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
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Friday, February 21, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Our New Pizza Trailer, Establishments That Are Serious About Following the Rules, and Failed Bowling Expeditions

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

1


We got new couches!

Our old ones were ugly, stained, and disgusting after 10 years of constant abuse from rowdy children. Not only that, but our family has grown since we purchased them (both in number and the size of the individual children) and we didn't all fit on them anymore.

Also, the springs on the sofa were completely broken in the middle and the kids had started calling it "the pit of doom."

I love the way they look in our living room, and we ended up getting a slightly bigger couch and loveseat, plus an oversize chair that fits two adults and a big ottoman that can be used for more seating. I LOVE OUR NEW LIVING ROOM.

The kids have obviously made themselves right at home, too.


2


Besides just random mayhem, the kids have developed several new games with our new living room furniture.

Sometimes, they arrange the cushions on the floor and pretend it's a boat.

They also like to stack the pillows on the ottoman and pretend it's a trailer full of pizzas. Then the 3-year-old sits backward on the chair and pretends to drive it while making tractor noises. I really admire his commitment to this game. (I watched him once and he stops to shift gears.)

The pillows, which I fully expected to spend more time on the floor than on the couches until I went crazy and threw them away, make perfect stepping stones.

The kids wake up so excited to play with our furniture their brand-news toys, every morning is like Christmas morning.

3


This week, the kids are on school vacation and their grandparents are visiting. While they're here, the 3- and 5-year-olds are entertaining them with their own original knock-knock jokes.

Their repertoire includes:

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
An eyeball!
An eyeball who?
In your eyehole!

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
A pickle with jello on it on your face.
A pickle with jello on it on your face who?
On your eyebrow!

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Invented hamburger.
Invented hamburger who?
Splatted on your face!

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Garbage flying in the sky.
Garbage flying in the sky who?
Crash!

Like I said, it's real hilarious over here.

4


We took the kids to the trampoline park, and as expected, it was totally nuts. In the northeast, we have a random week of school vacation in February, meaning that everyone who doesn't ski and can't afford a tropical vacation is just milling around New England looking for something indoors to do.

So. Much. Fun.

I normally avoid indoor attractions of any kind during February week, ever since a disastrous aquarium visit years ago. It was so full of people the kids couldn't see a single thing, and most of the time was spent getting separated from each other and/or accidentally crowd surfing.

Anyway, I decided to make some exceptions for this week. The trampoline park was madness, but still fun for the kids. And I enjoyed this "no running" sign that really kicks it up a notch.

EVER. Under penalty of death.

5


We visited the art museum and sculpture garden, which wasn't crowded at all because (1) most of it was in the wide-open outdoors, and (2) it was freezing.

Everyone was bundled up like an Eskimo; even my teenager said she wished she'd brought a coat, and that's really saying something.

I enjoyed walking around and looking at stuff, but I'm just not sure I get modern art:

"Um, guys? Is anyone else seeing this?"

I actually thought this huge doorway was cool. It was lined with the remnants of reclaimed cello bows, which looked really pretty waving in the breeze. Or as my 8-year-old put it, "I really like that hairy thing!"


My 5-year-old sat down on a step to admire this sculpture for a while, so I stopped to read the placard in front of it. "Do you know what this one is called?" I asked him.

"What?"

I grinned and read from the placard: "It's called 'Three Lines.'"

My 5-year-old cocked his head at the sculpture and asked, "Why?"

My, what a mystery.

6



Inside the museum, there was a kids' display. The kids were asked to create poetry and/or works of origami and tie it to a large wooden frame to form what they called a "3D sculpture."


The effect was impressive from a distance, but if you looked close up you could tell it was created by children:

Like a Haiku, but with only one word.

Poetry is nice and all, but it can't hold a candle to bathroom humor when you're 7 years old.


7

We tried to go bowling with the grandparents, but we happened to show up on league night (whoops!) and they were all booked up.

In the absence of any other good ideas, we went home to watch a movie. The 3-year-old had fallen into a deep sleep on the drive home so real sneaky-like, I tried to transfer him into bed.

I almost thought I'd gotten away with it when I turned to leave and heard a small, panicked voice say, "Why didn't I watch the movie?"

"I thought you were asleep," I said.

"I wasn't sleeping. I was just thinking about stuff."

At that moment, he reminded me of an old man insisting he wasn't asleep, he was just resting his eyes for a few minutes.

For the record, I did let him come out and join us for a movie and "banilla wif cookies" (cookies 'n cream ice cream.)

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

For Those About to Shop, We Salute You

These people are too happy and the Internet is a lie.
Something that truly amazes me about parenting is our capacity to forget.

As soon as you leave a particularly challenging stage, mom-nesia wipes your memory clean like it never even happened.

This is helpful when you're considering giving birth a second time, but not, for instance, a few Saturdays ago.

Now that 3 of my 6 kids are old enough to babysit, I rarely take a gaggle of tiny humans grocery shopping anymore.

But for some reason I can't quite remember (again with the mom-nesia,) I loaded up the 3 youngest kids in the minivan one fine Saturday to do just that.

By the time we were finished, I was ready to drive the cart off a cliff.

It all starts the moment the automatic double doors swoosh open. First, no one wants to sit in the shopping cart; then everyone does. After intense negotiations, I situate the 3-year-old in the seat and the 5-year-old in the basket of the cart, and we roll to the dairy aisle with my 8-year-old skipping alongside.

The 3-year-old yanks on the seat belt in the cart, becoming visibly upset. "This seat belt is too small!"

"You don't need it," I explain, beginning to wonder if it's too late to abandon the cart and just go home to live on half a stale English muffin and five ounces of milk. "That's for babies. You're a big boy and besides, you're wearing a big coat."

"I want my coat off!"

WHY DID I SAY THAT?

The 8-year-old, meanwhile, flits around me like a hummingbird. "Where's your list? I'll read the list!"

She rummages through my pockets and purse while I remove the 3-year-olds' coat and buckle the seat belt for him, which he immediately begins trying to unbuckle.

I find the shopping list and hand it to her, reminding the 5-year-old to sit down when the cart is moving or he'll fall out. He remains unconvinced.

"I can't read your handwriting!" the 8-year-old complains, turning my list this way and that like Gaston looking at Belle's book in Beauty and the Beast. "You have really bad writing, Mommy."

"I can't un-BUUUUUCKLE it!" the 3-year-old yowls like a wounded animal.

I look around in despair, realizing that we will literally never leave this grocery store, or even this aisle, without divine intervention.

The 8-year-old, having abandoned the idea of reading my chicken scratch grocery list, is sitting on the rack at the bottom of the cart, directly under the 3-year-old, who is kicking her in the head. "Hey!" she yells. "Stop kicking me!"

"There's nowhere else for his feet to go," I say, exasperated.

We stop for a pep talk in the bacon aisle. "Look, guys: we are never going to leave here if you don't help Mommy. No buckling seat belts, no kicking anyone in the head. Do you want to stay here for the rest of your lives?"

They don't, and so we move on.

For about 20 seconds.

"He's kicking me!" the 8-year-old protests, as if she wasn't part of the conference next to the processed meats thirty seconds ago.

"Hey! I want to sit down there!" the 5-year-old pipes up from the basket of the cart.

"No! No one is sitting down there. Everyone is staying right where they are."

But it's too late. Now that the idea of leaving their assigned seats has occurred to both the 3-year-old and the 5-year-old, resistance is futile.

The 5-year-old goes to join his sister who is spinning in the middle of the aisle, while the 3-year-old heads right for the closest package festooned with Disney characters and asks "Can I have this?"

I look at the Frozen II string cheese he's clutching to his heart and wonder  How can string cheese be character-themed? That doesn't even make sense.

"If you can tell me what that is," I bluff, looking him straight in the eye, "then yes, I will get it for you."

Of course, he has no idea.

Things calm down for a little while. My kids are generally well-behaved, but I quickly realize that even when they're being good, three kids take up a lot of space.

No matter where they go they're in someone's way, so while I'm trying to comparison shop for pickles (Sandwich Cut! Chips! Whole Baby! Sweet Gherkin!) I'm also reaching behind me grabbing kids who I hope are mine and pulling them out of the path of speeding shopping carts.

No one  and I repeat: no one  is more oblivious than a kid in a grocery store.

Absolutely zero awareness that people are trying to get around them. No concept that darting in front of an old lady could end in a coronary episode.

And as luck would have it, today happens to be the Saturday before the Superbowl so the store is packed. When I turn around I see an actual line of shoppers rage-waiting behind my 5-year-old for their chips and dip while he stands smack in the middle of the aisle going like this:


Another thing I notice: if I take the 3-year-old shopping while his siblings are in school, he asks for frosted animal crackers, I say no, and that's that. But now he has cohorts to pick up the whine train when he leaves off, and frankly it's too early in the morning for that.

Now they're fighting over who gets to "help" drive the cart (spoiler alert: they're all terrible drivers.) They're clotheslining pyramid-like displays of Roma tomatoes. They're chucking apples in the produce bag like baseballs. I think I see one of them lick a green pepper.

The produce department is kind of a blur.

Finally, we arrive at the checkout with a mountain of food spilling out of the cart and three children hanging off the sides like a merry band of pirates.

While I'm settling an argument about who gets to put the cheese on the conveyor belt, the 8-year-old waves around a carton of eggs like she's going for the gold in Olympic ribbon dancing.

I make a token attempt to tell the kids to stop manhandling all the candy bars, but my 5-year-old could start playing with live explosives right now and I'd probably let it slide. I can see the exit from here.

So close, and yet so far. 

As we cross the parking lot, I'm in the middle of warning the 3-year-old not to stand on the front of the cart or he could get run over when (drumroll, please) I drive over his foot.

Bump bump! like running over a badger on the side of the highway. There are literal wheel tracks on his shoe.

He's fine, although it takes a while for him to calm down and we're blocking traffic. I scoop him up in my arms and push the cart to the van with my pinky finger as the 8-year-old announces "Make way! World's Best Mom coming through!"

At least I think that's what she's saying. I can't hear because the 3-year-old is crying in my ear.

Somehow we get everyone in their car seats. Somehow we make it home. Another week's shopping completed.

And that, dear children, is why five or ten years from now, when you're strong enough to carry a gallon of milk into the house, you'll help unload the groceries. When you whine, "Do I haaaaaave to?" the answer will always be yes. 

Yes, you do. You owe me.

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Friday, February 14, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Birthday Cakes, Probabilities for that Aren't Very Good for the President, and Wielding the Power of Buttons

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

1


This, in case you're wondering, is the pull cord from our snowblower. Or at least it was.


The problem is, it of course ripped off when we were attempting to start the snowblower. Which meant that the driveway was full of snow and we actually needed it. That was fun.

2


Usually we only let the older kids request a specific kind of birthday cake because they know what kinds of cakes exist in the world.

A 13-year-old can say, for example, "I want a Boston cream pie" or "I would like a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting."

A 5-year-old will make up something completely ridiculous like, "I want a chocolate cake with green frosting with one strawberry on top in a circle of raspberries."

You got it, kid.

To Phillip's credit, this cake was actually pretty good. He made a white chocolate ganache (colored with green food coloring to meet the 5-year-old's specifications,) and even though it looked sort of weird it tasted good.

This reminded me of when our oldest child was little and would request extremely specific toys from Santa that did not exist.

Have you shopped until you dropped for a very specific size and color of teddy bear and then had to paint its eyes blue and buy a particular color of ribbon to tie around its neck? Or sewed teeny, tiny headbands for Barbies out of blue ribbon and decorated them with a predetermined sequence of adhesive gem shapes? I have.

3


For birthdays, our kids get a family birthday party and a friend party. They're usually spaced a few weeks apart but just because of the way schedules worked out, we did these two back-to-back and ended up making two cakes in a weekend.

Not that we minded, because we also ate two cakes in a weekend.

The friend party had a dinosaur theme. I found this dinosaur cake tutorial and put two round cakes in the oven on Friday afternoon, but I ran out of time to do anything else with them. That evening, I pointed to the cakes cooling on the counter and told Phillip, "I'm leaving for an appointment. You're in charge of the cake!"

"Well, that's easy." Phillip asked, pointing at the two 9" rounds, blissfully unaware of the whole dinosaur theme. "You already baked it."

"Yeah, but you have to make it into a triceratops. Byeeee!" I grabbed my keys and laughed all the way to my appointment.

I did leave the link for the tutorial with my daughter, and the two of them followed it perfectly and did a fabulous job:

The toes!

4


My three oldest kids were talking about a book one of them has been reading with facts about the U.S. presidencies and the office of the president.

One of them mentioned the four assassinated presidents, and I was so shocked I had to interject. Abraham Lincoln and JFK I knew about, but there were two more?!?

"Why do you think they have the secret service, Mom?" my 15-year-old asked.

"That's why I'm surprised!" I said. "There's an entire government organization dedicated to keeping one person from getting murdered, and he still has an 8% chance of getting murdered?"

After a little while, the 11-year-old asked the 13-year-old, "Why would someone kill the president, anyway?"

"Because they don't like him," she answered.

He raised an eyebrow and said, "Well, that's an overreaction."

5


It's Valentine's Day, and we've been hard at work on our family love letters. I can only dream of the day when everyone is self-sufficient to write their own, but for now I have to write all of mine plus help the 3- and 5-year-olds with theirs. It's an enormous undertaking.

But so cute and worth it.

Straight from the heart of a 5-year-old.

This same child also began his letter to his brother with: "I love you. You make the best things out of duct tape." This is heartfelt stuff.

I complain about helping everybody, but all things considered, it's been remarkably painless this year. Out of all the bribing, cajoling, wheedling, and begging I've done to get kindergartners to write out valentines to their classmates over the years, the 5-year-old seems to be the least writing-averse. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it.

I intended to have him just address a couple of valentines per day so he didn't get overloaded, but he sat down and did the entire class in one sitting while I asked, "Aren't you tired? Do you want to take a break now?" I was definitely expecting one (or probably both) of us to cry at least once during the process.

6


This past weekend I completely freaked out calmly noticed that my kids had gotten in the habit of not cleaning up after themselves, which makes for a very difficult living environment. (For me, not them. They're perfectly happy wading through their own filth all day.)

Jackets and shoes were on the floor wherever they were removed, toys and books were discarded everywhere. Not putting the scissors away after using them doesn't sound like a big deal, but if you do things like it 100 times a day, times 6 kids in the house, over multiple days... we're talking CPS-involvement levels of mess around here.

So the Button Jar is back.

It's your standard carrot-and-stick motivation jar, where the kids get to add a button every time they remember to clean up after themselves, and when they fill the jar we get a special treat and a movie night. But there's a twist!

Anytime I see something sitting out, I get to remove a button. It works best to do it while announcing in a self-satisfied shriek to the entire neighborhood "I'M TAKING A BUTTON OUT OF THE JAR!!!"

My house has never been so tidy.

7


My 15-year-old has successfully made a name for herself as The Girl Who Lost Her Phone Inside the Piano in the Band Room.

She plays accompaniment for the high school chorus, and I guess one day she set her phone on top and it fell in during rehearsal. She knew the phone was missing but wasn't sure where it went, until she had a friend call her phone and the piano started ringing (I really wish I'd been there to see that.)

A few days later she didn't respond to a text I sent her during the school day and when I picked her up she explained, "Sorry, I didn't have my phone at school today."

"Why not?" I asked.

I wasn't even sure whether or not to believe her when she said she'd lost it inside of a saxophone.

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Friday, February 7, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Making Mistakes, Drowning in Cute Puppies, and Creepy Ways to Sell Balloons

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

1


My 3-year-old thinks the past tense of "drive" is "drooved." He's said it that way for a year now, and he probably always will, since I've threatened any child who corrects him with being cut out of my will.

We were going to a library in another town that we don't visit very often, and as the car pulled up the 3-year-old yelled, "Oh! We have drooven here before!"

YOU GUYS I CANNOT EVEN WITH THE PAST PARTICIPLE.

2



When I drove somewhere this week (or drooved, depending on who you ask) I decided to take one route over the other and soon regretted it. I ended up running into traffic, and highly annoyed, I muttered out loud to myself, "I think I made a mistake..."

That's when my 5-year-old cheerily piped up from the backseat, "That's okay! Mistakes are how you learn!"

I love when you can hear their teachers at school coming out of their mouths. 

When my now 8-year-old went to kindergarten, whenever she was pleased with something we did she started saying, "That was a thumbs-up decision!"

3


Speaking of my 8-year-old, she's in a bit of hot water right now. It all started when we got a letter from the school notifying us of a $222.30 negative balance on her lunch account. That's right, clutch your pearls. We didn't even know she had a lunch account.

She brings lunch from home every day, but apparently she'd rather buy pizza from the cafeteria and didn't exactly think through where the money was coming from before becoming a regular customer.

But now that I think of it, the many mornings I pestered her because she wasn't taking very much food to school are making a lot more sense now...

Clearly, our system for packing nutritious and delicious school lunches is working splendidly.

Anyway, we talked about it and decided that since she can't realistically work enough to pay back more money than she's earned in her entire 8 years of life in a timely manner, she's going to take a break from the horseback riding lessons she loves until she's able to use the lesson money for paying back the school.

I'm also pretty ticked off at the school for not informing us earlier. I get not wanting to deny lunch to a kid because they can't pay, but this is something that should've been brought to our attention at -$20, not -$200.

I love that girl but there's no way I'm ever co-signing on her loan or credit card.

4


A friend of ours signed up with a local animal rescue to take in dogs needing a temporary home. The rescue recently found a pregnant dog on the streets so guess what? My friend is now fostering a litter of ten puppies. (She's also got two young kids and a dog of her own, which means now she literally does nothing except for serving food and cleaning up pee.)

The puppies are leaving for their new homes next Friday, but until then she's the most popular person in town, because who doesn't want to come over and play with ten puppies?

I could only fit half the people and half the dogs into this photo. It was pandemonium.

It's impossible to describe the chaos of 6 excited children meeting 10 excited puppies in the same room at the same time. It was like jumping into a ball pit filled with wiggly cuteness.



They chewed on all of us. We stepped in pee at least three times. My daughter who's allergic to everything furry (even guinea pigs,) had to wear latex gloves and she still didn't want to leave.


When I sat down on the floor, eight puppies immediately zoomed over and parked themselves in my lap. "They really like moms," my friend said.

After both of us got up and went on the other side of the doggy gate, the oldest person left in the room was my 15-year-old daughter. Figuring she was the closest thing to a mom in the room, they swarmed into her lap.


One by one the puppies started getting tired and went back into their crate to sleep in a cute little pile, and we went home to eat cereal for dinner. So all in all it was pretty much the best day.

5


Last week I mentioned that my 3-year-old was officially cleared of his walnut allergy. I didn't really think anything of it when he got a cold sore a few days later just above his lip that turned red and blistery after a few days.

When he started to get a cluster of three more on his lip, I started to Google. Was it hand foot and mouth? Impetigo? I mentioned it to Phillip on the phone, who was out of town for work, who said, "Maybe it's the walnuts."

What?

I looked it up and didn't see a lot, but according to super-official webistes (Quora, folks, I'm talking about Quora) some nuts, especially walnuts, can cause canker sores in and around the mouth for some people.

So... I guess we're not as home free as I thought.

6


My 13-year-old recently read The Hunger Games and we've been watching the movies with her.

After we saw Catching Fire, I kept thinking that Sam Claflin (the actor who played Finnick Odair) looked familiar, but I just chalked it up to the fact that we have the same sharp, narrow nose that could be used as a can opener in an emergency situation and maybe he simply reminded me of myself.

I forgot all about it until four days later, when I was in bed trying to sleep and it randomly popped into my head where I'd seen him before. He was the male lead from Me Before You, which I saw several years ago. At least I thought he was.

Feeling pleased that my brain is apparently still youthful and functional, I went to sleep telling myself, "I'll have to look that up in the morning."

I'm not going to lie, I did sit in front of the Google homepage for a while the next day with a blinking cursor, thinking I remember that somebody from some movie looked like somebody from some other movie... but who was it?

But eventually I did remember. I looked it up, and I was right! Cue victory dance. I was thrilled because one, I thought of it at all. Two, because I remembered to look it up the next day. And three, because I was even right.

I'm thoroughly impressed with myself, although apparently it doesn't take much.

7


You all know I'm a devoted Amazon shopper.. Okay, so I'm a little creeped out by that miniature robot spy Alexa, but other than that, I love Amazon. I buy everything on there.

In my years of online shopping, I've seen some ridiculous, weird, and extremely badly Photoshopped product images. But I've never seen anyone trying to sell balloons by hiding a naked person in them before.

Internet, you continue to keep me on my toes.

I mean, I'm not trying to tell you what is and isn't a good way to sell balloons... actually, yes I am. This is a terrible way to sell balloons. Get your act together, Amazon.

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Friday, January 31, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Fire and Ice, Mixing Up Your 20th Century Decades, and Intentionally Overdosing on Walnuts

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

1


Lately my 8-year-old has seemed like she needs some special attention, so when I picked her up from basketball I offered to take her to the library, just her and me.

She lobbied hard for ice cream, but the library won and I'm glad it did, because while we were there we happened to see a local winter festival going on.

The theme was fire and ice, and they had a big bonfire, food trucks, and a pop-up skating rink. We briefly wandered around and decided to come back later this afternoon with her little brothers, when she was wearing more than basketball shorts to keep her warm.

When we came back, there was a fire dancer there which made quite an impression on the boys.

We have 133 photos just like this one, because when I tried to take a picture my phone started taking burst shots and I didn't know how to stop it.

There was also an ice sculpture of two polar bears. It's hard to get a good picture of an ice sculpture, but you can see the tall one up top and my boys are petting the shorter one.

I'm actually not sure they were supposed to be touching this.

We don't have skates but the kids enjoyed sliding around on the ice rink in their boots, and a nice older lady (who I really want to be when I grow up) let all the kids take turns on the ice with her walker.

2


On Saturday, my oldest three kids went to a church activity with the teens from our entire stake, which is like 6 or 7 congregations combined. So there were at least 100 kids there.

They were learning about the scripture that is our youth theme for 2020, and then putting it into action with a service project.

This organization that builds and delivers bunk beds for kids in need set up shop in our gym and put them all to work with power tools. Presumably they were well-supervised, but I'm just guessing because I only came at the end to pick them up.

This is after all the kids had left, but my 5-year-old needed to go back in and visit the bathroom.

My daughter said they finished fifteen bunk beds, which is pretty good for 100 unskilled child laborers in three hours, I think.

3


Happened to see this in the drugstore and it was the equivalent of hearing your favorite song on the oldies station on the radio:

Thank you, CVS, for yet another reminder I'm becoming increasingly irrelevant.

These games were so cool when I was a kid. This is what you begged your parents for at Christmas and your birthday. And now they sell them next to the Snickers bars at the checkout for $14.99.

(By the way, that "retro" font is from the 70s and handheld video games are from the 90s, not that the current generation knows or maybe cares about the difference.)

4


One thing people are often surprised about when it comes to my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is our missionary program.

Instead of just sending missionaries to convert the unchurched heathen in far-flung countries you can't pronounce, we have them everywhere. We send missionaries to Colorado, you guys.

We have missionaries in our area, and recently they gave us copies of the Book of Mormon at church and asked us to give them to someone we know. A friend mentioned how she used to highlight her favorite verses before handing them out, and I thought, "Hey! That's a great way to explain why I like the Book of Mormon and what I find compelling about it," so I decided to try it.

I'm not a religious scholar and I usually can't recite from memory the exact chapter and verse of scriptures I like, so I sat down with my personal marked-up copy of the scriptures and transferred over some of my favorites.

I did it with the intention of giving it to a friend, but I didn't anticipate how much I was going to get out of it. Sitting down and reading through every Book of Mormon verse I've found personally meaningful over the years, one after another, was a very powerful experience.

I guess the way not to take something for granted is to look at it differently. Thanks, missionaries.

5


Phillip and I were leaving on a date (!) last weekend, and as we walked out the door we left the 13-year-old in charge, saying, "You hold down the fort!"

The 11-year-old wisecracked, "While they're gone, the little kids are going to pull down the fort."

The 5-year-old, listening to them, was prompted to yell, "The little kids are going to pull down your pants!" and started giggling uncontrollably.

I didn't really know what to say about that except:


When we got home, everyone still had pants and things were fine, by the way. The 5-year-old is all talk.

6


My 3-year-old has been officially cleared of his walnut allergy!

He had no idea what this certificate was for, but it had pictures of Minions so he was all over it. (I saw Frozen II string cheese at the grocery store last week which I think capitalizes on the same idea.)

First they gave him one walnut and waited 15 minutes to see if that was okay, then he had two and we waited, and finally he had to eat a half cup of walnuts... and let me tell you, that is a lot of walnuts. I don't even think I could eat a half-cup of plain walnuts, and I'm significantly bigger.

Luckily, the novelty of eating walnuts for the first time in living memory was enough to make him eat it all, even though it took 20 minutes.

7


While we waited for our appointment, I passed the time by reading the excessive signage in the waiting room:

The pillar o' signs.

Looking at this reminded me of the sign posted at our local recycling center. It has the standard reminders about things that are not recyclable: no asphalt shingles, no unnumbered plastics, and so on.

Apparently people were still throwing in a lot of non-recyclable items, so a handwritten list appeared next to the sign that grew every week: "No picture frame glass!" "No plastic toys!" and then finally, it became so long it included the final item: "Read sign."

I was legitimately sad when they took that one down.

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Friday, January 24, 2020

7 Quick Takes about a Moratorium on Coats, Mythical Creatures that Make Even Less Sense Than Mermaids, and Being Stalked By a Christmas Tree

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

1


My 15-year-old works for her high school tech crew, setting up and taking down the stage in the auditorium for different events.

When I dropped her off on Monday to set up for a concert, the school was still locked (because of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) and the guy with the keys hadn't shown up yet.

So my daughter got out of the car and joined the other three teenagers waiting on the sidewalk, and there the four of them stood: shivering in their hoodies with nary a coat, hat, or pair of gloves to be seen.

It was 22° out.

(I don't get it, although if I'm honest I probably shouldn't talk. In high school, I would have willingly sustained severe back injuries than put both backpack straps on my shoulders. In fact, I would've rather dropped straight out of school than wear the thing properly.)

2


Speaking of things I don't understand, one of my elementary schoolers picked up a new book series at the library called Purrmaids.


Aside from the standard "how do mermaids go to the bathroom" queries from my kids, I still have questions.

Even if I accept cats who like water and sea creatures with fur, I'm still unsure about the function of the halter tops. Assuming purrmaids have the same anatomy up top as regular cats, those things don't even cover what they're supposed to cover.

And then when I was browsing the children's nonfiction for dinosaur books for my 5-year-old, I came across this tastefully done number:

Who approved this cover?!?

I kept looking at the bloody entrails trying to convince myself "Hey, it's not so bad. It's realistic. Carnivore life is graphic." But then my eyes wander to the severed claw in his mouth and I'm done.

3


My 13-year-old was filling out a form from her school's drama department so she can participate in the spring play and came to the question: "Is there anything else we should know about you?"

"Mom, is there anything else they should know about me?"

I shrugged. "Like what?"

"I don't know, should I write 'I'm a special snowflake?'"

Good thinking. That should guarantee a very large role when it comes time for casting the play.

4


One of my kids needed a blood draw (different kid than the one who needed it last week, thankfully) after a doctor's appointment.

The lab was very small, so to get your blood drawn you sit in this tiny little nook about 4' by 4'. On the wall directly in front of the chair, so close you could reach out and touch it, is a very large framed watercolor of a stream with some happy fall trees lining the bank.

Be relaxed, okay? I SAID BE RELAXED!

The fact that it was so big and in your face struck me as funny. It seemed to be suggesting very aggressively that you need to settle down so you don't pass out.

Not that I have ever done that.

5


I put a workout video on YouTube the other day and started exercising. I don't have a favorite video or person, I usually just search for "___ min workout" depending on how much time I have.

When this girl started out doing squat jumps that were lightning fast, I knew I'd probably made a mistake, but I decided I was just going to follow along at a more appropriate pace for a 37-year-old who sometimes worries about blowing out her knee.

My preschooler, however, kept looking back and forth from me to the video and insisting, "You're not doing it right."

Okay, FINE. But I have 20 years and 6 kids on her, so I think I'm doing pretty well, thanks.


Every 30 seconds during the workout, a loud beep would signal the start of a new exercise, each one more grueling than the last.

It sounded a lot like the bleep they use on TV to cover up profanity, which was ironic, because that's more or less what I was thinking every time it sounded.

6


Because we have a forested area on our property, we don't have to take our yard waste anywhere  we just dump it back there and let it return to the earth. That includes our Christmas trees at the end of the season.

Usually it's a fine place for our old trees (they actually break down pretty quickly,) but this time the younger kids keep messing around with last year's tree. Every time they go to play outside, by the time I go check on them they've already dragged it back onto the lawn for use in some kind of game.

I explained it was going to get sap all over the place and asked them not to touch the tree anymore, which seemed to work because they stopped.

Several days went by without incident, until one afternoon I backed out of the garage and saw that someone had "planted" the old Christmas tree upright in the front yard by burying the trunk in a snowbank.

I slammed on the breaks and gasped like it was a jump scare scene in a horror movie. Actually, I wondered if I was in one, because the creepy haunted object I've thrown away refuses to stay dead and it's starting to freak me out.

7


Meanwhile, my middle schooler is having fun with the letter board she received for Christmas:


I'll give you a minute.

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