Friday, March 27, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Having Faith Like a Grain of Mustard Seed, Some Impressive Snowmen, and Being Married to Groucho Marx

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

Social distancing is weird. Every day feels so long, but when I sit down to write a 7 Quick Takes it feels like I just wrote one because I haven't done anything in the past week!

1


As a general rule, I try to stay away from the last row of seats in the van as much as possible; I really don't want to know what's back there.

But when one of the kids unearthed this, I had to do a little investigating to find out what it was and where it came from.


Apparently, it was a Sunday School object lesson that backfired.

The last time we met at church before it was cancelled, my daughter's Sunday School class talked about faith. Since the scriptures often compare faith to a seed that must be nurtured in order to grow, the teacher passed out paper cups with seeds planted in them as an object lesson.

Ironically, my daughter forgot hers in the car for two weeks and it grew better than any plant we've ever made an effort to take care of before.

2


Earlier this week I noticed that my blog traffic has been abnormally high, so I dug into my blog stats to investigate.

The reason?

Hoards of desperate parents in quarantine have apparently been reading an old post of mine entitled 20 Things to Do When You're Trapped Indoors With Small Children, which unfortunately was highly sarcastic and contained no helpful suggestions.

I've actually been wondering if I should post about what the kids and I are doing during this social distancing period, and I guess maybe I really should sit down and write it.

Any brilliant suggestions you'd like me to include in the article?

3


On Saturday we drove to a nearby mountain to hike, but there were too many people. Like, WAY too many. We might as well have been at Coachella for how packed it was.

I guess hiking is a solitary activity, so no one expected everyone else to have the same idea.

We didn't feel like breathing on everyone and having them breathe on us, so we got back in the car and drove to a nearby mountain with a less-impressive view and a muddier parking lot, which turned out to be not crowded at all and we hiked there, instead.

Taken 2 seconds before she let go of the branch and whacked her brother in the face. 

4


I've been working out every day since being sequestered at home and recently discovered that a bunch of the Les Mills workouts are available for free online. (I'm not sure if this is always the case or just a little COVID-19 freebie like so many companies are giving out nowadays.)

I figured I'd check it out since I remember hearing good things about Les Mills from my sister-in-law, who's probably the fittest person on the planet.

It didn't take long into the first video to find out that Les Mills is super-intense, and I don't just mean the exercise part. The whole atmosphere is pretty ridiculous. Between the strobe lights and the smoke and the techno music, it's like a cross between a workout and a rave. I thought I was going to have a seizure.

I was literally yelling at the screen, "You don't need to manufacture all this intensity! This workout is actually very challenging!"

That said, I've since gotten used to the strobe light and Les Mills has grown on me, so I'm going to keep at it. Even if I do feel silly being the only 40-year-old mom at the rave.

5


We're not driving too much these days. Phillip did the math yesterday and calculated that we spend one-fifth of what we used to on gas.

This week it snowed and we didn't even bother clearing the driveway. We just shrugged and waited a couple of days for it to melt.

Since it rained for a few hours after it snowed, this stuff would've been awful to shovel had we tried. But wet snow is the best for building, so the kids went outside and made some pretty awesome snowmen. And their snowcat.

Love the top hat.

6


The Great Beard Experiment has come to an end. After a month and a half, our takeaway was that we liked how it looked from far away but we were both annoyed with it close up.

Phillip appreciated the extra warmth when he went running, but now that spring is here he's pretty much over it.

It was hilarious to watch how all the kids gathered 'round in the bathroom to watch him shave it off. I guess we're all a little desperate for entertainment these days.

Before and after.

To be fair, he did make it pretty entertaining. He shaved it off a little at a time, making interesting facial hair styles and leaving his mustache for last.

And then, (because like I said, we're desperate for entertainment) we decided to troll his parents by texting them this picture and pretending this bushy 1930s mustache was seriously Phillip's new look.


No one could have possibly been more diplomatic than his sweet mother.


Sometimes I don't know how such nice people can end up with such rotten children.

7


Last of all, this made me laugh out loud on several occasions. 

If, like me, Beauty and the Beast is your favorite classic Disney movie, you'll probably love this dubbed-over song where the lyrics are about whatever's happening. (Ignore the weird thumbnail picture, it's not even in the video.)


Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files
Read More »

Friday, March 20, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Why My Right Eye is Twitching, Family Time, and Preemptive Signs I Might Take to the Grocery Store Next Time

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday!

After taking my 8-year-old on an errand I told her, "Now go inside, don't touch your face, wash your hands and-"

She interrupted me by saying, "And never go near anyone again." She was kidding, but still not completely wrong.

How has your quarantined week been?

1


It's pretty surreal how things change so fast. Last Monday things were business as usual, and less than a week later the governor of our state was banning all gatherings of more than 25 people.

It's been stressful, I'm not going to lie.

It's unsettling to see the economy tanking. It's unsettling to go to the grocery store to see empty shelves and people shopping in masks. Since last Thursday, there has been a literal twitch in my right eye.

But it isn't all bad.

As my 8-year-old was lamenting how everything she loves is canceled, I got a little choked up explaining to her that the whole country  the whole world, really  is making sacrifices and working together to slow down COVID-19 so there's enough room in the hospitals for everybody who needs help.

I'm not sure if she's old enough to really make the connection between that and missing playing with her friends at recess, but it's still a beautiful thing.

2


My family and I are totally on board with social distancing, and not just because we're all introverts, anyway.

My one concern is that I don't think enough people understand why  social distancing is important. They may just look at the case count and fatality rate of COVID-19 and say, "So what? Sounds like the flu. That's no reason not to go out for lunch."

But it's not really about those things at all. If you don't quite understand, or if you think social distancing is unnecessary panic, this article might help explain things better.

3


With the kids out of school and homebound, we've been making the most of it.

I know some parents are freaking out about homeschooling, but academics are just not on my list of priorities right now. I mean, I'm doing my best to keep the kids from devolving into knuckle-dragging cavemen, but I'm not using any structured curriculum and I don't plan to. Is that wrong?

The way I see it, they've done lots of school. They will go on to do lots more school after this is all over.

Right now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to play all the games, watch all the movies, and do all the things we never have time for during the busyness of life, not even during summer vacation. I'm prioritizing family time right now, completely and unapologetically.

The first thing my older kids wanted to do when school got canceled was to play a board game called Pandemic.

We lost, by the way.

It's a cooperative game where you work together to cure a disease outbreak, and it's honestly one of those games that's so complicated I don't even enjoy it all that much. Sort of like chess, which also hurts my brain.

But again, I enjoyed having the opportunity. We've had Pandemic for a couple of years and only played it once because it takes an hour and a half.

4




I've been hanging onto some acrylic painting paper for a long time, thinking it would be good for a fun activity with the kids that never seems to happen.

A year ago, I went to a paint night at a church activity (take #7 here) and I thought it would be fun to replicate with the kids, maybe over summer vacation. But it never happened.

Since we have all the time in the world now (see how I'm sort of loving this social distancing thing?) we pulled up this video one night after dinner and made a fall forest.

My favorite part was seeing how different everyone's forest painting turned out, even though we were all following the same instructional video. 

Can you guess which one is mine?

Starting on the top left and going clockwise, the paintings were done by Phillip, my 13-year-old, my 15-year-old, my 11-year-old, me, and my 8-year-old.

The 3- and 5-year-olds didn't want to be left out, so we gave them some paints and let them go to town, too.

I have no idea whose is whose.

The most impressive part was that we got it all cleaned up afterward. By the time we were finished, it looked like a paint factory exploded on our dining room table.

5


Since we're fortunate enough to live where we can go hiking without being around people, we took a family hike on Sunday afternoon.

5 out of 6 kids. The youngest is... somewhere.

It was lovely getting out (we can theoretically play in the yard but it's been cold and/or rainy the last few days.)

Two of my girls got way ahead of us and made rock cairns while they waited for my 3-year-old to finish dusting every tree with a pine branch he picked up alongside the trail.

This could take a while.

I loved this picture of the kids running up the hill at the end of the trail.


When we reached the top, Phillip looked out over the view and told the kids in his best James Earl Jones voice, "Someday, everything the light touches will be yours."

I think a few of them got the reference.

6


This was our first week of home church, and I sort of loved it.

We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which suspended services worldwide on Thursday.

Can I say that I love having a prophet at the head of our church? We were told about a year and a half ago that we needed to make the shift to being a "home-centered, church-supported" religion. At the beginning of 2018, they rolled out a new church curriculum where every week has a new scripture assignment and study guide to discuss as a family, outside of church.

After we'd had a little over a year to practice (which is good, because it took the Evanses about a year to figure out how to use the new curriculum best in our family,) Coronavirus happened. Suddenly, it was like, "Okay, you've had enough time to practice this 'home-centered' church. Now let's do this for real."

I don't know if the prophet knew that a contagious virus was the reason we needed to make this change.

Maybe, maybe not.

But I absolutely believe that he knew it was necessary for us right now, and that's why I love following a prophet today. (For more on prophets including a snazzy animated video, see here. You can also meet our current prophet Russell M. Nelson by streaming a live broadcast from him and other church leaders at the church's website on April 4th and 5th.)

This week, anyway, home church was a success. Being part of a church community and giving our kids access to other adult mentors is important, but really nothing compares to learning about and experiencing the gospel of Jesus Christ as a family.

7


When I was at the grocery store yesterday, the manager was on the loudspeaker making announcements: "Remember to wash your hands when you go home. Try to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, including employees stocking the shelves. And we're not closing anytime soon, so please don't be excessive in buying things. You don't need five or six gallons of milk."

Was this guy both omniscient and  passive-aggressive? There were precisely 6 gallons of milk in my cart  but wait, it's not what it looks like!

Besides just having 6 kids, I'm shopping for two weeks at a time so I don't need to go to the store as often. And frankly, putting our entire family on a 3-gallon-per-week schedule is going to require some WWII-era rationing. So don't tell me I don't need 6 gallons of milk.

Toward the end of my trip I ran into my pediatrician, who saw my cart full of food and suggested that I tape a sign to the front that reads "Not hoarding, I just have 6 kids."

I'll think about it.

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files
Read More »

Friday, March 13, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Canceling Life As We Know It, Wise Sayings That Backfire, and Going Out With a Bang

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

1


Does anyone else feel like they're watching a car accident happen in slow motion right now? Because I sort of do.

At the beginning of this week, our lives weren't very different because of COVID-19. I had basically just started making my kids wash their hands before dinner, which frankly I should have been doing anyway.

But now the governor has declared a state of emergency and things have been changing pretty fast. By Wednesday, every field trip, concert, and event the kids are involved in for the next few months had been canceled. On Thursday, Phillip's job sent all employees home to work from their living rooms, the church temporarily suspended all meetings for Latter-day Saints across the world, and the school closed.

Making plans now feels like making plans during your last month of pregnancy: "Sounds like fun maybe it'll even happen!"

I know that for most people, Coronavirus is not something to be feared. It'll simply be a major inconvenience as everything on the calendar gets postponed. Such drastic measures are being taken so hospitals can keep up with the uptick in people who need them, not because we're all going to die.

It's just... weird.

And I really hope I get my money back from those canceled field trips I already paid for.

2


My children, however, are carrying on with business as usual.

Some kids do gymnastics on tumbling mats; mine use their sleeping father.

If you say "I need to take a short nap" then they say "Absolutely, Dad. I can see you're really ti — DIVE BOMB!"

Seriously, bookmark this post and just show it to the next person who asks you why people with kids look so exhausted all the time.

3


I went to lunch with a lovely group of ladies on Tuesday. We were all asked to bring the last book we read and give a little blurb about it.

Which was fine, except the last book I read was Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers {affiliate link}.

Actually, that part was okay. I loved the book. I thought it was funny, fascinating, and extremely well-written (and researched.) I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it and I plan to check out other books by the same author next time I get the chance.

The not-okay part was that we shared our book recommendations while eating, and it turns out most folks don't enjoy listening to someone go on about cadaver ballistics testing, organ harvesting, and anatomy dissection over carrot cake.

It was still a great book, just an unfortunate context.

4


My teenager is was getting ready for an upcoming formal dance for our church youth, appropriately called "church prom." She found a beautiful dress on Amazon and this weekend we went shopping and came home with the perfect jewelry and shoes to match.

Church prom was, of course, called off this week. Add it to the long, looooong list of canceled events she was really looking forward to.

They're going to try to reschedule for later in the spring/summer, but there's no guarantee. So I'm not sure what we should do with the expensive dress, necklace, and shoes with their tags still attached.

Do we return them, assuming prom won't be rescheduled? Or do we keep them, assuming it will be, or that she can wear them next year?

What if we keep it all and she grows out of it (even though we think she's done growing) or decides she doesn't like it by the time the next prom comes? Or what if we return everything and then they do reschedule and she can't find it again (it took a while for her to find what she liked the first time)?

What would you do??

5


Something I say all the time to my youngest two sons is "big boys try." I've been using that line for at least two years, since my 5-year-old automatically gives up whenever he gets frustrated.

Things like that can backfire in funny ways.

I recently changed the passcode on my phone to keep my 3-year-old from playing on it without permission, but what actually happens is that he now just keeps entering the wrong one until it locks everyone out.

The other day I picked up my phone to use it, but saw the message "try again in 28 minutes."

"Hey!" I accused him. "You locked me out of my phone!"

"No," he explained. "I was just trying to get in it. 'Cause big boys do try."

Dang it.

6


Another message gone wrong from this week:

Over the summer we were given a copy of Dear Boy, a picture book of short life lessons like "it's important to be kind," "it's okay if you don't win as long as you do your best," and so on. One page is a vague introduction to the idea of consent, saying "Dear Boy: Yes means Yes. Anything else means No."

Okay.

Fast-forward to several months later, after my 3-year-old has requested his 50th snack right before lunch, and I say no.

"But I want Craisins! I just want Craisins!" he starts to whine.

I reach for the cupboard, but then I stop myself; I don't want to reward that behavior. Firmly, I tell him, "Listen to me: 'no' means 'no.'"

My 3-year-old smiles at me and chirps, "And anything else means 'yes!'"

Sorry, authors of Dear Boy. I know you're doing your best to teach the rising generation about consent, but the only thing my son is learning is to exploit loopholes in the English language to get more snacks.

7


I work with the 11-14 year old girls at church, and this week we had the best youth activity. We had a Book of Mormon read-a-thon.

I loved the idea but I admit I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Would some of the girls get too fidgety and restless? Would they think it was boring? Would they be into it at all?

But I shouldn't have worried, because my co-leader planned the whole thing and it was amazing. Everyone came in their comfiest pajamas or sweats and brought a blanket/pillow and their Book of Mormon.

We read while we ate some snacks, took a break for scripture charades, read some more, then chose a favorite scripture and my 13-year-old taught us some handlettering techniques to write it all fancy-like.

There were nine girls in the room so it took a minute to get quieted down, but once they settled and all started reading, it was such a beautiful sight.

I guess that was the last youth activity for the immediate future, now that the church has suspended all gatherings during the pandemic. At least it was a good one to go out on.

For reference, here was the treat I brought. This is a Book of Mormon prophet named Samuel who preached on a city wall. The actual wall was probably not made of Cocoa Krispie Treats.

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files
Read More »

Friday, March 6, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Shark Horses, a Centenarian's Civic Duty, and Signs That Spring Might Be Coming After All

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

1


Phillip engineers building materials at work, and sometimes inspiration strikes at the weirdest times. We took our oldest two kids to the orchestra and were sitting there listening to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 when Phillip said, "I just got an idea."

"About what?" I whispered back.

"Mixing insulation," he answered, and throughout the rest of the concert I could tell he wasn't really paying attention. I may or may not have seen him making mixing motions in the air with his finger a few times as he tried to conceptualize his idea.

Seeing him so inspired, the 13-year-old leaned over and told me, "This is why music was invented."

2


For the most part, I like our house. There are just a few things about it that drive me crazy, so one of my hobbies lately has been casually browsing real estate listings on Zillow.

On the way to drop our 8-year-old off at a birthday party, Phillip and I even stopped at an open house for one of the listings I saw.

When we pulled up at the open house, we saw the world's cutest family walking around the yard and checking the place out. Mom had the baby on her hip and the preschool daughter was skipping alongside Dad, looking like they were on their way to a family photo shoot at the pumpkin patch.

Phillip and I threw each other looks of horror.

"How are we supposed to take this house from them?!"

"Should we just keep driving?"

In the end, though, we still stopped and were glad to find numerous things we didn't like about the house. And really, that's why we went in the first place.

Going to open houses to remind ourselves that we like our house is a dangerous game, but we've been to three and so far it's been working out for us.

3


I'm the least flexible person you've ever met. When I sit on the ground and attempt a straddle stretch, I can barely bring my legs to 90 degrees.

I've always been like that, but getting older has made me worried about someday becoming some kind of petrified tree-person who can barely move, so long story short, I've started stretching every day to slow down the process.

I hate it.

I'm trying really hard, but stretching is extremely uncomfortable and boring. There are moments when I sort of feel my muscles relax into the stretch and I think that's what I'm supposed to be going for, but I can't figure out how to make them do that on command.

Also, I'm usually worried about the 3-year-old running up and doing a swan dive on me in the middle of a stretch and tearing my hamstrings.

I was holding a stretch, grimacing and muttering like usual the other day, when he came over to see what was going on. "Do NOT touch me while I'm doing this," I growled, and I got serious déjà vu from being in labor.

Maybe I'm exaggerating by comparing the two, but only a little. I really hate stretching.

4


I can't stop laughing at this funny Google search someone left on the computer. I'm dying at the shark-horse, although the pug-rabbit on its left is a close second.


I can only hope no one was researching for a school project, although it would probably make for the most interesting tri-fold posterboard in the whole class.

5


I went to volunteer at my 6-year-old's school and stopped to admire the bulletin board in the hallway.

In honor of the 100th day of school last week, the kindergartners drew pictures of what they think they'll look like at age 100. They crumpled them up to make them look wrinkly (ha ha) and finished the writing prompt: "When I am 100 years old, I will _____________."

This kid wrote "pay taxes."

I can only wish this was my kid's paper. What a practical young man!

I remember when my now 11-year-old did this same prompt in kindergarten. He knew that people get stronger as they grow up but didn't realize that at some point you actually stop getting stronger, so he wrote "When I am 100 I will lift a car."

6


Speaking of cute misunderstandings, I caught my 3-year-old digging in the yard with a spade he found in the garage. When I told him not to do it anymore, he looked sheepishly at the damage and suggested, "Maybe the grasshoppers can plant new grass."

How cute can one person be? I just agreed because I didn't have the heart to tell him that's not how grasshoppers work.

7


We've had some truly beautiful days around here where the temperature has hit 60 degrees. Spring is almost here!

Phillip lowered the hoop in the driveway and introduced the 6-year-old to basketball. We (read: he, because I couldn't care less) have never been very successful at getting the kids interested in sports, but this time it seems to have taken. The 6-year-old now counts points by two and keeps a running tally of his lifetime total.

A few days ago, I came home from dropping somebody off somewhere and the 6-year-old was in the driveway with his ball beaming and yelling, "I have 187 points!"

Watching someone guard a player three feet taller than him during a pick-up game is priceless.

It's been nice getting outside, although the kids grew over the winter and their bike seats all need to be adjusted so for now, they look like circus bears riding tiny bicycles.

These boys are always playing, fighting, and sometimes play fighting with each other. Phillip says they remind him of two otters rolling around.

Going outside to play without snow gear for the first time in months is the best.

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files
Read More »

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

30 Lessons from 15 Years of Parenting

To date, I have six kids ranging in age from 3 to 15, and believe me when I say I know a lot more than when I started.

Besides being married and feeding myself, there aren't many other activities I've been actively engaged in for 15 years, so I was bound to learn a few things.



After fifteen years, here's what I know about raising humans, from fun size to (almost) full size.

1. If you think you know what you're doing as a parent, you don't have enough kids. Keep going and you'll get one who proves you wrong.

2. It's not just toddlers who are exasperating. At every age, your kids can regularly make you want to stick your head in the oven.

3. Do things the way they work for your family, even if they're not the way everyone else does them. (Seriously, have the kids sleep in tomorrow's clean clothes or trade rooms so they get the master bedroom if that's what makes sense for your family. There really are no rules.)

4. Kids will try to hang from anything. A drywall patch kit makes a lovely and practical baby shower gift for clueless new parents.

5. You'll forget how hard it was after your kids aren't little anymore. You think you won't, but you do.

6. After you have children, 'tired' becomes your personality. By the time they finally learn to sleep through the night, you will have forgotten how.

7. For the love of all that's holy, make your kids work a lot at home. You are not the maid.

Okay, but maybe don't start this young.

8. Parenting is mostly like being a triage nurse.

9. If you have to get something done but the kids are in your hair, give them 5 minutes of your undivided attention first. They'll be satisfied for an hour and you'll accomplish much more in the end, I promise.

10. One of the best feelings in the world is being needed. The other best feeling, if you're a parent, is occasionally not being needed.

11. When you have teenagers, the eye-rolling goes both ways.

12. Sex talks and discussions about body parts/functions aren't awkward if you start talking when your kids are really young.

13. Nothing smells as good as a newborn baby's head.

14. You don't know what's cool now and even if you did, you wouldn't understand it. If your 13-year-old tells you everyone at school is drawing on clown eyebrows and wearing their underwear outside of their pants, just say 'okay' and try not to think about it too much.

You won't get how they talk, either.

15. Having charts and systems is so worth the effort. It's hard when they're young but it pays off a hundredfold.

16. You don't have to be a good mom in the same way that so-and-so is a good mom. We all have different strengths as parents and that's okay.

17. If your kids' room is always messy, they probably just have too much stuff. Same goes for your house.

18. Teenagers have a way of making you realize it really isn't so bad having someone so in love with you they'll fight to sit on your lap while you use the toilet. (Possibly see #5.)

There is no way not to miss this when they're older.

19. Your younger kids will be raised in the family minivan.

20. Your kids may be a little weird, but they take their weirdness to a whole new level when you introduce them to people you'd like to impress.

21. If there's a dumb YouTube video out there, your kids will find it.

22. Teenagers come alive and suddenly get chatty just when you're ready to collapse into bed at night.

23. If you don't really expect your kids to behave in public, listen to you, or get along with each other, they probably won't.

24. Time is weird in parenting. It's impossible to look at your baby and think "this creature will one day be picking up milk at the store for me on her way home from work," but it's almost equally impossible to watch your high school student writing a research paper and really feel like he's the same person whose favorite activity was finding things in the carpet and sucking on your keys. 

25. Take pictures. And while you're at it, write down the cute stuff your kids say.

Just a 5-year-old showing his younger brother how to escape from prison.

26. They changed math since you were in school. No, really. They changed it. You literally cannot help your second grader with his homework now.

27. Making silly sound effects while you're folding laundry is the main ingredient for a toddler's Best Day Ever. As they get older, kids are significantly harder to impress.

28. The younger the child, the better s/he is at locking you out of your phone.

29. Do everything you can to foster good sibling relationships among your kids. They will outlive you, and hopefully so will their friendships with each other.

30. It's best not knowing what's under the seats in the last row of the minivan.

My oldest child hasn't even turned 16 yet, and I've heard that's when things get real. So I fully expect to keep learning, and you should probably expect a post like this one in another five years.

If you liked this post, make sure to check out 29 Things I've Learned in Ten Years of Parenting!

Motherhood involves a lot of on-the-job training (actually, it’s exclusively on-the-job training,) and in the last 15 years I’ve learned a lot of lessons about parenting from my six kids. Part  funny and part insightful parenting tips, this list contains everything I know about raising kids through the baby, toddler, tweenage, and teenage years. #family #parenting #parentinghumor #kids #funny #unremarkablefiles
Motherhood involves a lot of on-the-job training (actually, it’s exclusively on-the-job training,) and in the last 15 years I’ve learned a lot of lessons about parenting from my six kids. Part  funny and part insightful parenting tips, this list contains everything I know about raising kids through the baby, toddler, tweenage, and teenage years. #family #parenting #parentinghumor #kids #funny #unremarkablefiles
Motherhood involves a lot of on-the-job training (actually, it’s exclusively on-the-job training,) and in the last 15 years I’ve learned a lot of lessons about parenting from my six kids. Part  funny and part insightful parenting tips, this list contains everything I know about raising kids through the baby, toddler, tweenage, and teenage years. #family #parenting #parentinghumor #kids #funny #unremarkablefiles
Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files
Read More »

Friday, February 28, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Little Old Ladies, Adventures in Beard Land, and New Cereal Products I'm Not Sure Are a Good Idea

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

1


My kids don't usually want to dress up for PJ Day, Crazy Hair Day, or any other special days at school.

Normally I don't mind, because we're barely catching the bus in the morning as it is. No need to add some nonsense like having to put together a costume of my son's favorite book character or fashion my daughter's hair on top of her head to look like a plate of spaghetti.

But it could be fun, at least once in a while.

So I was thrilled when my 8-year-old announced that she wanted to dress up like a 100-year-old lady for the 100th day of school.

We popped the lenses out of a very round pair of dollar store sunglasses, put her hair in a high bun, found a pearl necklace and a shawl in the dress-up bin, and drew some wrinkles on her forehead in brown eyeliner.

She was SO CUTE.

The next morning before school, literally 15 minutes before the bus came, my kindergartner decided he wanted a shirt that said "100" on it.

With the clock ticking, we were scrambling trying to find a plain-colored shirt that was somewhat clean and frantically fashioning the number "100" out of duct tape on the front. (A suggestion for the school: please consider celebrating the 111th day instead, that would have been waaaay easier.)

We finished in the nick of time and he was running to the end of the driveway (no time for your gloves, sorry!) to get on the bus before it left without him.

Just a sweet reminder of why I'm still actually sort of glad the kids aren't into dress up days.

2


While my dad and stepmom were here last week, Phillip and I took a little overnight getaway. We've been trying to plan in more vacation time with each other since our trip to Florida in December and this was the perfect opportunity.

We did a little sightseeing, ate mediocre Thai food and really good Mexican food, watched Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, window shopped at a fancy mall where a women's shirt cost $234, and also, I tried out a sensory deprivation tank.

We toured a few beautiful old churches, and I must be old because I really like that kind of stuff now. I remember being bored out of my mind when my parents dragged to these places when I was younger:


I thought this was wood but realized after taking the picture it was actually metal.

3


Phillip's beard experiment is ongoing, and since it's starting to look like legitimate facial hair that's there on purpose now, I thought it would be a good time to take a picture of it:

Selfie from outside the hotel.

Bonus side shot, since I took a second one by accident.

I've decided that beards are really weird. First of all, Phillip's beard is mostly silver and red, while his hair is mostly dark blonde or light brown.

"I still don't understand why your beard has so much red in it," I commented once during Phillip's nightly Admiring of the Beard Ceremony in the bathroom mirror.

He shrugged. "I think there's red hair in my family."

"You say that like it's more relevant than the fact there's no red hair on your head."

Regardless, the plan is to let The Beard stay until spring, and then we'll both be over it.

4


You will never believe this annoying saga having to do with my 11-year-old's watch.

He got a watch a few years ago  nothing fancy, just a digital watch with an alarm and stopwatch  that he loves and uses all the time.

By December, the watch band is getting frayed so we shop for a replacement on Amazon to put in his stocking. Since the exact replacement won't be here by Christmas, we opt to buy a knockoff brand.

The knockoff is a complete piece of garbage that falls apart in 2 weeks, so we order a nice silicon band.

A few days later, the watch quits working.

I order a new battery online, which ends up being a pain to replace, and after it's got a new battery the watch still doesn't work.

So we order him a new watch.

When it arrives, he puts on the nice band we'd bought for his old watch and wears it to school. He comes home that afternoon with a raw spot on his wrist the size of a silver dollar from the silicon band.

By this point, I've been actively engaged in trying to get him in possession of a functioning watch since December.

I know it wasn't his fault, but I'd had it up to here with the stupid watch and I snapped, "Fine, just take it off and use the band it came with."

"I... already threw it away."

GAH!!!!

5


I took my youngest two to the mall to pick up some photos at JC Penney, and since they were being good we stopped at a bay of coin-operated ride on toys. (We never actually put coins in them, but they enjoy playing on them anyway.)

The 6-year-old leaned out the window of the toy food truck and asked me, "Do you want to order some food?"

"Sure."

"What do you want?"

"I think I want some fries. What sizes do you have?"

"Ummmm... medium and huge and normal and small and humongous."

I'm glad I asked. I never would've ordered the right one otherwise.

6


I was grocery shopping when I happened to spot this new product in the breakfast cereal aisle:

I'm uneasy about the world and the handbasket we seem to be riding in.

My question is, where did this idea come from? Who is the deranged individual who bit into a Hostess Twinkie and thought, "This should totally be part of a balanced breakfast!"

7


My 3-year-old has been killing me lately with all the cute things he says.

Exhibit A: I told him I was making a shopping list so we could buy ingredients for dinner. He asked what meal we were having and I told him, "Stroganoff." So he thought for a minute about what helpful suggestion he could offer, pointed at my list, and asked, "Did you put 'strogans' on it?"

Exhibit B: After dropping my daughter off at a church youth group activity, the 3-year-old was surprised to see me come home so quickly (we live two and a half minutes from the church.) When he said "That was fast!" I reminded him that we live really close to the church. Smiling as if realizing something for the first time, he said, "So Jesus is our neighbor!"

Babies and puppies are well and good, but you'd have a pretty hard time convincing me there's anything cuter than a little person asking if he should put on shorts or "long-sleeve pants."

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files
Read More »

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

I Tried It: My 90 Minutes in a Sensory Deprivation Tank

In 2015, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about how all moms really want for Mother's Day is peace, quiet, and basically a stint in a sensory deprivation tank. Later that year, my dad asked what I wanted for Christmas and on a whim, I think you can guess what I told him.

And because he's always willing to entertain my wacky ideas, an email gift certificate for a place called FLOAT appeared in my inbox on December 25th.

Where it sat for over a year.

Partly because it's hard to schedule 90 minutes (plus drive time) for something like that when you're a mom. But also, if I'm honest, it's because I was terrified.

I loved the idea of a sensory deprivation tank; I just wished it could be more of a sensory deprivation very-large-and-wide-open-space.

The words that came to mind when I first saw this tank were "commercial dryer" followed by "cremation furnace."

When I was little, I remember visiting a cave with an exhibit outside demonstrating the tight spaces a cave explorer might encounter. On display was a small cross-section of a cement tunnel just barely large enough for an adult to squeeze through, which gave me nightmares back then and still gives me the creeps 30 years later.

I don't think of myself as claustrophobic, just someone who's not a fan of being trapped.

When you go to one of these sensory deprivation places, here's what happens: You shower off. You get naked. You lie in what they call a "pod," effortlessly floating on about a foot of water that has hundreds of pounds of salt added to make you ultra-bouyant. There's no sensory feedback: you're wearing earplugs, floating in the water, with the pod door closed to block out all light.

It sounded great, except for parts like the pod door.

Actually, it was only the part about the pod door. In fact, lying awake imagining an "open the pod bay doors, Hal" kind of situation was what had me hyperventilating into my sheets at night.

But last week my dad and stepmom were here to watch the kids, Phillip and I were planning an overnight trip in the vicinity of FLOAT, and it just made sense to finally put on my big girl pants and use my gift certificate.

I was thrilled when I went online to schedule my session and saw there were two styles of tanks: the classic model shaped more or less like a chest freezer, and the "summer sky" model that was roomy enough to stand up in.

Unsurprisingly, the summer sky was booked solid.

Should I just abort the whole mission? Do it another weekend? Wait for the summer sky tank like every other sane person in New England?

No. I could do this. It would be fine.

Probably.

I made the appointment and announced my intentions to the kids, who were simultaneously horrified and amused. I stated explaining the process but my 8-year-old interrupted me: "Wait, you'll be naked?"

"It's a private room," the 15-year-old told her. "No one else will be there when Mom gets in the coffin."

The morning of my session did not start out well. I rolled out of bed half-asleep, planning to cut Phillip's hair before he left for work, and somehow I hurt my neck while reaching for the clippers.

I went back to bed with a heating pad and was lying there bemoaning my fate when the 3-year-old wandered in with a diaper that had leaked poop overnight. The good thing about being paralyzed is that you can't change diapers; the bad thing is that the 3-year-old threw a fit because he wanted me instead of Phillip.

So at 6 AM I was lying there in pain, listening to the 3-year-old screaming his head off over the sound of Phillip dry heaving at the contents of the diaper he was changing.

Good times.

Later that afternoon, I walked into the blue-tiled lobby of FLOAT. It was decorated with abstract pictures of blue swirls on the walls, and on the counter was a display of KIND bars and stack of books for sale called Get High Now (Without Drugs.) Behind the front desk were two nice young ladies with bull nose rings.

"Have you ever floated with us before?" one of them asked.

I thought the answer was pretty obvious, since between the three of us and the one other person in the lobby, I was the only one without a nose ring.

After I traded my shoes for a pair of blue plastic flip-flops, she showed me to a pale blue room about the size of a one-car garage. Silhouettes of bamboo shoots were painted on the walls and a large healing crystal sat on an end table near the door.

She explained the rules, pointed out the earplugs, and opened the tank to show me the inside. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to see the panic button on the inside of the pod door (she called it a "call button" but I know a panic button when I see one.)

Thank goodness someone thought to install a freakout alarm.

The tank actually looked a lot bigger in person than in pictures, and I had no trepidation crawling in and closing the door behind me.

I forgot how salty the water was, until I sat down and my feet popped right up to the surface.

My neck was still stiff from being old hurting it this morning, and I had a hard time finding a comfortable position. I tried letting my arms float at my sides, but in the end what felt best was lacing my fingers behind my head like a country boy in a Mark Twain novel so that's what I did.

Then I waited.

It was quiet, obviously. I could hear my heartbeat.

I was paranoid about getting the saltwater-on-steroids into my eyes, so I had to fight the urge to touch my face or scratch any itches.

Occasionally, my foot or elbow bumped up against the edges of the tank.

Sometimes I got a feeling of swaying back and forth gently, like I was in a hammock. Other times, I got the sensation of slowly beginning to turn head over heels, but not in an unpleasant way. Sometimes my legs felt like they were made out of wood.

After I got into relaxing, I did enjoy it. It was nice swaying (or at least feeling like I was) in the dark to the sound of my heartbeat. But mostly it was... nothing. Neither good, nor bad.
The whiteboard in the lobby of FLOAT.

At some point I vaguely recall twitching a few times, like you do when you start falling asleep, which was really weird because each twitch was followed by a ripple of water. And then I definitely fell asleep, because I remember suddenly coming to and wondering "Did they forget me in here? I feel like I've been in here my whole life."

I got out to check what time it was, and there were only a few minutes left of my session. So I climbed back in the tank but left the door open this time.

I was starting to get bored.

It was almost a relief when the music came on to signal that my time was up: a peaceful, flowing melody that sounded like the soundtrack of a National Geographic documentary on whales.

I got out and took a quick shower with the provided lemongrass body wash and sulfate-free unscented shampoo, at about which time the peaceful music gave way to a loud and aggressive rap. I couldn't understand all the lyrics, but the gist of it was: "Time is money! Get out!"

Phillip wouldn't be there to pick me up for another 30 minutes, so I headed back to the lobby to kill some time. Turning to the lady at the front desk, I asked, "How long have you been working here?"

"About five years."

"Do you do... it... often?" I gestured toward the hallway leading to the tanks, unsure of the appropriate verb to use. So, do you sensory deprivate often?

Apparently, since "sensory deprivation" sounds like a method for extracting secrets from enemies of the state, people who make a living running places like FLOAT don't call it that. They call it 'flotation therapy.' And the correct word for what you do in a sensory deprivation tank  I mean 'pod' — is 'float.'

She answered, "I try to float once a week."

When I asked what she liked about it, she said she's normally an anxious person, so when she gets overwhelmed it helps her to recall "the peace of the tank."

Okay, so I think I get it.

I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that my experience was kind of... nothing, because it literally was nothing. My senses were given no input for 90 minutes.

The value of floating, I'm thinking, is that it strips away your feelings of stress and negativity, bringing you back to neutral. Regularly floating probably helps you learn to get back to that neutral state on your own when you need to.

I'm glad I tried it once, but I think that was enough for me.

If I had 90 minutes of free time, I think I'd rather spend it outside in nature, or soaking in a regular bathtub with music going, or reading my scriptures. You know, something that also has a positive element to uplift and elevate.

But it makes sense.

After Phillip and I returned home, the kids were crowded around the computer watching a YouTube compilation of goats screaming like humans, and just a tiny piece of me wondered if I didn't want to go back for just a few more minutes of quiet after all.

I survived!
I was instantly curious when I heard about flotation therapy. Float therapy (a.k.a. sensory deprivation) involves floating in a saltwater tank known as a ‘pod,’ with no external stimulus like light or sound. It’s supposed to promote mindfulness and relaxation, and help with managing stress and anxiety. Well, I tried it! Here is my review of my 90 minutes in a sensory deprivation tank for the first time. #sensorydeprivation #flotationtherapy #therapy #wellness #stressrelief #review
I was instantly curious when I heard about flotation therapy. Float therapy (a.k.a. sensory deprivation) involves floating in a saltwater tank known as a ‘pod,’ with no external stimulus like light or sound. It’s supposed to promote mindfulness and relaxation, and help with managing stress and anxiety. Well, I tried it! Here is my review of my 90 minutes in a sensory deprivation tank for the first time. #sensorydeprivation #flotationtherapy #therapy #wellness #stressrelief #review
I was instantly curious when I heard about flotation therapy. Float therapy (a.k.a. sensory deprivation) involves floating in a saltwater tank known as a ‘pod,’ with no external stimulus like light or sound. It’s supposed to promote mindfulness and relaxation, and help with managing stress and anxiety. Well, I tried it! Here is my review of my 90 minutes in a sensory deprivation tank for the first time. #sensorydeprivation #flotationtherapy #therapy #wellness #stressrelief #review
Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files
Read More »