milk, as requested. 

Over breakfast my 9-year-old was giving a firehose-style explanation of St. Patrick's Day symbols and traditions to the 4-year-old.

I tuned in just in time to hear her say "...and there's shamrocks and leprechauns who guard pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and you have to wear green or I get to pinch you every hour!"

"Wait a minute," I laughed. "I've never heard about the 'every hour' part."

"Well, I added that."


Since Phillip had a some free time in the afternoon on St. Patrick's Day, we decided to take a little hike. 

We billed it to the younger kids as "a Shamrock hunt," even though it's too early for shamrocks yet, and brought along a green popcorn treat to have at the end of the trail.

And now we're gearing up for Easter! For Family Home Evening this week we hid plastic Easter eggs with the names of songs the kids learned in church about Jesus, and took turns singing them while eating candy.

Even without the candy, I really do love and look forward to Easter. It's such a hopeful time of the year.


It's official, the kids are going back to school for sure at the beginning of April. Since September, they've been doing a hybrid model (two days in school, three days learning at home on the computer.)

Returning full-time will be great for them, both socially and academically, but it's kind of bittersweet to know I only have a few weeks left. I'm certainly not looking forward to the craziness of getting everyone dressed and ready and to the bus stop on time 5 mornings a week.

I'll miss watching the 6-year-old riding scooters in the driveway with his little brother on breaks, chatting with the older kids between classes, and seeing everyone pop in and out of the kitchen a million times a day to grab a drink or snack.

Even though I'll still have the 4-year-old and the homeschooled 16-year-old at home, it will definitely feel quieter around here. But on the flip side, maybe now the kitchen will stay clean for more than 5 seconds.


When Phillip started talking about putting solar panels on the roof, I was happy to entertain the idea. Especially since for tax purposes, this would be a good year for us to do it.

I should've known things would snowball.

Now we're looking into contacting roofers for a new roof, since our current one is approaching the end of its life and needs to be replaced before installing solar.

Then the solar guys who came out here for a quote advised us to remove a few trees, which is a whole other project to deal with on its own.

Last night, Phillip was crunching numbers to see if it makes more sense for us to pay for this out of savings or do a cash-out refinance of the house.

I'm pretty sure if he'd approached me up front saying, "Hey, how about if we simultaneously refinance the house and remove trees and get a new roof and put on solar panels?" I would've hit him with a frying pan.

Clearly, things are getting out of control.


I can't remember the exact reason, but my 16-year-old recently referred to me as 'Jenny "Take Off the Old Toilet Paper Roll Before You Put on the New One" Evans' and it sort of stuck.

I'm sure they'll forget about it eventually, because it's not that catchy as far as nicknames go, but for now the kids are all referring to it every time they change the TP roll. 

But honestly, as long as they're changing it properly I really couldn't care less. Because we can all agree that this is just inappropriate:

Not the way to change a roll of toilet paper.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Strange Names for Inanimate Objects, A Comprehensive Assortment of Books, and Speaking to the Manager

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


Hello from this ridiculous pen my first grader brought home from school!

My kids, being even more ridiculous than the pen, named it Dennis. 


We have had some beautiful weather this week! I told you spring was coming. 

I loaded the 4- and 6-year-old into the car to take them to the park, but I already had a headache from how loud they were being and we hadn't even left the garage yet.

So I told them, "You two need to be quiet if you want to go to the park. If anyone makes a sound before we get out of the driveway, I will stop the car and that person will stay here at home with Dad instead."

Immediately, the 4-year-old answered "Okay" and his brother yelled at him "You just made a sound!"

They made it .5 seconds, you guys.


Even though they'd both technically disqualified themselves, we still went ahead with the outing to the park because they'd made me laugh. We met a friend there and she and I ended up talking about how different it was raising boys than girls.

Now, I know every kid is different. I also know that boys need to know how to sew and girls need to know how to use power tools. I'm not saying otherwise. 

But seriously, they're just different. Girls giggle and scream when they're excited; boys give each other concussions and punch a hole through the wall. They're just way more physical and destructive, in my experience.

And just as my friend and I are talking about this, out of the corner of my eye I catch my son with a chunk of concrete the size of a bocce ball raised over his head, about to heave it over the playground fence.

Do you see what I'm talking about?


Our family usually has a truckload of books on hold at the library, and once a week I go pick up the stack. 

Yesterday, I made a special midweek trip because a history book my high schooler needed ASAP had come in, so there were only three books waiting for us. The titles were Dog ManThe Enchanted Charms, and Hitler.

An eclectic selection.

I can only imagine what the librarians were thinking as they checked these out for us.


I've heard that our school district is trying to get more kids back in the classroom full-time, but for now I'm enjoying having them learning from home three days a week while I can.

My 14-year-old is taking a photography class, and she's been asking the 4-year-old to help her with her assignments. Sometimes he's the subject of her photos; other times he helps her pose different objects in the frame.

It's no fun staring at a computer screen for 7 hours and only interacting periodically with your classmates' disembodied heads over Google Meets, so for the kids' sake I can't wait for a full return to school. But I'll miss watching my 4-year-old be his sister's assistant photographer.


As a parent who's big on kids developing as much independence as possible, I've worried about the semi-lockdown situation we've been in for the last year.  Is the rising generation going to be like housecats who don't know what to do when they get outside?

Which is why, after learning that a major art museum near us recently reopened, I suggested that my 14- and 16-year-olds plan a trip there. They could could take the subway and make a day out of enjoying the art and getting some lunch in the city, just the two of them.

The online system wasn't letting us buy youth tickets without an adult ticket, so I emailed to ask about it and was told the museum policy didn't allow visitors under 18 without adult supervision.

Well, if that didn't make me livid.  

So to clarify, a teenager old enough to drive herself to the museum is still not old enough to walk around inside?? For crying out loud, if you want kids who can't handle independent life after high school then not allowing them to do anything without a babysitter until their 18th birthday seems like a great way to do it!


What I did next, in the words of my 16-year-old, was "assume my ultimate Karen form" and spit out an adrenaline-fueled email explaining why I thought the policy made no sense and how I hoped the museum would reconsider it.

I asked that my concerns be forwarded to the appropriate department, but truthfully I didn't have high hopes. I assumed whoever read it would just make a rude gesture at the computer, hit 'delete,' and that would be that.

Who would've guessed that a few days later, I'd wake up to an email saying that they'd reviewed the policy with the director of visitor services and had decided to lower the minimum age for unaccompanied visitors to 12?

Never in a million years did I expect a response, letalone that one. 

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Hardest Parts of Having a Big Family

When I write about big families like mine, I tend to talk about the funny and the heartwarming side. Mostly because I truly do feel like I'm living my best life over here raising 6 quirky and amazing kids. 

Family picture courtesy of my youngest child.

But for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction (I learned that from my high schooler's physics class,) so it makes sense that raising a large family also comes with its own set of heartaches and headaches.

So in the vein of honesty for honesty's sake, here are the most difficult things about being hopelessly outnumbered by miniature versions of yourself.

So. Much. Noise.

When we send the kids outside to play, I think the guards at the Canadian border can tell. Never have you heard such auditory chaos, including (but not limited to) happy whooping, excited shouting, heated arguments, and injured crying.

Things don't get much better inside the house. Someone is pounding on the piano. Teenagers are thundering up and down the stairs and talking over each other to be heard. I may be exaggerating a little, but it's objectively loud. I know because one of our daughters has sensory issues and she frequently comes to the dinner table wearing noise-cancelling headphones.

There's No Pleasing Everyone

Speaking of dinner, no matter what you're eating there's always someone who doesn't like it. I know this happens in every family sometimes, but in a big family it's a 100% certainty at every single meal. 

Unanimous decisions exist, but more often than not there's at least one person who doesn't want to go to the beach or doesn't like the choice for movie night. You try to accommodate everyone's preferences as much as possible, but at the end of the day kids in big families have to learn to compromise.

It Takes Us Forever to Assemble

You know that scene from Home Alone where everyone is frantically running around, tripping over each other and yelling, trying to get out the door? Well, that's us but not just when we're leaving on vacation. It's literally anytime we have to go anywhere.

It also takes us forever to assemble for mealtimes or family prayer. No one listens the first time we call, because they don't want to be the only one sitting at the table for 15 minutes, and on the off-chance a child does do exactly what we asked they get bored waiting for everyone else and wander away. We often resort to a final countdown and then just start whether we're missing people or not.

It's Impossible Not to Be Overscheduled

"Overscheduled" becomes a lifestyle when you have multiple children, and I honestly can't figure out how to avoid it. Even if each child is only involved in one or two activities it means that collectively, your family is swamped. 

You're on the road all the time (note to self: set up more carpools!) and dinner for at least one kid every night is sandwiches in the car, which (surprise!) not everyone likes. It takes a month to schedule family movie night, because that's how often you have a 2-hour chunk of time when everyone is home before the youngest kids have to go to bed.

Your Family Is Overwhelming to Others

No one invites eight people over for dinner, unless you're friends with other families of eight and you can eat outside. My kids report that their friends, who have families half the size and houses twice as big, get overwhelmed with the level of activity over here and sometimes prefer to meet up at their houses instead. 

This might be rooted in my own personal insecurities, but I also worry about scaring people off with the size of my brood before they get to know us. The first time I meet you, I might be intentionally vague about the number of kids I have until you see that the one or two I've got with me are good kids you wouldn't mind hanging out with yours.

Your Choice of Activities is Limited

Hotel rooms have occupancy limits. Family memberships only cover 4 to 6 people. It takes 20 minutes for us all to order food at McDonald's, not that we eat there often because it also costs $100. Some things other families don't think twice about are just too hard or too expensive to be worth it for us.

If you have a big family, your children probably also span a wide range of ages, which narrows your choices even more. What activities can you do that are fun for your teenager but still appropriate for your toddler? We do a lot of beaches and hiking, both of which also happen to be free so that works out nicely.

Mental and Physical Exhaustion

You're up late with teenagers, up early with preschoolers, and maybe even up at night with a baby. Your body is busy meeting the needs of little kids and your mind is preoccupied with the problems of the big kids. 

Part of it is probably that I'm just getting older myself, but always being on-duty and juggling so many different parenting toolboxes at once means that I'm definitely more tired now than I've ever been. 

These are the biggest challenges I've faced while raising a big family, but it's worth saying again that for each one there's a silver lining. There's more work, but more people to help out. There's more sacrifice, but also more joy.

The bottom line is that watching your child's miraculous personality unfold is life's greatest privilege, and the fact that I get to do this  not just one time, but six  makes me feel ridiculously lucky, regardless of the difficulties.

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