Friday, April 3, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Surprises at the Door, Chicken Pot Pies, and Time Traveling to Deliver a Critical Message to the Future

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


Our April Fool's Day was uneventful. 

Which was fine by me. I've never been that into pranks and besides, wasn't the last half of March basically an April Fool's joke, anyway?


On Sunday, the doorbell rang and we all froze. Like startled cavemen, we were all looking at each other grunting "Did you hear something? What was that? What do we do?"

We seriously had a discussion about whether that was a real noise or whether we'd just imagined it before sending our bravest hunter-gatherer to open the door and see if there was anyone behind it.

Oh, quarantine. You do such crazy things to us in such a short time.

As it turned out, there actually was somebody out there. In our church, we're all assigned to be a "ministering brother" or "ministering sister" to another family or individual to look out for them and basically minister to their needs; our ministering brother was standing behind the door (actually, in the yard about 6 feet behind the door) with a surprise:

First thing I pulled out of our was this roll of toilet paper.

He had a "quarantine survival kit" for us, and besides the toilet paper, there were a few games and activities for the kids and the fixings for root beer floats for the family.

I think I enjoyed that root beer float more than I've ever enjoyed a root beer float before. It was so nice to know someone was thinking of us during this weird, stressful time.


As I mentioned in my post last week about our social distancing schedule, I mentioned the kids were getting a little bored and we decided to have theme days this week to keep it interesting.

Wonder Wednesday was fun. One of the things we did was have each kid look up something they "wonder" about.

My 5-year-old picked earthquakes, my 8-year-old why trees have roots, my 11-year-old how/why a potato battery works, and my 15-year-old ancient African history.

Over dinner they shared what they learned. My 13-year-old made a PowerPoint slideshow for hers like she does at school, which I thought was pretty amusing in itself, but when the first slide popped up with information on the origins of chicken pot pies in ancient Greece I lost it.

Yes, she researched chicken pot pies. I even don't mind people subverting my attempts to be educational as long as they're funny about it.


This rainy spring weather is killing me, since going outside makes staying at home all day so much more tolerable.

We've always been a family of hikers, but we got a hot tip about a neat trail in the next town over that we'd never tried, so we headed out this weekend to check it out.

It was amazingly beautiful.

Just casually to the left of the main trail, like "No big deal, I'm just the most gorgeous place you'll ever see in your life."

Farther down the trail, there was an outcropping of big boulders to climb on, and for the first time in 15 years, all my kids are coordinated enough for me to just step back and let them have fun instead of following someone around having heart attacks every time they slip and almost crack their head open.

At the end of the hike there was a pretty peninsula of land just off the trail, so we went over and stood on it to gaze at the water.

I watched my 3-year-old leaning motionless against a tree for a while, and when he noticed me looking at him he explained, "I'm just thinking about the trees and the natures and stuff." The whole thing was very Thoreau.


My son lost a tooth and naturally, I forgot all about it as the day went on.

I would've gone to bed without a second thought about the tooth, but as fate would have it I was scrolling through my blog's Facebook page just before bed and was reminded to go put money under his pillow by my own meme:

That's right, I made this meme years ago and happened to see it that night as I scrolled through Facebook. It was like past me time-traveled into the future to save me.


Next week, the school is supposedly rolling out a program for online learning. Up until now they've just had optional meetings and activities.

It's been kind of a struggle coordinating my younger kids' Zoom meetings with their class. It's also been quite a role reversal to worry about being quiet so I don't disturb my 6-year-old's conference call.

Things are just different now, I guess, and I have to adapt.

For example, the other day I scheduled a playdate... for my kids to talk to the neighbor boy over the fence. A few weeks ago his mom and I had a Zoom breakfast, and maybe if it ever gets warm and stops raining, we'll sit in lawn chairs and yell across our yards to each other.


Some of you might know that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe our church is led by a prophet and apostles, and twice a year they give a weekend of talks on spiritual topics important for us as we navigate today's world.

I like to think of it as what it would be like if Moses gave a TED talk, if that helps you visualize what it's all about.

People of all faiths are welcome to listen, and in fact I'd love hearing if you did and what you thought of it.

Talks are broadcast on Saturday and Sunday from 12-2 PM and 4-6 PM Eastern time (check your time zone!) over the church's website, YouTube, and various other channels.

So you're all invited. After all, it's not like you aren't going to be home.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What To Do With Your Kids All Day in Quarantine

What a time we live in.

Lately, my blog has seen a lot of traffic due to a sarcastic piece I wrote years ago called 20 Things To Do When You're Trapped Indoors with Small Children (#9 is 'cry,' in case you're wondering what kind of list it is.)

Though I feel bad for the parents in Coronavirus lockdown who read it looking for helpful suggestions, I hope it at least made them laugh.

But now, to get serious.

Parents are desperate for things to do during school closures and COVID-19 lockdown with their kids, so maybe I can also share a little about how we're actually handling our stay-at-home situation (beyond just crying, which is perfectly valid and I won't judge.)

How We Structure Our Days in Lockdown

As a stay-at-home mom with six kids from ages 3 to 15, I've had practice with this sort of thing during summer vacations. Of course quarantine is no vacation, but at least I knew from experience how NOT to plan out our days.

For me, being overly optimistic and scheduling every minute of the day with enriching activities (music time! craft time! quiet time!) is a recipe for disaster. It turns me into a stressed-out mess by Day 3, and I have enough of that in my regular life without adding it to my quarantine life, too.

So we came up with what I thought was a workable and flexible schedule for our at-home quarantine, which I put in a page protector and taped to the wall.

Someone immediately amended the title.

Your schedule will look different than ours, and some of the entries are specific to our family so they probably don't even make sense to you. That's fine.

What's important is that I filled in the things my family absolutely needs to accomplish every day: for us, that's meals, chores and instrument practice, scripture study, and getting ready for bed on time.

Around those have-tos, I just left blank space. That's all free time where the kids are left to their own devices, and it acts as a buffer for when we get behind schedule.

At Home COVID-19 Schedule Q & A

Q: What about school?

A: For the time being, I'm not worrying about school. I'm looking at this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to focus on family time.

Our school district is working out a plan for online learning, and when they roll it out I'll do what they tell us to do. But right now, bonding with their siblings and parents is way more beneficial for my kids than doing flash cards, so that's what I'm concentrating on.

Q: What about exercise and fresh air?

A: I try to make sure the kids go outside at least twice a day when it's not raining. I kick them out in the yard to play, or sometimes we go walking around the neighborhood, ride bikes in a parking lot, or hike on an easy trail nearby.

Taking a hiking break.

In the morning, Phillip takes some of the older kids running. I work out at home with a video, and often the younger kids join me. (Little kids + Les Mills body combat = hilarious, by the way.)

Q: What about screen time?

A: I try not to worry about how much time the kids are spending on devices as long as we're sticking to the schedule and they still get outside to play twice a day.

Instead of policing minutes, I try to make sure that the kids are:
  1. not doing the same online activity for too long, or
  2. using the computer to interact with each other somehow (i.e: watching YouTube videos together or building something together in Minecraft) 

A: Don't your kids fight?

A: Yes. Next question.

Q: What do your kids do during "free time?"

A: The little kids are doing lots of dress-up. My 8-year-old made everyone iPhone 11s out of cardboard and paper. My big kids are experimenting with digital art and making things out of duct tape.

Some of our other favorite social-distancing friendly activities to do are:
  • Rotating toys. The kids are thrilled when I take old favorites out of the attic they haven't played with for a while. I should probably just start doing this regularly once a week.
  • Playing games. Our huge closet of board games is currently a high-traffic area. We also like Space Team, a game you play together with your phones.
  • Watching movies. It's fun to pick a theme and watch one a day: all the Disney classics, all the Marvel movies, or all the movies the parents remember fondly from their childhoods in the '80s and '90s.
  • Sibling playdates. Each kid pairs up with one sibling to play for 15 minutes, then we rotate. It's fun to see what they come up with to do together, especially the kids who don't normally play one-on-one because of differing ages and interests.
  • Baking and cooking. But not just cookies and treats. I'm showing them how to make bread, and lots of healthy snacks like whole-wheat muffins, granola bars, or energy balls. (Individually, though, because cooking with more than one kid at a time makes me crazy.)
  • Pulling out those craft kits and Christmas presents they've barely touched. Tell me we're not the only family who has these. The kids don't have time in their normal life so they just forgot about them, but this is a perfect time to get them out again.
  • Skype with grandparents. My younger kids get goofy when we video chat, so I'm thinking about switching it up. Maybe we'll do a virtual paint night, or eat lunch together. My kids' piano recital in April was cancelled, so maybe we'll do a Zoom recital for the grandparents instead.
  • Read out loud. It didn't occur to me to keep reading with kids who can read by themselves until our librarian suggested it, but it's become a long-standing tradition that even my teenagers enjoy. Choose a book with one of your older kids and read it out loud to each other, alternating paragraphs and doing a chapter a day.
  • Podcasts for kids. A few I I like are But Why?Wow in the World, and Brains On!. A list of other ones I might want to try are here.
When even that got old, we decided to add a twist. This week every day has a theme (Mythical Monday or Fancy Friday) and everything we do has to tie into the theme.

Next week we're celebrating a new holiday every day (throw a Halloween party on Monday, watch a Christmas movie and bake Christmas cookies on Tuesday.)

Q: What are the challenges of parenting through quarantine?

A: We are such heavy public library users, my kids have our library card number memorized  and it's 14 digits long. Now that the library has been closed for weeks, they regularly moan about having nothing to read.

Noise is an issue. Phillip is working from home and has a lot of conference calls, which means no one can bang on the piano or scream at those times (which is way harder for my kids than it seems like it should be.)

Lastly, it's a challenge to have absolutely zero time to myself. Who are these people saying quarantine is a perfect time to organize your garage, learn a new language, and write a book? Exactly when would I have an uninterrupted 15 minutes to focus on a project half that ambitious?

Q: Is social distancing hard with so many kids?

A: Other than the noise and the mess, I actually think having lots of kids makes being stuck at home easier. The kids have many choices for playmates so I imagine their boredom level would be a lot higher if they had fewer siblings. Trust me, I am much less fun.

—   —   —   

As with any parenting advice you read on the Internet, take what fits into your life and leave what doesn't. This is simply a glimpse into our quarantine life and what works for us.

We parents are a stressed-out bunch right now, and we're all trying to make lemonade out of the lemons Coronavirus has handed to us. All we can do is wash our hands, do the best we can to enjoy the unexpected time we have with our kids, and cut ourselves plenty of slack.

We can do this.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

The reason?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Love the top hat.


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

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

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

Before and after.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Friday, March 20, 2020

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

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday!

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

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

How has your quarantined week been?


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

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

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

But it isn't all bad.

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

We lost, by the way.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Can you guess which one is mine?

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

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

I have no idea whose is whose.

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


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

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

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

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

This could take a while.

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

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

I think a few of them got the reference.


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

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

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

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

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

Maybe, maybe not.

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

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


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

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

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

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

I'll think about it.

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Friday, March 13, 2020

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

It's just... weird.

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

What would you do??


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

Things like that can backfire in funny ways.

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

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

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

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

Dang it.


Another message gone wrong from this week:

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, March 6, 2020

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

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


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

"About what?" I whispered back.

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

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


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

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

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

Phillip and I threw each other looks of horror.

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

"Should we just keep driving?"

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

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


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

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

I hate it.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

This kid wrote "pay taxes."

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

30 Lessons from 15 Years of Parenting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, but maybe don't start this young.

8. Parenting is mostly like being a triage nurse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You won't get how they talk, either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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