Friday, February 22, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Buying Food for Burglars, Unconventional Furniture Placements, and Causing a Scene on Vacation Despite Our Best Intentions

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


I hope you all had a nice Presidents' Day! 

Here are two commemorative drawings of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, courtesy of my 1st grader:

Laugh until you cry at the chaos and antics of our family of 8, every week on 7 Quick Takes Friday! #7quicktakes #7qt
Happy Presidents' Day!

She said she copied them from example pictures in class, but I'm unclear on whether the example pictures were equally hilarious-looking.

You have to be delicate when asking those kinds of questions about subjects like young child art. You never want to assume the goofiness is intentional.


I went to the grocery store and as I got my 5-year-old out of the car, he asked me earnestly, "Are we buying food for burglars?"

At the time I just told him matter-of-factly that no, we were not. It didn't even occur to me that it was a weird question until later on, which proves that motherhood indeed changes you.

I also told my 2-year-old the other day to "get that lettuce our from under your feet" and didn't think anything of it until my mother started laughing, so the transition is pretty much complete.


My mom is here visiting and having a great time with the kids. I'm not sure whose idea it was, but since our basement ping pong table has gone the way of every single ping pong table in history and become a completely unusable dumping ground for our stuff, they brought the ping pong paddles and balls upstairs and started playing on the dining room table.

Unconventional? Yes.

Regulation size? Not likely.

But I think it's brilliant because now the table is always clean.

If you, too, struggle with a table perpetually covered in crumbs, spilled milk, and dishes no one in the house admits to having used, I suggest encouraging your kids to use the table as a sport court and then they will actually clean it up.

 I've tried everything else, people. This is what works.


This week we had to move everything out of the kitchen and dining room in preparation to refinish the floors in there, and our house is a complete disaster right now.

Our living room currently contains an entire kitchen and dining room's worth of stuff, including an oven and a set of 8 dining chairs. There isn't much room to move around, but plenty of seating.

As we moved the refrigerator next to the computer desk, I had an epiphany: I'll never have to get up from blogging again! Everything I need to stay alive is now within arm's reach! Why didn't I think of this before?? And is there any way we can keep that arrangement once we move all the furniture back?


After moving out all the furniture, we went on a mini-vacation since the floor refinishing process takes several days.

I could tell it was going to go well when the same kid had to do an emergency change of pants and underwear twice at the same IHOP 30 minutes into our trip.

We made it to the hotel okay, minus a few pairs of pants, but we were quite a spectacle there. A group of nine people in two adjoining rooms is a spectacle all on its own, but on the second day one child decided to kick it up a notch and throw up all over the bed (and Phillip.)

We were scrambling to get everything and everyone cleaned up because we had non-refundable 5:00 tickets to go see an ice castle. Even worse, it was right before the hotel cleaning staff was supposed to go home for the day, so four employees were literally waiting for us in the hallway as we were doing our Home Alone rushing-out-the-door routine, probably thinking about how the last thing they wanted to do at the end of a long shift was clean up someone else's kid's smelly vomit.

You'd better believe they got a big tip.


When we weren't causing a scene, we took a winter hike through a sculpture garden, saw an ice castle, went sledding (little kids) and snowshoeing (older kids,) and visited a science museum.

We saw many interesting sculptures at the sculpture garden, including this one where nobody could agree on what the subjects were: anteaters? bears? armadillos?

Laugh until you cry at the chaos and antics of our family of 8, every week on 7 Quick Takes Friday! #7quicktakes #7qt
The placard with the name of this sculpture was no help, either. It said the name of the piece was "Animals."

Some of us were less-than-impressed with the ice castle, especially Phillip who got thrown up on a second time in the gift shop, but I thought it was awesome. I really loved it.

Laugh until you cry at the chaos and antics of our family of 8, every week on 7 Quick Takes Friday! #7quicktakes #7qt

Laugh until you cry at the chaos and antics of our family of 8, every week on 7 Quick Takes Friday! #7quicktakes #7qt
The view looking up, a.k.a the reason we had to sign a waiver before going in.

I had to pull my 5-year-old off the ice slide, he was having so much fun. And honestly, I was having so much fun watching him I was in no hurry to go.

We also stopped in at the mall to kill some time and have lunch. My mom and I took the oldest pants shopping, the little kids played at the playplace, and Phillip gave the middle two kids my phone and some photo challenges.

He thought it would keep them busy for a while when he told them to find "clothes with puppies," but when they came back almost immediately he knew he was in trouble.

Laugh until you cry at the chaos and antics of our family of 8, every week on 7 Quick Takes Friday! #7quicktakes #7qt

I thought his last photo challenge, to "find mom," was genius because he was ready to go but had no idea which store we were at, and this way he didn't even have to come find me himself.

Laugh until you cry at the chaos and antics of our family of 8, every week on 7 Quick Takes Friday! #7quicktakes #7qt
They found me in J.C. Penney.


The last observation I want to share is that when you're sitting at IHOP filling out the MadLib on the placemat as you wait for your breakfast, if you ask your 7-year-old for the name of "a place," the answer is 95% likely to be "the toilet shop."

Laugh until you cry at the chaos and antics of our family of 8, every week on 7 Quick Takes Friday! #7quicktakes #7qt

Just so you know.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Living Like a Pioneer, Disturbing Disney Discoveries, and A Few Notes About "Mom Brain"

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


A few weeks ago when my 4-year-old asked me a bunch of questions about earthquakes, I Googled "earthquake educational video" and clicked the first thing that came up.

There turns out to be an entire channel of educational videos by this guy called Mr. DeMaio, and I love him. His videos are as hilarious as they are informative. I'm about 26 years older than his target audience, but I would totally watch these by myself.

Fun fact about Mr. DeMaio: my 4-year-old, who mostly interacts with adults via church where kids call their teachers "Brother/Sister Jones," misheard the name of Mr. DeMaio and now calls him "Sister Demaio."


I've been living like a pioneer for the last 6 days, which is my way of saying our microwave broke on Saturday. (I bet you thought I meant I'd been molding my own candles from tallow and nursing various family members through bouts of malaria, but you were wrong.)

We finally got a new microwave on Thursday, just in time to pop a ton of popcorn for this delicious Valentine's Day popcorn for our annual family Valentine's Day tradition.


If I ever write an autobiography, I think I'll call it Cake Wrecks, Except It's Just My Life.

I made a cake mix from a box this week, which you'd think would be simple enough, but no.

First of all, I had no microwave (see Take #2) to soften the butter. Some dodo on the Internet claimed I could do it in a double boiler on the stovetop without totally melting it which was a LIE, so whatever, I hope my family likes butter chunks in their cake.

Second, I was making a buttermilk substitute for the batter and my son dumped the vinegar directly into the dry ingredients instead of the milk.

And then smoke started pouring out of the preheating oven because I'd forgotten to clean it after something bubbled over and burnt all over the bottom a few days earlier.

All in all, it amounted to a considerable amount of stomping and screaming over a boxed cake mix. But I guess it turned out all right in the end. We ate cake and I even remembered to clean the oven for next time.


There's something about having kids that makes you reexamine everything you take for granted. Whatever you wore as a teen that was cool, your kids think is weird. Your music? Also weird. The movies you grew up with? They don't get them and don't like them.

I don't remember why, but the other day I did the Arsenio Hall fist pump to my kids and you should've seen the puzzled expressions on their faces as they tried to figure out why I was punching an imaginary speed bag and barking like a dog.

When I looked at it through their eyes, I had to admit it was pretty weird.

Then again, I take comfort in the fact that someday 20 years from now, they'll dab or floss in front of their kids, and they'll suddenly find themselves on the other end of that bewildered stare.

That's the real circle of life, Elton John.


My older three kids remember watching The Little Mermaid years ago, but I don't think my younger three even existed then so we decided to watch it again.

As always happens when watching childhood movies as an adult, I discovered something horrifying I'd never noticed before: Ariel has no fingernails.

That's right. Just five fleshy points at the ends of her fingers and that is every bit as terrifying as it sounds.

I can accept that Ariel's singing voice carries underwater like she's performing at Carnegie Hall, but this is too much for me to accept.


You know how everyone jokes about how the first child gets a fully completed baby book, the second child gets one or two pages, and the third just has a few things jotted on Post-It notes if only you could remember where you put them?

Well, by the time you get to the fifth child, apparently you forget to go to kindergarten registration and have to visit the elementary school the next day to claim the paperwork with your tail between your legs.

Sorry, fifth kid. I still love you, my brain is just full.


Speaking of full brains, I just finished making a new video!

Every time an article or video about mindfulness pops up on the Internet, sarcastic comments spontaneously begin spewing from my mouth about how none of that even remotely applies to moms with small children.

So I finally ended up putting together a funny video on the subject called "Why Moms Can't Practice Mindfulness."

I really like doing videos, but I especially loved making this one because my four youngest kids helped. It was so fun to film with them and show them the finished product after I was all done editing.

As the video ended I turned to the ask how they liked it, but was cut off  by my 7-year-old pointing at the YouTube 'suggested videos' and yelling "LET'S WATCH THE ONE WITH THE CAT IN THE TOILET!" so I'm going to guess it made a big impression on her and she thought it was fantastic.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Why Moms Can't Practice Mindfulness {VIDEO}

If you haven't already been beaten over the head with the idea, "mindfulness" is the trendy concept of being fully present in the moment. In other words, a person is being mindful when they are completely focusing on the here and now, without thinking or stressing about anything else.

Do you know what the opposite of mindfulness is? Motherhood.

Woman with zero children being mindful.
Go find a mom, right now. Ask her for her kid's date of birth, shoe size, teacher's name, how many baby teeth he still has, and what he had for breakfast this morning.

Then ask her when the registration deadline for soccer is and when the birthday card for her mother-in-law was mailed and whether the family is running low on toilet paper.

She'll tell you, even if you wake her up from a dead sleep at 3 AM to ask. That's because we're the superheroes of scattered focus. When you have to be present for everything, you don't have the luxury of being fully present for anything.

No matter where we are or what we're doing, there's always at least a part of us keeping tabs on our little people and everything connected to them. Because we're moms.

That's why I just can't anymore with the instructional mindfulness videos from childless 24-year-olds on YouTube. I recently saw one that spent several minutes talking about going outside and losing yourself looking at the clouds.

If a mom spends 10 minutes staring at a cloud, do you know what else is happening? A small person for whom she's responsible is running around in the street with no pants on, that's what.

What we need is a real mindfulness video for moms, by a mom who understands what it's like to routinely use the bathroom with someone sitting on your lap asking if ducks have feet.

Share with your mom friends, and you're welcome.

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Friday, February 8, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Global Play Day, Things You Shouldn't Throw in the Toilet, and Keeping Birthdays Simple

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


On Wednesday, my kids' elementary school participated in Global Play Day. In an effort to recognize the importance of play for kids, no academics were scheduled for the entire day. All students were supposed to bring toys and games (but no electronics) and just play at school.

Ironically enough, my kids complain about Global Play Day because 7 hours is a long time and they run out of things to do. So maybe it would be better to add one short recess every day instead of going crazy once a year. (School administrators take note.)


Kids were also encouraged to "walk, ride, or roll" to school on Global Play Day, and of course my 7-year-old latched onto that idea.

She normally rides the bus but begged me all week to bike to school with her on Global Play Day, which would've been completely impossible. We live on the opposite side of town and would need to ride 40 minutes down a busy highway. In February.

After trying to sell me on various iterations of a plan involving me hauling her two little brothers 4.3 miles in a bike trailer at 7 AM, she asked "Can you just drive me halfway and I'll bike from there?"

I appreciate your enthusiasm, dear, but no. You are the reason they invented school buses.


At the pediatric cardiologist's (don't panic, my son was born with a small heart murmur that isn't problematic and they just want to keep an eye on it) I noticed this sign in the restroom:

Big family antics, toddler messes, funny elementary school writing prompts, and more in this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt

I didn't even consciously read it because signs above public toilets always say the same thing, but something weird about it caught my eye. Toys??

Look, if you can read this you're way too old to be throwing toys in the toilet. So who exactly is the intended audience of this sign? Do the parents of toddlers really need to be reminded that the staff is not cool with periodically fishing the waiting room toys out of the commode?

It occurs to me that it would have been really ironic if, while I was lost in thought over the meaning of the sign, my 2-year-old launched a toy into the toilet.

But he didn't. This time.


No, our disaster of the week occurred a few days later, when we were leaving home to pick up my 4-year-old from preschool.

The 2-year-old had been playing upstairs for about 20 minutes, but weirdly enough, when I went to go get him he wasn't in his room.He wasn't playing in the girls' room, either.

I finally found him in the bathroom, sitting in the sink smearing an economy-sized tub of Eucerin everywhere. It was all over him, his clothes, the faucet, the mirror. It was even smashed into the bristles of the toothbrushes.

Phillip happened to be working from home and knew I was about to be late, so he told me to just go and he'd take care of it. (He didn't say "stop by CVS before coming home so you don't have to help with cleanup" per se, but I think it was implied.)

I'm not even sure how you'd go about taking care of a mess like that, honestly. My 2-year-old mentioned something about Daddy cleaning him with paper towels and a spatula, so I'll just assume I don't want to know.


As we sat down to do our family gospel study, Phillip asked the 4-year-old to help out.

"Can you draw a picture of Jesus getting baptized by John the Baptist?"

My 4-year-old looked doubtful and said "I don't know how to draw that," but Phillip said to just do his best and it would look great.

We were not disappointed.

Big family antics, toddler messes, funny elementary school writing prompts, and more in this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt
Jesus and John the Baptist, who are clearly competing in a "world's most vacant expression" contest.

Seriously, this is quite possibly my new favorite piece of religious art.


I'm in the brainstorming phase of planning a birthday party for one of my kids, who requested an emergency rescue-themed party.

I went online to see what was out there, and while I didn't get a lot of helpful ideas I did come to the conclusion that people are legitimately crazy.

Some of the ideas were so over the top. Several bloggers had their police department send over a squad car and some officers to meet the birthday boy or girl, and one more decorated to the nines and casually parked an antique fire truck (she neglected to mention how she came to be in possession of an antique fire truck) behind the cake table in the driveway.

Like, we are literally just going to have cupcakes and play pin-the-badge-on-the-policeman using a kitchen towel as a blindfold. Is that okay? I feel like I'm going to get arrested by Pinterest if I even try something like that in this day and age.


Judging by this composition my 1st grader brought home, her class must be learning how to structure a paragraph with an introduction, supporting sentences, and a conclusion.

Big family antics, toddler messes, funny elementary school writing prompts, and more in this week's edition of 7 Quick Takes! #7quicktakes #7qt
The most serious essay including the words "pocket" and "wocket" that you'll ever read.

As a writer, I basically love this.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

7 Text Message Exchanges between Disney Characters

When you introduce your kids to the Disney classics you grew up with, you notice some things that weren't there before.

Here are a few of my observations, in the form of texts the characters may have sent to one another had cell phones between invented back then.

1. George and Mary Darling from Peter Pan.

At the beginning of the movie, George and Mary (the parents of Wendy, Michael, and John) were getting ready for an office party. I wonder if they ever had second thoughts?

Just saying that a bipedal nanny might have provided a teensy bit more supervision.

2. Ariel and King Triton from The Little Mermaid.

Text exchanges between parents and teenagers look the same, pretty much across species.

Even mer-parents know when their kids are going to get into trouble before it happens.

3. Merryweather, Flora, and Fauna from Sleeping Beauty.

When the three fairies are invited to the castle to bestow gifts on the newborn Princess Aurora, I had some questions.

If Merryweather hadn't had to change her plans at the last minute, maybe Aurora would've ended up with at least a few onesies or something she could actually use. At least she had great hair.

4. Aladdin and Jasmine from Aladdin.

I've seen celebrities try to pull this and you've got to do better. At least put on some sunglasses.

Luckily for her, the guards don't seem that smart so I'm sure she'll think of something.

5. Gaston and Belle from Beauty and the Best

The plot seems a little weirder now that I'm an adult, frankly.

And I'm still not over the fact that the beast was less attractive as a human than he was when he had a buffalo head.

6. Pocahontas and John Smith from Pocahontas.

It's just easier for some people to pick up a second language than others. No one knows why.

She's got a point.

7. The King and the Grand Duke from Cinderella.

This needle-in-a-haystack approach seems like kind of a drain on the economy.

However, seeing as the king's motivation is to get some grandchildren, I totally understand where he's coming from. If I were in his position, I'd probably do the same thing.

If the Disney characters from my childhood favorites suddenly had access to text messaging, everything would be different. At the very least, the animators would have to start giving the princesses pockets.

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Friday, February 1, 2019

7 Quick Takes about Winning a Cake, Fake Salt, and A Little Early-Morning Research

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


I love the way our elementary school does fundraisers. Instead of selling stuff, they have one event a year where families come to the school and buy tickets they can use to buy pizza for dinner, enter raffles, and play carnival-style games.

It's not the funnest thing you could do with your family on a Friday night, but it's certainly more fun than hawking overpriced wrapping paper to unsuspecting relatives and coworkers.

My 7-year-old's favorite game at this fundraiser is the Cake Walk. You walk around the school gym and when the music stops, if the number you're standing on is called you win a cake.

We won a cake which sounds cool, but remember that these are cakes baked, decorated, and donated by elementary schoolers. I should've taken a picture of the one we got.

It was covered in mounds of gummy worms and marshmallows, with at least $5 worth of sugar sprinkles dumped on top. It looked disgusting.

I kept trying to steer my daughter toward the more edible-looking ones, but that's the one she wanted. Sigh.


The grocery store was totally out of normal salt the last time I went shopping, so I had to buy the next best thing. What I ended up getting was this freak of nature:

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Freak? Yes. Natural? Not a chance.

How the heck do you make less-salty salt? What even IS this?

I can't wait to go back to the store next week so we can buy some real salt. This can't possibly be good for us.


I usually let my 2- and 4-year-olds choose their own picture books at the library, which means we haven't read anything that wasn't about trucks for 6 months.

I decided it was time to broaden their literary horizons and picked out some things from the children's section on other topics including beetles, anthropomorphized snowmen, talking cats, and a shark who wanted a hug.

We came home and then I went to volunteer in my 1st grader's class at school, but when I came home I told my 4-year-old to go get one of his new books. He brought me this one and said, "Let's read Dads Can Do Anything!"

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Basically it's I Love You, Stinky Face for dads. I'm kind of in love with it.

Knowing he can't read yet, I asked how he knew what the title was (even though he got it slightly wrong.)

Shrugging nonchalantly, he said, "I just readed the words."

"So... Dad didn't read this to you while I was gone?"


"Are you sure?"

Several more times, he solemnly swore he read the title on his own and Dad had never been involved.

Which Phillip confirmed was a total lie that night when I asked him about it; they'd read the book immediately after I left.


While at the library, I grabbed this math book called Here's Looking at Euclid for my 14-year-old. I flipped through the pages just to give it a quick scan before I gave it to her, and I was hooked. I seriously can't put it down.

I think math is boring, but examining the way we think about math (which I guess I've never even thought to think about before) is blowing my mind.

Did you know numbers mean different things to different cultures?

Have you ever thought about what it would be like with a base 12 number system?

There didn't used to be zero, people. Think about that.


My 7-year-old came into my bedroom to cuddle with me one morning. While I struggled to wake up, she chit-chatted and made random observations until suddenly she asked, "How do boogers form?"

"I don't know, but we can look it up," I said.

Then realizing I say that a lot but don't actually get around to looking it up all that often, I grabbed my phone and Googled her question so we could find out the answer.

So, people waiting to have children because they want to be "ready:" know that it's impossible to prepare for the experience of having kids. You just can't possibly foresee that someday you're going to be lying in bed at 6:30 A.M. looking up boogers.


One of my favorite things about toddlers is how they adopt the big words they hear us using. My favorite word my 2-year-old says is "actually," because it sounds so funny coming out of his tiny mouth.

I gave him a hug the other day and said, "I love you."

"I love you!" he answered automatically, and then said, "...actually, no."

"You don't?" I asked.

"No," he said. "I like Dad."

Okay, maybe I don't like actually all that much.


Our new bookshelf is finally put together, and the long box it came in was propped up by the door to go out to the recycling. My children quickly discovered it and it became their favorite toy.

First they just colored all over it.

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Then it migrated into the living room and became a boat. (If you're buying a new living room rug, I highly recommend one with patches of green and blue because our kids have invented 3,451 games involving 'land' and 'water' with ours.)

Then it was just a cool place to hang out and read:

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I went to go make dinner, smiling at how wonderfully creative they are and thinking, "Well, we can keep the box around if they like it so much."

The next thing I knew, the kids' play had somehow devolved into this:

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The box went to the recycling center the next day.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Fun Valentine's Day Tradition That Will Help Your Kids Get Along Better

On Phillip's and my first Valentine's Day as a married couple, we didn't have any money. I didn't really want anything, anyway, so I just told him to write me a love letter. And then when he did, I figured that I should probably write one to him, too.

By the next Valentine's Day, our first baby had already arrived so we decided to include her in the tradition - why not? In addition to writing to each other, we also each wrote to her on her first Valentine's Day, and I put them in an envelope for when she's older.

As we added children to our family, we kept adding letters every Valentine's Day.

Whether it was because we didn't have a definite plan for how many children we'd have or because I'm bad at math, I didn't realize that it meant I'd be writing 7 letters each and every February, as well as helping the younger kids with theirs.

It's kind of a lot of work, but it also gives rise to my favorite family tradition: the family love bomb.

We’ve celebrated with lots of fun Valentine’s Day ideas for families over the years, but this “family love bomb” is my favorite. My kids look forward to it every year! #valentinesday #family

Love-Bombing Each Family Member on Valentine's Day

Instead of just giving each other the letters, we make an evening out of it during the week of Valentine's Day.

We have Valentine's treats and go around the room, choosing one person at a time to get love-bombed as 7 letters are read to them about how fantastic they are. (Only Phillip's and my letters to each other are exchanged later in private.)

You should see how giddy everybody gets when it's their turn to hear all their letters. The younger kids quite literally bounce around like pinballs, the older kids try to hide how secretly pleased they are, and I'm not going to lie: even I look forward to it.

Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to incorporate this fun activity that promotes a loving family identity and a strong brother-sister bond! If you want to work on the sibling relationship in your household, having them “love bomb” each other is a great idea. #valentinesday #siblings

Traditions Strengthen the Family Identity

Believe me, there are certain personalities and maturity levels in our family who aren't altogether comfortable with reading their letters out loud. The uncomfortable shifting and the awkwardness usually peaks in the tween years.

But the treats help.

And even if they might have trouble making eye contact when they read "I think you are a good sister," I think it's an important way to develop our family identity. Research has consistently shown that kids with a strong sense of family identity have higher self-esteem and are better able to deal with the effects of stress and peer pressure.

I was recently horrified by a mom blog article that actually advised parents not to praise a child in the presence of a sibling to avoid making the other kid jealous. That is BULL-oney. With extra bull.

I want the kids to hear us praising their siblings, and not only do I want them to hear it I want them to do it, too. We are all unique and wonderful in this family, and letting each other know it is important.

Handling the Logistics of Writing a Billion Letters

Every kid gets a letter, starting the year they're born. As soon as they're a few years old, I'll help them write letters of their own by asking questions like "what's your favorite thing to do with your sister?" or "what does your brother do that makes you laugh?" I either write their answers down Q&A-style or prepare a fill-in-the-blank letter ("Dear Daddy, you are really good at ___________________.")

By early elementary school, they usually have ideas about how to write their letters all on their own, and by the time they're older they don't need much help from me. If they're stuck on what to say, I usually suggest brainstorming three nice adjectives about the addressee, and write about a time something happened that illustrates one of the adjectives.

February is a lot of work in our house, and I'm not exaggerating when I say I carry around a clipboard with a chart showing who has written to who. But it's worth it.

Not only is our annual family love bomb something the kids and I look forward to every year, I also smile every time I tuck their letters away into their respective envelopes and think about how much fun it will be for them to look back on those letters 20 years from now.

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