Friday, December 3, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Holiday Decor for Families with Young Children, Raking Leaves, and the Best Way to Force Yourself to Paint the Walls

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

1


As I was taking down our fall decorations this week, I almost forgot the Thankful Tree.

This is our super-simple fall centerpiece, made by one of my kids at a church activity years ago. Every Thanksgiving, we write things we're thankful for on paper leaves and hang them on the branches.


As I picked the Thankful Tree up off the table to pack it away for another year, I suddenly focused on the brightly-colored leaf closest to my face and noticed that it read "POOP."

Just in case you wanted to know what the holidays with kids are like.

2


Every year, I take whichever kids are interested to The Nutcracker ballet (except for last year because of COVID.) 

This was my 5-year-old's first time. I wasn't sure how he'd do sitting for that long, but it turns out I didn't need to worry. The seats directly in front of us were empty so his view was fantastic, and he stayed engaged and whispered constant questions and commentary almost the whole time. 

He especially loved the "I Spy" curtain, which had Nutcracker-themed items hidden on it (there was a list in the program of objects to find while waiting for the show to start.)

So handsome in his sweater, excited to find the snowflake.

Of course, when I asked him afterward how he liked The Nutcracker he shrugged and said, "I dunno. Kinda boring." and then complained about it the whole way home. 

3


On Thanksgiving weekend, Phillip took a few of the kids to rake leaves for an elderly couple in town. They didn't quite get it finished before dark, though, so it was my turn to go back the next day.

The next day Phillip offered to come, but he was in the middle of baking a pie (it's a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for Phillip to make a different kind of pie for each of the four nights) so I told him the kids and I had it under control.

Attendance was mandatory for the kids who weren't there yesterday but I let the other four choose, and I was so proud of the fact that three out of four happily volunteered to go back for Round 2. (They were significantly less enthusiastic when we raked our own yard a few days later.)

Using the "blow everything onto a tarp and dump it in the woods" method.

As I was starting up the leaf blower, the elderly gentleman who owned the house came out to talk to me. "Where's your husband?" he asked.

"Making a pie," I answered, and then started talking about something else.

I didn't realize until afterward that this man was in his late 70s was probably so confused. In his day, ladies didn't do manual labor while the menfolk stayed home baking pies. He probably thought he heard me wrong.

4


At some point I'm going to have to stop gushing about how much I love my new kitchen counters, but today is not that day. 

I've mentioned their amazing ability to hide crumbs and splatters so well, but they hide them almost too well. It's actually hard to know for sure when you've gotten the counter really clean without running your hand over them for a tactile double-check.

What an absolutely glorious problem to have, though. 

5


My favorite kid's game is the one my elementary-schoolers have been playing lately: sneaking around trying to spy on me without being detected. 

I never quite know when they're going to start, but sometimes when I'm minding my own business I become vaguely aware that they're in the room, tip-toeing around, hiding around corners, ducking behind furniture, and trying to stifle giggles.

All that's required of me is to look up with a suspicious and confused look on my face every once in a while, and they're having a blast. 

I love little kids, you guys. They may be maddeningly nonsensical sometimes (see Takes #1 and #2), but it just doesn't take much to entertain them and that's a beautiful thing. When they get older, they become a lot more picky about what constitutes a great time.

6


I think I'm addicted to watching TV news blooper compilations on YouTube. One showed up in my feed so I watched it, and now it is serving up dozens of them. I can't not watch.

I'll just show a short little clip because some of them have Freudian slips you might laugh at and then have to explain to your kids, but these ones are all clean:


Just remember, nobody's perfect!

7


My friend Melanie and I have started what I like to call an informal home improvement co-op. That's a fancy way of saying that once a week, one of us shows up at the other's house in our slobby painting clothes to help them with a project around the house they've been procrastinating.

It's pretty much the best thing in the world. 

Not only do we get to talk while we work, but the built-in accountability of it forces us just get started. Some parts of painting (especially the prep work beforehand) are so tedious you can put them off indefinitely if left to your own devices, but if you know someone is coming and you just HAVE to do it at the appointed day and time... it's actually not so bad.

I wonder if I can find anyone interested in a house-cleaning co-op now, because I could totally use that, too.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

In Search of a Less Wasteful Christmas

It's December 1st, and if this were any other year I would've had at least one holiday prep-related mental breakdown by now. But it hasn't happened yet, and here's the beautiful reason why: my husband and I aren't getting the kids gifts this year.

Before you start penning your letters to CPS, please hear me out. It's all part of a bigger plan. In fact, it was the kids' idea.

For years now, I've had the sneaking suspicion that our Christmas season was out of control. I tried to simplify and streamline everything I could, using task management apps, jettisoning traditions that were more work than enjoyment, even paring down our holiday decor so it didn't feel like such a big job.

But I couldn't quite bring myself to re-examine our gift-giving. It was Christmas, after all: the one day a year (other than their birthdays) when the kids get presents. And Evans family tradition had it that every kid received four gifts from Mom and Dad on Christmas morning, plus another from Santa.

Maybe that doesn't sound like a lot, but with 6 kids that equals 30+ presents to shop for... not including stocking stuffers. 

I don't want to know how many hours I've spent poring over holiday gift lists and wracking my brain for any conceivable way to commodify my kids' interests: the 7-year-old likes basketball, what product goes with that? A new ball? A jersey? A basketball nightlight for his room? A life-sized cutout of LeBron James? 

Which, to be honest, always left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable. If my son was happily playing basketball with what we had already, wouldn't he rather have me just go outside and play with him instead of hiding inside furtively reading "52 Awesome Gifts for Kids Who Can't Get Enough of the Game"?

Not only that, I was also feeling burnt out. I was tired of the planning, the brainstorming sessions, and the shopping. I was tired of the ordering and the tracking. I had come to resent the color-coded spreadsheet of which items we'd chosen but not ordered, and which ones we'd ordered but hadn't yet arrived. 

And I don't even want to talk about the gift wrapping.

Christmas 2016. I know.

But hey, I figured, that's just the way Christmas is, and resolved that the only thing I could do was change my attitude and try to enjoy the ride.

The gift-giving question was forgotten for a few more years, until this past spring. Inspired by The Minimal Mom on YouTube, I did a massive declutter of the house.

From the attic to the basement, I was ruthless in my purging. I didn't throw out any of the kids' stuff without their knowledge, but what I did do was give them permission to get rid of absolutely anything  anything  they didn't use or love. Even (and maybe especially) if they felt like they "should" keep it for some other reason.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of the stuff we'd given them for Christmas just a few months earlier sailed right out the door that spring, and it was a real eye-opener to me and my husband. All those hours we'd spent hunting down the perfect gifts... maybe it wasn't as worth it as we used to think. 

I don't care for excess and Phillip doesn't like waste, and looking at the pile of items the kids happily discarded once they had permission was hard evidence that we'd inadvertently been creating a lot of both.

So what to do with this wake-up call?

We considered having the kids start drawing up wish lists, but only briefly. I didn't like the idea of reducing gift-giving to an "I put in my order and you fill it" transaction. (Where's the magic in that?) And to be honest, I wasn't sure that shoving a toy catalog in front of my 5-year-old would be any less wasteful than what we'd already been doing. 

We posed the question to the kids at a family meeting, and they came up with a creative solution: experience gifts instead of tangible ones. In the next few weeks, they'll be giving us two or three ideas of something they'd like to do, see, or visit in the week between Christmas and New Years, and Phillip and I will either choose something from the list or surprise them.

But here's the kicker: that will be their only gift from us. Phillip and I are out of the presents-that-go-in-a-box game.

The 5- and 7-year-olds were a little concerned, but were fine once we assured them they'd still get stuff from their grandparents, and Santa will still fill their stockings and bring them one physical present. Our Christmas isn't going to be ascetic, just reasonable.

Ultimately, I realized that no matter how much time and effort we put into selecting the perfect things to put under the tree, we can never guarantee they won't end up in a pile of clutter no one uses. 

Giving experiences, however, is a different story. Even if your experience gift ends up being a dud (you got a flat tire on the way there, the tour guide was crabby, and the whole thing was not at all what you expected,) you still spent time together creating memories. It's always a net positive.

This Christmas will be much different, but in a good way. I know I won't miss waking up exhausted from present-wrapping to hunt down batteries and run tech support for new gadgets, and I don't think the kids will mind having fewer presents under the tree. Instead, we'll have a calendar full of fun things to do together, and none of us can hardly wait.


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Friday, November 26, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Unusual Ways to Carry Your Stuff to School, Family Pictures, and Fun Times on the Freeway

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

1


How was your Thanksgiving? If you haven't yet, I hope you go to the Unremarkable Files Facebook page and share a picture of your dinner table

I didn't even get a photo of our whole table this year, only my favorite dish (THE HOMEMADE STUFFING) and even that was taken after we'd already starting eating it. And as for the pie... there are no pictures of that at all because we were so excited to get it in our faces.


I suggested we go around the table and go through the alphabet, naming something we're thankful for starting with each letter. Somewhere around 'r' it devolved into a conversation between my 15- and 17-year-old about which Avenger they'd be friends with in real life.

"But she'd only be your friend if you were also an Avenger," my 15-year-old argued. (I can't remember who they were talking about because I don't know the movies.)

"So I'd join the Avengers," the other replied.

"What would your superpower be?"

"Puns," the 17-year-old said decisively.

And it's true: she's amazing at cracking puns on any subject, at any time. It practically is her superpower. The caliber of her dad jokes puts her actual dad to shame. 

So I asked what her superhero name would be and I kid you not, she thought about it for less than two seconds and answered, "Quipsilver."

There's a national pun-off in Texas every year, and this girl would slay if she entered it.

2


Before they went on break for Thanksgiving, my kids had spirit week at school. There were the obligatory "pajama day" and "crazy hair day," but there was also "anything but a backpack day" which was a new one I'd never heard of before.

At pickup that afternoon, I saw a girl waiting at the curb with belongings strapped to her back in a garbage bag. My son reported that two kids in his grade transported their things through the school in a shopping cart and a microwave.

My high schoolers were really jealous that they didn't have the option of "anything but a backpack day." Maybe they're just afraid to give that much power to high schoolers, but I know they'd be into it.

3


My 10-year-old has been complaining about her vision for a while, but our eye office is really backed up. She waited for months (wailing the whole time about how she can't see,) and then a few days before the appointment we had to cancel it because she was in quarantine for a possible COVID exposure

After she tested negative, we gave up on our office and made an appointment at a new one that could get her in sooner:


She's so excited to join the ranks of glasses-wearers who know that trees actually have distinct, individual leaves.

The strange thing is that her 17-year-old sister already has glasses, and her 13-year-old brother probably will at some point (he says his vision isn't bad enough yet), but Phillip and I are 40 and neither one of us wears glasses. Isn't there supposed to be some genetic component?

4


Every few years, we take family pictures for Christmas cards. I can't believe how far in advance I used to get things together.

In 2017, I not only assembled a color palette of 8 different coordinating outfits for our entire family the week before, but I picked out two different ones, took photos of each, and asked my readers to vote on which one we should wear.

This time, an hour before we were supposed to leave I was yelling instructions at the older kids to go through everyone's closet and find stuff while I was busy cutting the 13-year-old's hair wiry hair (when it gets long, he looks like an anime character in real life.)

5


After pictures, Phillip took the kids home and I stayed to order cards. It wasn't until I got in his car afterward that I remembered his spare tire was on (we both got flat tires in our cars this week, what are the odds?)

You're not supposed to drive fast on the spare, and I didn't have my phone on me for back roads directions, so my only choice was driving fifteen miles home on the freeway going 45 MPH.

To the credit of humankind, I only got one honk. But at least honkers, I understand. What I really don't get is the people who pull up behind you, slow way down, and patiently drive behind you going twenty miles under the speed limit for a really long time. 

"I'm sorry I'm going so slow!" I kept trying to mentally tell them. "I have a reason, but it has nothing to do with you! Just go around me!"

6


We've accumulated an impressive collection of construction debris after ten years of various home improvement projects, and I finally got Phillip to agree to a dumpster bag.

So I bought the bag, but now the trick is to find the right Saturday when we've got time to fill it up. Until then, the dumpster bag is neatly folded but sitting in our garage on top of a heap of some old plywood, looking suspiciously like the junk I wanted to get rid of in the first place.

The irony that our dumpster bag has itself become clutter is not lost on me.

7


I wish everyone the best Thanksgiving weekend! I hope you spend it doing whatever the heck you want to do.

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Friday, November 19, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Dunkin' Donuts, New Counter Bliss, and a Life Hack from a Very Wise 14-Year-Old

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

1


We've been trying to eat healthier at our house, and recently switched to a brand of spaghetti sauce that doesn't have preservatives or added sugar.

To introduce the change, we made homemade soft pretzels (one of the kids' favorite lunches) and used the new marinara sauce as a dip. The 5-year-old ate a few bites, pointed at the new sauce, and exclaimed "This tastes like Dunkin' Donuts!"

Thinking that he loved it, I was about to reply when he added, "But not like the donuts. Like the building."

I don't even know what that means. But I don't think he liked the no added sugar.

2


Our kitchen counters are finished! For reference, here's the old counters:

RIP, forest green laminate.

And the new:


I still need to touch up the walls and find new curtains to match, but I love our new kitchen so much. The counters look amazing and hide crumbs amazingly well.

And I don't know what kind of Jedi mind trick this is, but it's like we have more counter space now. I mean, I know there's actually a half inch more overhang on the edges, but I swear it feels like way more.

3


After being "close contacts" over the weekend, my daughter's and my COVID tests came back negative. She was so thrilled to go back to school after having to stay home for a week.

I also learned that the era of free drive-through testing is over. Our pediatrician's office now requires a mandatory "provider visit" with every COVID test. (That's a fancy way to say "pointless 2-minute phone call from the doctor beforehand.")

I'm pretty upset about it, because any time any one of my kids gets a runny nose, they aren't allowed back to school without a negative test. And we can't get a test without a "provider visit." And the "provider visit" isn't covered by our insurance, so we pay $125 out of pocket every time.

Do you see how this is a problem?? There are 8 people living in this house. Someone always has a runny nose. When runny nose = $125, that is not cool.

4


Our living room ceiling is in dire straits. One area is a slightly different shade of white from a patch job we did back in 2017 when my son threw a ball through it, and more recently we had a leak in the roof. Luckily the water damage was only cosmetic, but it left a discolored stain in the shape of a giant letter T.

Ordinarily, I would just repaint the ceiling myself, but this particular one is 16 feet high and that's above my pay grade. So I'm getting quotes from a professional.

I've never had a painter come inside and do any work for us, but I knew it would be ridiculously expensive. So I tried to be prepared for the first guy's estimate, but I still made an involuntary noise like I'd been tasered when he showed me the final price. 

Also, I realized during the process of emailing companies that I can't spell "ceiling" to save my life. Every time, I write "celining" and have to go back and correct it.

5


Usually I'm freaking out by October trying to organize who's getting what for Christmas, but this year we decided to simplify things.

I'm writing a post next week about exactly what we're doing and why, but the short version is that we had a family pow-wow about it and concluded that we're going to focus on giving experiences rather than giving stuff.

Just making that decision has been so freeing. I'm so looking forward to spending the holidays having fun with the kids instead of waving them away so we can assemble and run tech support for all their new gadgets.

In fact, I've felt so relaxed and unpressured (not at all typical for this time of year for me,) I actually realized with a start the other day that it was mid-November and I had to get a move on it if I wanted to do things like find a place to go see The Nutcracker, which is a holiday tradition we do every year.

6


On Sunday, it was our congregation's primary program. "Primary" is the children's organization, and one Sunday a year the kids run the service, singing the songs they've learned over the last year and talking about what they've learned.

Unfortunately, our 5-year-old had a cold so he stayed home with me. The two of us watched the program on Zoom, and since I wanted him to stay engaged (and I actually like the songs they sing in Primary,) we sang with the kids on the screen.

Halfway through the program, he looked up at me and asked, "Can they hear us?"

"No," I said. "We're muted."

"Then why are we singing?" 

I didn't have a satisfactory answer to give him, but I think it was still a good idea.

7


You know that awkward moment when you think someone is looking a little pregnant but you don't want to say anything in case you're wrong and then you've just called them fat? 

One of the teenage girls I teach at church offhandedly mentioned the most brilliant way around it.

"If you're not sure if somebody's pregnant," she said, "Just ask how many kids they have."

My mind was blown. This kid is 14 years old and already apparently smarter than me. Why did I not think of this?

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Friday, November 12, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Mandatory Movie Binges, Considering Giving Up on Foodmaking, and the Perils of Getting Old and Farsighted

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

1


Over the weekend, my 10-year-old and I were in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID a few days later, so you know what that means...

Quarantine.

We don't have any symptoms, but my daughter can't go to school until next week and she is not happy about it. I keep asking her if she feels okay and she keeps answering, "I feel the same except for really annoyed!"

Our test results should be back today or tomorrow, but until then I guess we'll pass the time watching Hocus Pocus in our pajamas at 11AM while eating cake on the couch (ordinarily not allowed.) We've really got no other choice.

2


Monday was a rough day. We hadn't yet learned about the COVID exposure (that was part of a separate stress-induced breakdown the next day) but the kitchen was all ripped apart so the service guys could come install new counters.

Dealing with these guys up to this point had been a nightmare, and one of the miscommunications along the way was that we didn't know we'd be responsible for removing the old sink and counters ourselves before they arrived!

So Phillip and I were scrambling to do it on Monday morning between his work meetings, which of course took twice as long as we thought it would and had all sorts of problems.

And then I waited for the counter guys to come. Have you ever tried to work in an office that was actively under construction? That's what it felt like trying to function in a kitchen with no sink or counter with the contents of the lower cabinets relocated all over the house. 

Which is probably why I was so distracted I accidentally used regular flour instead of gluten-free flour to make Phillip's birthday cake for that night so he couldn't even eat it. 

I felt SO BAD when I realized what I'd done (which was not until after we'd already brought out the cake and sung "Happy Birthday," by the way.)

3


The next day was about the same, but with different details. It started with trying to make some hard-boiled eggs and forgetting them on the stove until all the water boiled out and I ruined the pot:


Between that and the cake, I think the universe is trying to tell me to stop cooking, baking, or really doing anything that involves heating food in any manner.

4


The good news is, we have our new kitchen counters! Sort of.

They installed the countertops, but have to come back to do the backsplash in a few weeks. So we have like 85% of a new kitchen counter.

But they're absolutely beautiful. They brighten up the kitchen, hide dirtiness like it's a superpower, and even give us more counter space because they hang further over the edge of the cabinets than the old ones did.

Also, I've been alive for 39 years, but I never really lived until I cleared off a counter with a flush-mount sink.

Pictures are forthcoming once we get a backsplash.

5


We also had a visit from a pest control service. Try not to stop reading this and throw your phone/computer into a burning bucket of bleach and run away screaming, but they were treating for mice. Our house is in the woods and that's just the way it is, sorry.

I had a laugh when checking out the pest control company's website. Under "Services" one of the bullet points was "unmarked vehicle upon request."

I didn't select the unmarked vehicle option because I'm not particularly embarrassed to have pest control here, but I was a little embarrassed when the guy was asking safety questions about what kids and pets were in the house and I had to answer that we had two pet rats. 

But please, by all means go kill the ones in the garage, and do it quickly.

6


When your teenager comes up to you with her phone and says, "I found a video that reminded me of you," you never know what you're going to get.

If you were me this week, it would have been this:


I was slightly offended, but the fact I actually did this when she handed me the phone sort of proved her point.

7


I've never seen the movie Jaws. It's kind of iconic, so I mentioned one day that I wanted to see it and maybe we should get it at the library sometime.

My 15-year-old looked up and "I don't get scary movies. Something happens, and either the characters die or they don't. So?"

That's big talk for someone who's never watched a horror movie before (I'm not counting A Quiet Place, which I think of as suspense more than horror.) I think it might be my duty as a parent to introduce her. The trick is that we don't watch R-rated movies, so does anyone have some scary PG-13 movies to recommend? 

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Friday, November 5, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Unintelligent Robots, Running in the Rain, and Your Friendly Neighborhood Piano Man

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

1


My daughter's orchestra concert was on Saturday night. It was the first time I've sat in an auditorium with other people watching a live group perform since 2019.

(It was also the first time I've ever seen the conductor give the concertmaster an elbow bump instead of a handshake, so it's not like things are totally back to normal.)

2


I don't think anyone even works at Facebook. The company is entirely staffed by dumb bots.

When I joined Facebook so I could start a page for Unremarkable Files, my account was flagged and disabled three times on the grounds of me "not being a real person." I have no idea why.

It's been pretty normal since then, but this week I was notified of a spam comment I made that violated Facebook guidelines. Are you read to see what it was?



That's right. I dared to say it was "pretty delicious" when in fact it MAY NOT HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN DELICIOUS. 

I don't even remember what "it" was in that particular comment.

But with everything that's going on in the world right now, thank goodness Facebook is keeping us all safe from misinformation like this.

3


Visiting a cranberry bog is on my list of must-do fall things in New England, so with my mom visiting this past week I figured it was a good time to take a tour.

I planned to go to the ATM the night beforehand because they only accepted cash, but I couldn't remember my PIN. So I begged my 15-year-old to loan me some money.

She really enjoyed counting out the bills while I promised, "I don't have the money now, but I'll get it to you, I swear!"

I also asked if she could spot me some tooth fairy money for her brother who lost a tooth that afternoon, but she cut me off.

We drove two hours to get to the farm and it was probably not worth the drive, especially since we had to hurry back right afterward to get to kids' activities instead of staying in the area and making a day out of it. But the kids enjoyed the farmer's dog that came on the tour with us and I learned that actual cranberry farming is not like the Ocean Spray commercials.

4


I'm currently trying to pick a paint for our bedroom. With the existing bedding and decor colors in the room, I think the walls need to be some shade of white, which is probably the hardest to choose.

It's just hard to look at an off-white and be like YES, I LOVE THIS!! so right now, the dresser is covered in a million off-white paint swatches that all look the same to me and I'm more confused than when I started. 

When I hold them up to the wall they all look identical but they look nothing like each other when I compare them. I'm thinking about arranging the swatches on a dartboard and picking one that way, honestly.

5


My 17-year-old is wrapping up her cross-country season and just ran in the rainiest, muddiest meet we've ever been to.

Cross-country is no joke: they've canceled practice like twice in the four years my daughter has been on the team, and it's not because fall weather in New England is always pleasant.


The younger kids, however, much preferred it to any other meet because they got to play in puddles and made a big castle out of mulch with a moat around it while they were waiting. 

6


How was Halloween at your house? 

The last time we went trick-or-treating the youngest was 3 (trick-or-treating was canceled in our town last year,) and 3-year-olds tire out so it put a natural limit on how much candy the kids got. This year, he's 5 with a lot more stamina, and I couldn't believe the haul they brought home.

Superpowers versus sword and shield pre-game show in the driveway.

The 5-year-old was an owl, the 7-year-old was Spiderman, and the 10-year-old was a knight. The 13-year-old was a stop sign, the 15-year old was Sylvie from a show called Loki, and the 17-year-old was a teenager who had to stay home and work on her college essays due the next day. 

The good news is that she finished, and her siblings got so much candy trick-or-treating that they all pitched in to make a pile for her and didn't even miss it.

7


Phillip and I don't care if the kids all become accomplished pianists, but we do want them to all learn how to play well enough that they could jump in and accompany a simple hymn at church if needed, so Phillip teaches them all lessons.

The 5-year-old started learning this week and here's a picture of him at his first lesson:

Really getting his mileage out of that costume.

As you can see, he's taking it very seriously so far.

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Friday, October 29, 2021

7 Quick Takes about Couple Tattoos, First World Problems, and Good Old-Fashioned Procrastination

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

1


Have you seen cutesy matching couple tattoos? I'm talking about something like this:


Well, I realized this week that Phillip and I have them. We've got identical flesh wounds on our outer wrists, although mine is lighter because it's healing faster.

Well, that's sweet.

We got them in equally dumb ways, too! He got stabbed with a plastic fork sticking out of the garbage bag while taking out the trash, and I slipped and cut myself with a cheese slicer making a ham sandwich.

Say what you will, but it was a really economical way to get 'his and hers' tattoos.

2


Somehow I knew it was going to be a long time until we saw new kitchen counters, and I was right. After re-ordering the counters and playing phone tag with the installation company, we finally got a date scheduled for them to come take some measurements!

Only they didn't show up. I called to see what was going on, and they said the appointment had been rescheduled for the end of November.

So I'm on the phone, torn between not wanting to sound like a complete first-world whiner who can't deal with waiting four more weeks for a new countertop, but also really annoyed at whatever is going on here.

Especially since we'd already ripped off the backsplash so they could measure, so now our kitchen looks like this and it's stressing me out:

Even if the kitchen is clean, it still looks dirty because of the mess where the backsplash used to be.

3


It's an Evans tradition for the kids to choose what kind of cake they want for their birthday. They can pick anything, and we'll make it.

Recently, our kids have been requesting a "surprise cake," but we're running out of surprises. We've already done a piƱata cake where M&Ms spill out when you cut it, and a 6-layer rainbow cake that took all day and every dish in the house to make.

I was at a loss, until my teenager suggested that we create a real version of a made-up cake from a Mr. Demaio video the kids watch on YouTube: Mount Everest Apple Crumb Ganache Cake (2:27 below if you're interested.) 


We took her suggestion and ran with it. Phillip made the apple crumb cake and the ganache drizzle, and the 15-year-old and I cut it up and arranged the pieces into a vaguely mountain-like shape. 

I'm willing to bet this is the best-looking Mount Everest apple crumb ganache cake you've seen today.

I'm actually a little embarrassed to post this publicly on the Internet, because Mr. Demaio is a real person who could potentially be reading this and think we're crazy people stalking him. (This past summer, we even had a Mr. Demaio Day just for fun where we did dumb stuff from all his videos.) 

Let's just hope that if he ever read this blog, he'd feel flattered and smile instead of be alarmed and call the police.

4


My mom is here for a visit and picked the birthday girl up from school for a birthday surprise: taking her indoor skydiving. On the drive there she was giving her hints on where they were going (my favorite was, "It's going to be an uplifting experience.")

My daughter had a great time, but while she was in the high-velocity wind tunnel some wisps of her hair poked through the holes of her helmet and got all knotted up, and they had to cut it off with scissors so they could remove her helmet.

It wasn't enough hair to be noticeable, though. I wouldn't have even known if they hadn't told me, so it's not like she went back to school the next day looking like a shorn sheep.

5


It's been a crazy busy week, plus Grandma is here so the kids are even less motivated than usual to clean up or do their chores.

It was the 5-year-old's turn to clean the bathroom with me, and after some convincing I was able to get him in there.

"Eww, the toilet is really gross!" he said, wrinkling his nose as we started to clean. And then, after a brief silence, he added, "But this is still the cleanest room in the house."

6


In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we don't have a pastor who gives sermons every Sunday, but a series of lay people who are just asked to give talks. 

My 13-year-old was asked to speak this past Sunday, which was fine except that he must have forgotten or maybe he was waiting for me to tell him to get started (which I might have done, but I forgot, too.)

Church is at 9 AM and he chose 8:40 AM as the right time to ask, "Mom, was I supposed to be giving a talk or something today?"

Wow. Okay. Well, the youth talks are only supposed to be a few minutes long, so we can do this. He brainstormed in the car on the way to church, and then we ducked into a Sunday School classroom during the first 5 minutes so he could jot down some quick notes.

He delivered an awesome talk up at the podium and no one was the wiser, but the experience was so stressful for him I'm pretty sure he will never do that again!

7


Speaking of waiting until the last minute, the 17-year-old has been working overtime on her college application.

I thought she had a pretty good handle on things, but she appears to have spent too much time thinking about her essays rather than actually writing them. Now she's working her butt off, and probably will be until 11:59 PM on Monday because that's when it's all due.

On a scale of 1-10 ('1' being unaware she's even applying to college and '10' being doing the entire application for her,) I'd rate my involvement in the process at about a 3, and I'd like to keep it that way.

So I'll just have to take a deep breath and keep referring to the 'W' entry in this post. And my inner English major is going to just need to settle down because this essay deadline is hers, not mine.

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