Friday, December 1, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Strep Throat, Nerf Darts, and Ways to Protect a Child's Innocent Ears

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


Over the weekend, my family members continued dropping like flies from strep throat. The last one standing was my 12-year-old, who leaned over during the first 15 minutes of church and whispered, "My throat hurts." Luckily we only live a few minutes away, so it wasn't a big deal for me to bring her home and come back.

I feel like a pharmacist every night slinging around antibiotics, and washing medicine cups and syringes is my new part-time job, but mostly I'm just relieved to finally get this out of the way. The whole family should have just shared a fork at dinner two weeks ago when we first got the 9-year-old's positive strep test and gotten it over with. 

At least none of us are contagious anymore.


At church I was sitting next to my 9-year-old when a Nerf dart fell out of his pocket. "Can I put that in my bag?" I asked, and he reluctantly handed it over. 

I slipped it into my purse and was about to turn my attention back to the service, he quietly reached back into his pocket and produced another 8-10 of them. 

Trying not to laugh, I took them and added them to my bag... and then he dug in his other pocket and gave me a second huge handful. 

I just want to know what he was planning to do with all of those if I hadn't confiscated them.


My 12-year-old was getting ready to go somewhere and her belongings were scattered everywhere. 

"Can you put your..." I began, but I got distracted by something else and trailed off in the middle of my sentence.

"... stuff in a bag?" she offered.

"Yeah," I said. "How did you know I was going to say that?"

"I'm psychotic."

I thought she was making a joke but then I actually did have to explain the difference between 'psychic' and 'psychotic.'

In related news, I put some Vaseline on my 7-year-old's chapped lips and he asked in all seriousness, "Why do I need gasoline on my lips?"


My kids had a day off from school this week and I decided I should organize playdates. I am extremely terrible at that. I'm such an introvert that it barely occurs to me to schedule time to see my own friends, letalone other peoples'.

But every once in a while I start to feel I should encourage my kids to have active social lives, since they're even more introverted than I am, so I did it. I organized three playdates at our house for my three youngest and encouraged my oldest two to invite their friends over, as well.

That means that in one day, we had 5 playdates for all 5 kids living in our house. Introvert me was exhausted. I know some people have their kids' friends at their house all the time, but those people are not me.


My kids have been playing this computer game called Geometry Dash. So far it's seemed like a perfectly appropriate game for kids in every way, but recently my 7-year-old reached a level where a skeleton appears on screen at a certain point in the soundtrack and yells, "Oh, damn!"

Not knowing the word 'damn,' my 7-year-old was totally oblivious. How would you handle that?

What I ended up doing is telling him that the skeleton is saying "Let's dance!" and now everyone is happy.

A few days later, I saw my 15-year-old take a different approach. My 7-year-old was watching him play and whenever the skeleton popped up on screen, the 15-year-old would yell "Yahoo!" to drown it out so his little brother wouldn't hear it.

Also valid.


As part of their Christmas initiative, my church created this random service generator on their website:

It randomly assigns you a way to help, a person to help, and a deadline for doing so. I did it and got "an act of compassion for my neighbor down the street within the next 3 hours." 

I actually forgot to do that but I'm totally calling her in the morning because I've been meaning to do that for weeks.


Scrolling Facebook, I stopped to watched a video of a mom blogger I know professionally. 

She was ranting about how she kept getting unsolicited advice from people to touch up her gray hairs whenever she posted a new video to Facebook, and I didn't realize my 2nd grader was standing behind me listening until he piped up to ask: "Why would somebody tell her not to make her hair gray? That's how bodies work."

Anyway, I'm with him. You don't need to cover up your silver hairs. That's just God's glitter.

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Friday, November 24, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Things We're Thankful For, Sweatshirt Justice, and Something I Never Noticed About the Little Mermaid

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


One of the kids asked me why there aren't any Thanksgiving songs, so we looked online a little and we did find one. It's called "Gobble, Gobble" by Matthew West:

My 7-year-old, however, preferred this one and thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard:

It's got promise, but something about the sing-songiness and the voice and the way-too-excited trumpet makes it a little annoying. But after seeing that it was by the same guy who did the one about the duck walking up to the lemonade stand, I realized that it could have been WAY worse.


I woke up on Thanksgiving morning with a pounding headache and a case of strep throat. After a while, my 12-year-old skipped in and said, "Today's Thanksgiving!"

I moaned affirmatively from the bed and she added with a grimace, "Oh... I guess I'm thankful I'm not you."

But she said it jokingly so I didn't mind. The 7-year-old took pity on me and made me breakfast in bed, and even though he forgot to salt the eggs or put the bread in the toaster, I appreciated the effort immensely.

I was actually the last of the family to get strep. This week has revolved around taking kids to the doctor, juggling who's home from school and what attendance line we needed to call each day, and sorting out prescriptions since the pharmacy had certain concentrations of amoxacillin on backorder. (Eventually I just started bringing in a picture of an Rx bottle and telling the doctor "This is the one they have, please prescribe this.")


At Thanksgiving dinner we went around and said what we were thankful for, but we did it in the style of the game "I'm Going on a Picnic and I'm Bringing _______." 

Basically, the first person says something that starts with A, then the next person repeats it and adds something that starts with B, and so on through the alphabet until you get to Z.

When we reached 'F,' my daughter said she was thankful for "Fergie singing the national anthem." Five years after Fergie's disastrous rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at an NBA game, and it is still making my daughter's day. Who knew?


Phillip was going to work on finishing the basement stairs, but when he went down to his workshop he found it was too messy to do anything. While cleaning it up, he came across a box of doorknobs, which he'd bought a few months ago to replace some of the original ones around the house. So he took a slight detour and spent the morning changing out doorknobs. 

Little did he know how much bigger this if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie scenario was about to become.

Soon after that, our daughter somehow jammed the door and got stuck in her room, necessitating Phillip taking off the doorknob he'd just installed and then removing the entire door altogether, because the problem was actually that the door was hanging crooked and he needed to get at the hinges to really fix it. 

One minute, he was just replacing a doorknob and the next, he was yelling downstairs, "How mad would you be if the paint on the wall happened to get dinged up a little?"

"Why would the paint on the walls get dinged up?" I yelled back, alarmed.

"Uh... from trying to pry the doorframe off," he answered.

Turns out it wasn't just the hinges or the door; the entire doorframe was sagging and it all needed to be removed. Luckily Phillip was able to take it off and fix the problem, but it took all day and he has still made no progress on the basement stairs whatsoever.


During intermission at a recent school play, my daughter pulled out her phone but she wasn't getting any service so she started playing the game embedded in Google Chrome for just those situations. 

Watching her little dinosaur avatar jump over the cacti in the landscape, I realized I didn't know how it worked. "How can you play the no-Internet game without Internet?" I asked her.

"I don't know," she said, not looking up from her game. "That's the kind of thing I would Google if I had Internet."


One morning, the 17-year-old appeared in the kitchen wearing a very oversized sweatshirt and saying, "Dad, I got this from your side of the closet, is it okay if I steal this?"

Phillip just looked at me and I looked back at him, because I'd actually bought that sweatshirt for myself  while I was in college. Fast-forward about 10 years, and he eventually stole it from me because it was so oversized it fit him perfectly.

Well, with that history he couldn't really say no to my daughter's request, so he let her have it and now neither of us have a sweatshirt.


Completely out of nowhere, I realized something about The Little Mermaid. I've seen the movie dozens of times over the last 35 years, and I just now found out that the song Ariel sings when she gives her voice to Ursula is just a wordless "Part of Your World." 

Think about that. If I can go 35 years without figuring that out, what other obvious facts of life am I missing?

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Friday, November 17, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Things You Don't Want to Do On Your Day Off, Existential Thoughts at the Town Dump, and Something About Wedgies

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


On Saturday morning, my 9-year-old assembled his new-to-us bedframe with his dad. 

Phillip would fit together the pieces and then send him in to tighten the screws, which worked out brilliantly because it made the 9-year-old feel important and kept Phillip from contorting into this position on the floor:

A symbiotic relationship.

At first my 9-year-old hesitated to get under the bed and asked nervously, "Is this stable?"

Phillip assured him that it was, and the kid responded, "Good, because if it fell on my neck I'd be dead, and I don't wanna die at the age of nine ON A WEEKEND."


I opened an email from my kids' school that began: "It has come to our attention that we may have inadvertently offended members of our school community by including Wacky Hair Day in our spirit week schedule."

If this was 5 or 10 years ago I would have assumed it was because of a bald kid who couldn't participate, but being 2023, I figured it was racial and a quick Google search confirmed that some schools have stopped doing it out of concern about white students representing black students' everyday hairstyles as "wacky." 

I see where they're coming from, I do. But wouldn't it be better to maybe explain how to be unoffensive with your choice of hairstyle instead of just cancelling it altogether for everyone?

The school's email went on to say, "In keeping with our commitment for diversity, equity and inclusion, we have decided to change the theme to Wacky Hat Day." (Which will be cancelled faster than you can say "diversity, equity, and inclusion" after someone with a hijab or yarmulke is complimented for their "wacky hat" during spirit week.)

Oh, well. The point of kids going to school is learning math and their ABCs, not wearing a ponytail spilling through a soda bottle on top of their head so I guess nothing is really lost, but it's a shame that a fun day was cancelled when I think there were other ways to deal with it.


There's a place at our town dump called the swap shop, where anyone can put anything that's still useful, and you can take whatever you want as well. Once a week, they cart away whatever's left to the landfill.

On Tuesday I saw a hearse parked outside the swap shop, which I do not want to know too much about.

But that's not why I started writing this Take. I'm writing it because inside the swap shop was this styrofoam cooler of memories:

Full of antique framed black-and-white family portraits, wedding photos, and a lady with her baby.

One day in actual history, these people dressed up in their Sunday best and traveled to a photographer at a time when taking your picture was neither easy nor cheap. It was obviously important to them. It's so weird to think that the kids in that photo are deceased now, and their family portrait is in the town dump, and no one remembers who they are. And now some weird 41-year-old lady is looking at their pictures and feeling sad that they're going to be tossed and the universe keeps rolling on indifferent to our mortality and is this what a midlife crisis is??

Thank goodness for my faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that gives me perspective and context for all of (*gestures around at everything*) this, or I might get seriously bent out of shape.


I really only go clothes shopping when my children grow out of theirs and we don't have enough hand-me-downs to cover them for the next season. With such infrequent trips, I feel like the styles change a lot from one trip to the next, so every time I learn something new.

Apparently there's a style of jean now called "Wedgie"? I'm confused, please help.

At first I thought that maybe Gen Z just doesn't know, maybe people under a certain age don't associate the word "wedgie" with unpopular kids getting the waistbands of their underwear pulled up over their heads, but I looked it up and according to the wedgie jean has a "flattering high-rise and a butt-lifting effect." 

So they know exactly what they're doing. 

Remember low-rise jeans from the 90s? They were hideous but given a respectable-sounding name to hide it. They weren't called "Muffin Top Fit" or "Plumber's Crack Jeans" even though they could have been, because that would've been gross. Fashion execs, take note. Use a little decorum.


In my 12-year-old's social studies class, there's a project where you can bring in a loaf of bread that you baked. I'm unclear on what the connection is; they're learning about complex societies and complex societies... make bread? But regardless of the practical application, she's very happy, because she LOVES to bake.

She's the kid who, at age 6, would get up early on a Saturday to make pancakes from scratch for the whole family by herself. She obviously gets this from her dad, because I didn't know how to make boxed mac and cheese until I was 20.

I asked if she wanted to use my standard bread recipe (I can now make homemade bread and boxed mac and cheese) but she said she'd like it to be "special." 

So she independently found a recipe for challah bread, made sure we had the ingredients, and set aside basically an entire afternoon since the thing needed to rise three times. She followed all the instructions by herself (although she did call to consult me twice on a step she wasn't sure about), and when I came home from an errand she was watching a YouTube video on how to braid the dough.

Here's the finished result:

Pretty good for her first try, huh?


I've been thinking lately that I need to follow more smart people on YouTube. Phillip's feed includes a lot of "did you know?" type channels, but the YouTube algorithm decided I'm not nearly that intellectual and instead shows me a 50/50 mix of sketch comedy and cute babies. 

But because the Internet is a scary place that somehow reads your mind and shows you the exact thing you were thinking of but didn't tell a soul, this YouTuber started showing up in my feed and he is exactly what I needed:


So now do I feel smarter? A little. But in reality, YouTube and I both know that I'm actually this guy:

Although probably less charismatic.

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Friday, November 10, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Extreme Haircuts, Discovering Joe Pera, and the Symbolism of Dead Plants

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


My kids had the day off from school on Tuesday, I think because they use the gym for elections so they just made it a teacher development day. We celebrated by going to three dentist appointments and an orthodontist appointment.

Our orthodontist's office is farther away than I would like, and we never leave early enough. I swear if I had a dollar for every time I was late for an appointment, I could pay for another complete set of braces.


While I was driving with my 15-year-old (probably to the orthodontist, and probably late) we saw a truck that advertised a carpentry business. The logo of the car was on the tailgate and across the bumper were vinyl letters saying "WE DELIVERY QUALITY."


It's always unfortunate to have a typo in your tagline, but it's even more unfortunate when the tagline emphasizes that you don't make mistakes.


My 17-year-old has had long hair practically forever, except for maybe once when she got a cute chin-length bob when she was 6. 

And I mean her hair is LONG. Like, really long:

Even she agreed that this is excessive, and it was driving her crazy.

So she decided to cut off 13 inches, and until she gets around to donating it, is driving around like a serial killer with a bag of human hair in her trunk.

It's funny that her new "short hair" is most people's "long hair."

I don't know what it is now, but she looks like me in high school. I didn't say anything, but everyone else who knew me as a teenager (my dad, my husband) has voiced the same thought so it's not just me. 

I suppose it doesn't help that 90s fashion is coming back and half of her closet is something I would've owned and wore at her age.


I took two of my kids shopping for fall clothes and witnessed an interesting phenomenon at the store.

Three teen boys who were probably about 14 years old were at the fitting rooms at the same time. They were quite obviously the cool kids, based on how they swaggered around and acted with each other. But they were at Marshall's having a... fashion show, I guess?

Each one in turn turn choose a pile of clothes, went in the fitting room to assemble an outfit, then came out to show the other guys. They'd make a bunch of noise and grunt things like "Woah, that fit is fire" while giving him high fives, and then the next one would take his turn. 

As they were leaving, one asked "So whose fit was best?" 

I know who I would've voted for, not that anyone asked me. It was amusing because kids that age don't even read anyone over 20 as a human, so even though I was observing them the whole time they probably didn't even realize I was there.


We were celebrating a family birthday, so I spent an afternoon making this German chocolate cake with layers of chocolate buttercream and coconut pecan frosting. 

It was such a pretty cake that my daughter went to take a picture and then showed it to me. It was... stunning.

Hmm. Not quite what I envisioned.

Okay, so maybe the crappy lighting and disaster of a kitchen (yes, that's my 7-year-old's rock collection in an egg carton right on the counter right next to the cake for some reason) don't make for Pinterest-worthy photos. 

Then I remembered that we have a nearly-finished basement that is actually the prettiest room of the house and has the nicest lighting, so I took it down there for a picture and it turned out much better:

I'm still not a food photographer, but it at least looks a little better.


A few years ago I received a thoughtful gift, a baby ivy in a cute little planter shaped like a white ceramic house. At the time I was a leader in the the children's organization at church, and the symbolism was that we as leaders were supporting families in growing strong and beautiful homes. 

Until recently it was appearing to do well. I felt downright domestic, even. And then I don't know what happened.

All the leaves turned brown and fell off.

Now I have a soon-to-be dead plant inside a miniature home and I'm not sure how to feel about the symbolism of that.


The other night I woke up at 2:30 and was looking for a way to get back to sleep. I usually listen  to a Jason Stephenson when that happens, but my mind was racing especially fast so I decided to search for something new. 

A quick search turned up a video called "Joe Pera Talks You to Sleep" so I clicked on it, unaware that I was about to discover my new favorite thing. It was so bizarre, amusing, calming, and deep at the same time. It didn't put me to sleep but I made a mental note to look it up in the morning and figure out who this guy was. 

The next day, I ended up bingewatching Joe Pera clips on YouTube for half the morning. It's hard to describe what the show even is. The best I can do is that it combines beautiful cinematography with the heartfelt mindfulness of Mister Rogers, and the main character is a cross between Napoleon Dynamite and a philosopher. Somehow, it ends up being both silly and poignant at the exact same time.

Here is one from the early COVID period that embodies the energy of the show pretty well:

Seriously. It's so funny, but in the most calming way.

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Friday, November 3, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Looking for Some Good News, Things People Don't Realize about Cacti, and Self-Preservation in the Grocery Store

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


To practice my reading in Spanish, I decided to go to CNN EspaƱol and read the news. Of course, the front page was nothing but tanks in Gaza, Maine mass shooter found dead, Hurricane Otis casualties, and Matthew Perry's autopsy. Since it was pretty early in the morning for existential despair, I kept scrolling. I mean, sometimes there's good news, right?

Finally near the very bottom of the page, I spotted a headline that looked like something positive! "Man missing at sea found alive in life raft off Washington coast." 

I clicked the article and started reading the opening line: "One of the two men who were lost at sea for two weeks was found alive"



Our Halloween was... fruitful. The older the kids get, the faster they can go trick-or-treating from house to house and we end up with a ton of candy at the end of it.

Our Spanish exchange student was completely shocked by all the candy wrappers in the garbage. They celebrate Halloween in Spain, but not like we do.


My kids decided to go in costume as Wednesday Addams, Dr. Nefario from Despicable Me, a sloth, a skeleton, and a cactus. Multiple people commented on the 7-year-old's cactus costume, which was a green sweatsuit covered in V-shaped white pipe cleaner pieces, and a flower on top of the hood. They all said something like, "It's such a simple idea!"

Which is true of the concept, but I assure you that individually sewing over 100 tiny pipe cleaner segments onto a hoodie takes forever. I underestimated how long it would take by about 2 hours and was frantically sewing them on up until the very minute we left for a Halloween party.

But guess who won "most original costume"!

He wore it, but I earned it.


At another Halloween party this one at church, I sat with a few of the teenagers in my youth group. I looked at one of them with a backwards hat, tie-dyed shirt, and overalls with one side unbuckled and wondered if it was some character that I didn't recognize.

"Tell me about your costume," I said.

"I decided to go as the scariest thing I could think of: 90s fashion."

I laughed and asked to take a picture but what made me absolutely crack up was when they posed by throwing out some 90s gang signs and saying "wiggity wiggity whack."

That's a teenager committed to doing their research, right there.


After two weeks, our Spanish exchange student went back home. Paula was a great girl but I'm probably going to need a week to recover. 

Keeping the house together and containing the kids' chaos enough to keep from horrifying her was pretty exhausting. Plus, the other host families ended up unofficially throwing a lot of late-night social events for the exchange students  and as her ride, guess who else got to stay up late every night?

It was going okay until Phillip had to leave on a last-minute work trip in the middle of it, and now I'm kind of hoping for either a vacation or a medically-induced coma.


Usually I go to the grocery store alone, during the day while the kids are at school. But this week I stopped by with my 15-year-old son to get a few things, and I realized something. 

After almost two decades of parenting, I am physically incapable of walking in front of my child in a grocery store without holding out a hand to keep them from crashing the cart into my ankles.

My son kept saying, "Mom, stop. You're doing it again," and I would look down to see that there I was, walking with my hand splayed out behind me. 

It was a reflex, and hard as I tried, I can't not throw out a protective hand when I know that my own flesh and blood is behind me, wielding a 70-lb steel contraption on wheels and probably not paying attention.


Occasionally I'll get discouraged because my language learning progress is so slow. This week the thought occurred to me that I'm 41 years old, and statistically speaking, at the rate it's taking me how much time will I even have to enjoy being fluent in Spanish before I die of natural causes??

It was a very cheerful morning.

But then I came across a piece of advice on Reddit that really helped me: just think of all the things you can do badly.

I can introduce myself and have a short conversation badly.

I can write a journal entry in Spanish about my day badly.

I can watch a movie dubbed into Spanish and understand it badly.

I can read a chapter of a Spanish-language YA novel badly.

Sometimes it upsets me that I can't do these things well, without re-watching scenes, looking up words, or asking people to repeat themselves. But I didn't use to be able to do them at all, which means that doing them badly is a huge accomplishment!

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Friday, October 27, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Breaking and Entering, Wasting Electricity, and When a 7-Year-Old Estimates Life Expectancy

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


In an unlikely sequence of events, Phillip and I accidentally locked the keys in the car. Both sets of keys, actually, which was the unlikely part. At least it was parked in our garage at home where it was just an inconvenience and not in a parking lot somewhere where it would've been an emergency.

Phillip successfully slid in a coat hanger to unlock the door (which is definitely not as easy as YouTube makes it look), but it didn't work. We were literally standing outside the window watching the coat hanger depress the unlock button, and it didn't work. 

We didn't know what else to do, so we called a locksmith to get the car unlocked. It was easily one of the least fun ways to spend $100. 


The locksmith came earlier in the morning than I expected, when I was still dropping off my teenagers and our foreign exchange student at school. But since the garage door was open and we'd already told him what we wanted him to do, he got right to work. 

So when I came home, there was a stranger in my garage breaking into my car. An open bag of tools was beside him and had pried open the driver's side door just enough to jam a Slim Jim inside. And I just waved to him and said "Good morning!" Life is weird.


Over the weekend, my 15-year-old went to a Halloween party. It was a costume party, and he was going as Dr. Nefario from Despicable Me

He arranged to meet a friend at the CVS between our houses, and his friend's parents would drive them both to the party. But because we were down one car (see Take #1) and another family member had to be somewhere else at the same time, we dropped him off a little early to wait... while wearing his lab coat, rubber boots and gloves, and steampunk goggles.

On the way there I'd been joking about the funny looks he'd get while he stood there dressed as a mad scientist, but I was wrong. Leaning against the wall of CVS in his white lab coat, he looked just like a pharmacist on his smoke break and no one gave him a second glance at all.


The kids and I went on a nature walk, where I took an artsy-looking photo. If this were in a gallery, I would call it The Teenager in Nature:

Please note how his eyeballs are glued to the cell phone in his hands.

To my credit, my 15-year-old says he was looking at the panoramic photo he just took of the scenery. But still.


We have a foreign exchange student from Spain staying with us for a total of two weeks. When I first told Paula I was learning Spanish, she immediately asked "What have you learned? Like, what can you say?" 

Of course my mind went absolutely blank and the only thing I could say was "I speak a little Spanish." I don't think she was very impressed. But since then we've had a few more Spanish conversations (only a few, because that's not really why she's here) and her initial opinion has improved. 

In fact, I overheard my 17-year-old commenting on the differences between Paula's Spanish and mine, and Paula told her "Yeah, that's because your mom has a Latin-American accent" which is exactly what I was going for so YES.


It's been a week with Paula at our house, and now that everyone (including her) is comfortable and no longer on their bestest behavior, it's both a good thing and a bad thing. But overall, it's fun and we're enjoying doing life together. 

At family dinner one night, we were asking Paula about the differences between life here and life in Spain, and the first thing she said was "Here, you leave all the lights on... like, is it free?"

You should have seen the piercing looks Phillip and I shot the kids. And how the kids avoided making eye contact with us at all costs.


At a recent lasagna potluck function at the school, my 7-year-old ate a ton. He has been growing so much lately that sometimes I swear he's visibly taller from one week to the next.

"You've been growing a lot. Are you going to be taller than Daddy?" I asked him.

He considered it for a moment before answering "He'll probably be dead by then" and shoveling another forkful of lasagna into his mouth.

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Friday, October 20, 2023

7 Quick Takes about Making Strides on the Basement, Feng Shui, and Things a 2nd Grader Likes about Spiders

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


We are making SO MUCH PROGRESS on our basement! Phillip took the week off to install doors and flooring, and I have been painting all week. (Seriously, I've gone through 5 gallons of paint since last Friday and my arm hurts.)

We still have to paint and install trim, paint the utility doors, and stain, cut, and attach nice stair treads, but even without that our basement is still the prettiest room in the whole house. 

The walls are a light color, almost white, so they're going to require a lot of maintenance (unless you like looking at grubby handprints and boogers, which I just cleaned off of the upstairs walls for the arrival of our foreign exchange student), but it's a basement so we didn't want to go very dark at all. Hopefully it will be fine.


We reached this point on the basement just in time, because my 11-year-old volunteered to have her entire youth group over to our house tonight for a movie night. 

Up until today, our movie-watching setup has been crammed in the scary unfinished storage area, which isn't at all the kind of place you can invite other people into. But this week has been so productive that event though the room isn't technically finished we can at least move the couch and TV over today. 

My contingency plan was to pretend like inviting everyone into our scary dungeon was a spooky Halloween thing, but I'm really glad I don't have to. 


Phillip and I had different opinions about where to put the couch and TV in the finished portion of the basement. But then I stopped and asked out loud, "What would Cliff say?" which is a sign that I've been watching way too many Dear Modern shorts on YouTube.

Cliff Tan of Dear Modern is like "ADHD meets feng shui" and I love it. By watching his videos I've learned a few basic feng shui principles and figured out why I love our living room layout, why I hate my computer desk setup, and how to switch up my husband's work-at-home area to be more functional. Right now I'm also reading Cliff's book{affiliate link} Feng Shui Modern.

As I was explaining the basement furniture arrangment plan to my 15-year-old son, including why we were placing the furniture in those specific places, he looked at me and said "Is this because of your schwong chi thing?" 

Yes, I'm basically a schwong chi master now.


At school, my 7-year-old read a nonfiction article about spiders and then had to write a summary of what he'd learned. This was what he brought home.

His point #2 made me laugh, but I laughed even harder at his teacher's reaction. What a gem of a woman that she didn't ignore him or tell him it was inappropriate, she just acknowledged what he thought was a pretty cool fact about spiders in a humorous way.

This reminds me of one time when my older son brought home some of his corrected homework and his teacher wrote in the margins, "Please save your drawings of cheese for papers that aren't schoolwork." (Take #5 here.)

Teachers, we will smile about some of the things you write on our kids' papers forever.


Our foreign exchange student arrived from Spain a few nights ago! Paula is the sweetest. She and my 17-year-old daughter get along well, which is good because she shadows my daughter at school all day and then comes home with her and hangs out with her and eats dinner with her and shares a bedroom with her.

Paula comes from a small family that is certainly a lot quieter and more under control than ours, but so far she doesn't seem too horrified by the chaos.

Then again, my kids are still using their "we have company" behavior and are probably going to start being themselves in a few days so I'll report back on that next week.


We plan to spend the next few weeks taking Paula out to see some of the sights and experience American things like the homecoming football game and dance, going apple picking and making an apple pie, carving pumpkins, and going trick-or-treating (they have Halloween in Spain but it's not as big of a deal.)

Something else we've been doing is playing our favorite games at home, but changing the languages. She and my 17-year-old competed at {affiliate link} Bananagrams, my daughter making words in English and Paula making words in Spanish.

Last night we all played a group smartphone game called Spaceteam that is mostly yelling instructions at each other, but it was so much harder because we played it in Spanish. Even though most of the words were made-up gibberish, it was Spanish-sounding gibberish and Paula was laughing at our pronunciation.


The 9-year-old has been trying out big words he hears adults say. One morning I asked him, "What do you want for breakfast?"

After some thought he answered, "Presumably, toast."

"Presumably?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "Pre-ZOOM-ably. So do it quick."

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