Friday, October 16, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Bad Places to Be When You Have to Use the Bathroom, Halloween Collaborations, and Ankle Boots

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


If you've had a tough week, relax and take a break with this picture my 4-year-old drew for you of cats riding on Segways.

I don't think he knows what Segways are and he may or may not have gotten them confused with 'subways,' but he was very confident about it when he handed this picture to me so I'm going to go with that.


On Columbus Day we went apple picking. We haven't done it in a few years, partly because it seems a little weird to me to pay extra for the "experience" of picking our own food, but I'm glad we went.

This particular orchard didn't prune their trees to stay short, instead they provided ladders (and a 10-page waiver so they don't get sued if you happen to fall off) which was a lot of fun, especially for the older kids who might not be over the moon about picking apples.

We picked a bunch of apples of a variety called 'Mutsu,' and I totally love them. My little kids think they're called "Mushu apples" and we can add that to the list of mispronunciations that I will never correct.


The other reason we chose this orchard was that they had a large hedge maze. I've actually never done a giant maze before and thought we should check it out.

Occasionally you stumbled on a platform that gave you a better vantage point to be able to look out and survey the maze from a bird's eye view. 

My favorite part was standing on the center platform and watching my kids running in the maze below. My least favorite part was my 8-year-old finding me on that platform and informing me she had to go to the bathroom. 

After 15 minutes of wandering around looking for the exit, we still had no idea where we were. I was just about to tell her to pee in the corner of the maze somewhere when she spied a hole in the hedge she could crawl under to get to the port-a-potty outside.


We haven't ever done a themed family Halloween costume, but this year the 6 kids decided to team up and be famous duos.

My 14- and 4-year-olds are dressing up as the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda; my 12- and 8-year-olds as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia; my 16- and 6-year-olds as Iron Man and Spider-Man.

I'm helping the younger kids put their costumes together, but the older kids presumably have it under control. I've seen them ferreting cardboard, duct tape, and spraypaint into the basement so it looks like they're going homemade.

Although I did notice "Real Life Size Iron Man Suit by Toys Asia for $365,000" in our Internet search history so I guess I actually have no clue what's going on down there.


I just got back from the UPS store, returning some ankle boots I attempted to buy from Amazon. I just don't think I'm that kind of person.

Are they cute? Yes. 

Do I own a wardrobe fashionable enough to wear with ankle boots? I'm pretty sure the answer is no. 

I think you have to be the kind of person who wears "outfits" instead of a shirt and pants, and who has unironically used the word "style" as a verb. 

Plus, I think you can only wear ankle boots with skinny jeans, and you all know how I feel about skinny jeans.


On the side of our garage,
there's a door leading to the backyard. It's a convenient shortcut, but the annoying part is that the door swings inward into the garage, so I can't pull in the car whenever the kids leave it open (which is always.)

The other day I got home and, annoyed, hopped out to close the door so I could park in my own garage. When I grabbed the doorknob, I looked out the open doorway to see our black bear friend from last month standing 10 feet in front of me.

My brain didn't panic, freeze in fear, or start yelling "OH MY GOSH!!!" It just went "Bear" and slammed the door shut. Even I was a little amused by the non-reaction.


Do you guys know Adrienne Hedger? If you don't, you should. 

She's a hilarious comic who I swear sometimes must be drawing things directly from my life. In fact, a few years ago she literally drew a scene from my life when we did a collaboration on the two seasons of parenting (idea mine, drawing hers.)

Anyway, my kids' elementary school held a back-to-school night and as part of the presentation, they included a Hedger Humor comic on remote learning. Can anyone relate? Of course you can.

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Friday, October 9, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Under Armour, Decorating with Inspirational Quotes, and How Our Pets Are Like Toddlers Only Smaller

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


Well, general conference this past weekend was fantastic. Even my 8-year-old said "I liked it this time, and not just because of the snacks! Does that mean I'm getting older?"

Conference snacks are famous in our family. Every time, we tape pictures of the speakers to different treats, and when people speak the kids get to eat the snack they're on. (We also write down notes from their talk on a piece of paper and save them in a baggie to talk about later.)

I think it's a net positive because it does get the kids excited for conference and I think they actually are paying more attention, but sometimes I wonder.

When Elder Stevenson got up to speak, one of my kids squealed "It's Mr. Cheese Balls!" and thundered up the stairs to retrieve the bag.

Not knowing what else to do, I yelled after them, "Be respectful! It's Elder Cheese Balls!"


I particularly liked our prophet President Nelson's talk (when he stood at the podium, my 8-year-old whispered "He was mozzarella sticks last time...") who said:
"Today we often hear about 'a new normal.' If you really want to embrace a new normal, I invite you to turn your heart, mind, and soul increasingly to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Let that be your new normal."
Bad things have come out of this pandemic. Some of us have lost loved ones and economic stability, and even those who haven't are completely sick of our lives being so disrupted for so long. 

But there have also been good things coming out of it, and I hope you've seen them. If not, I'd seriously suggest looking at this page. It's by suddenly having our schedules cleared out to focus more on them that virtually all the good changes to my family's life over the past 7 months have come.

My other favorite talk was "Eyes to See" by Michelle D. Craig. It's a 10-minute listen and well worth it:


Because my kids need fall clothes, we've been doing some shopping. My daughter wanted to try Kohl's, and since they accept Amazon returns there I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone and return some items while they shopped.

It turned out to be a ridiculously long process because the Wi-Fi was spotty, the QR codes on the return emails weren't scanning, and I had to keep getting back in line and waiting to try again after something didn't work.

The good thing was, while I was waiting for a million hours in front of this display of Under Armour water bottles, I realized something:

I've always vaguely wondered why Under Armour's logo was an 'H.' After staring at this for so long it finally dawned on me that the 'H' is actually a 'U' and an 'A,' you guys. Mind blown. #themoreyouknow


After finally returning my Amazon packages, which could not have taken longer if I'd walked the to the warehouse to put them back on the shelves myself, I went to find my daughters.

We explored the sizable clearance racks, and when I say 'sizable' I mean practically half the store. (I {heart} Kohl's now. Where has it been all my life??) There were a lot of nice things, but as is often the case with clearance racks, there were also some more... interesting items. 

Pulling something pretty heinous off one of the racks and trying to find something positive to say, I told my 14-year-old that it would "probably look good on the right person."

Raising her eyebrow and putting the offending item back on the rack, she said "It would just be really hard to find that person."

Even Phillip got in on the clearance action and found some pants. "It says here these pants are for Thanksgiving," he announced, pointing to the claim on the label.

Watch out, turkey dinner and pumpkin pie. Here we come.


My girls have also been hard at work painting their room. They came up with a color scheme and have mostly been doing it themselves. I only go up there once in a while to help or see what's going on.

They finally finished painting and touching up, and now they're working on putting the room back together. Last night I went upstairs to check out their progress, and they're in the furniture rearranging and redecorating phase.

Not exactly what we'd envisioned when buying my daughter a felt letter board last Christmas.

It's like HGTV over here, really.


We've been enjoying our pet rats, especially taking pictures of them eating. 

So cute. I don't have a picture of this, but I like giving them veggies cut into tiny triangles so it looks like they're munching on pieces of pizza.

Because they never stop moving, it's actually pretty hard to get a non-blurry close up of rats. They're a lot like toddlers that way.

Supposedly you can litterbox train rats, but ours are ignoring our best efforts and continuing to poop wherever and whenever they feel like it. Which is also a lot like toddlers.


If you're familiar with Unremarkable Files, you know it's not political. Like, ever. That's on purpose.

However, I will make this one and only exception by sharing a text my 16-year-old sent me this week:

The fact that I'm currently being Rickrolled by my own daughter means parenting has turned out to be everything I thought it would be and more.

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Friday, October 2, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Things That Are Only Funny if They Didn't Happen To You, Fall Colors, and The Magical Side of Parenting

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


The GPS on my phone wasn't working right, so I pulled over at a Shell station to figure it out. Completely oblivious, I parked right in front of the repair garage until one of the mechanics knocked on the window and asked me to move.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," I say, and in my haste to get out of their way I immediately drive over a curb. And get stuck.

At this point, I think I'm embarrassed, but I don't even know the meaning of the word yet.

The mechanic comes over and starts giving me step-by-step directions to extricate myself from the curb: "Turn your wheel all the way to the right... go forward a little... okay, stop! Now turn it all the way to the left... and back up..."

This takes approximately one hundred years, each one more excruciating than the last.

By now, the other two mechanics from the garage have wandered over to watch the show, and things aren't looking good. My rocker panel cover (the long plastic piece that runs the length of the vehicle at the bottom of the car) is hanging halfway off.

"I'll take that off so you can put it in the trunk," the second mechanic says, retrieving a tool from his truck and lying on the ground underneath the car to remove the remaining bolts.

My face is on fire and I'm ready to commit harikari to put an end to my shame, but I can't because someone needs to open the trunk. So I go to tilt down the bike rack on the back to access the trunk... and it won't budge.

Then the third mechanic  I repeat, THE THIRD mechanic  sees me struggling and comes over to ask if I need help.

So to recap, I've commandeered the complete attention of three mechanics, one of whom is on the ground working on my car because I'm a total idiot and WHY is there not a sinkhole opening up in the earth to swallow me alive this very second so I can escape further mortification?!?

That day, I learned three things: one, it's impossible to actually die of embarrassment. If it was, you definitely wouldn't be reading this 7 Quick Takes. 

Two, the curbs at Shell stations are really high so be careful. 

Three, those mechanics are amazing human beings. I don't even care that they probably laughed themselves breathless after I left. They were saints.


New England is famous for having spectacular fall colors, and I enjoy them but rarely get excited to the extent that I plan dedicated leaf appreciation road trips (yes, that's a thing.) But this year, I just might.

The colors seem way more vivid to me than any other year, and I've had multiple stop-in-my-tracks moments this week.

Take this picture. I was just jogging along and looked over and there it was. This scene is so picturesque it hurts. 

Please note the tractor carrying a crate of pumpkins across the freaking field. I can't. I just can't.


Another family from church invited us over to grill and have dinner in the backyard, and I think it was the first social engagement the whole family has attended since the pandemic began. The kids have done individual outdoor playdates and I've taken socially distanced walks with friends while they stay home, but that's about it. 

We ate outside and the kids played with our friend's puppy, and I realized that even though I'm an introvert this kind of thing was really nice when we used to do it more often.

Meanwhile, my 12-year-old was peppering our friends with questions about all the vents and doodads on the exterior of the house. 

Like you or I would be, they were scratching their heads guessing "Umm... for the laundry, maybe? And that's probably over the stove, and... I guess that's the bathroom...?" It's funny how none of us really know how our houses work. We're like "I don't know, I just live here."

Anyway, it was a really nice evening and our 6-year-old asked to go to their house again about 50 times on the way home.


While reading a book, the 4-year-old saw a picture of Jesus and here was the following conversation: 

4yo: [pointing to the picture] Where is Jesus’s long hair? 

Me: Well, he probably had longer hair than that but we don’t really know what he looked like. 

4yo: But Jesus has long hair. 

Me: How do you know? 

4yo: He told me. 

Me: [long pause in which he stared at me, unblinking] Jesus told you he has long hair. 

4yo: Mm-hmm. 

Me: [raising eyebrow] How? 

4yo: He came down from heaven. 

Me: Jesus came down from heaven to tell you he has long hair?

4yo: [looking me straight in the eye and being totally matter-of-fact about the whole thing] Yep. 

And that is why you should never believe anything a 4-year-old says.


The other day, a house down the street hired a tree removal company to cut down a massive oak, so I walked over with my 4- and 6-year-olds and we just sat across the street watching for a while. 

It was pretty cool how they hauled a guy with a chainsaw up 40 feet in the air with a crane (not in a bucket, he was just dangling there in a harness) and lowered him into the tree. He fastened the crane to a branch and made his cut, then rappelled down the tree trunk while the crane lifted the branch out of the way.

It was probably my favorite part of the whole week. Not because I have a thing for tree removal, but because to me, sitting there watching is the perfect example of a really special time in parenting.

After kids can walk and talk but before school and activities dictate your schedule, there's nothing quite like it. You take meandering walks and stop for 15 minutes to look at a bug or a storm drain if that's what they want to do, and the two of you are just in your own little universe, totally in the present. It's magical.

(Not that I don't like yelling at people to get their cleats on and get in the car because we're already late while a feisty pre-teen rolls their eyes and yells back "I know!" I do, it's just not as magical.)


We were sitting down to Family Home Evening, trying to get everyone listening, and then Phillip distracted everyone with an irrelevant comment. It was probably something funny, but still.

I shot him a dirty look so he said, "Okay, guys. Listen to your mother and not to me."

"We always do," my 14-year-old joked. Then she added, "Except for the listening part because we don't really do that very well, either."

And that's basically what it's like to live at my house.


My family is looking forward to this weekend. It's General Conference weekend! 

General Conference is a live broadcast from our church leaders with messages about Jesus Christ. I always come away inspired and encouraged. 

And in the current climate of worldwide affairs, I think that's something we all need. 

No matter what religion you belong to, you're invited to watch conference with my family on Saturday and Sunday. It's a live broadcast so your time zone matters, but here in New England it's from 12-2 and 4-6 both days, with a women's session on Saturday night from 8-9:30.

Our family usually watches conference on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' website or YouTube channel. We also like to watch while eating snacks, but you do you.

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Friday, September 25, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Baking Dish Fails, the Future of Flying Cars, and Business Names that Will Definitely Get You Sued

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


What happened? It was summer and when I blinked it turned into winter. In the same week, I put away the beach towels and took out the kids' gloves and hats.

Freezing my rear end off at my son's soccer game on Saturday morning, though, I realized something: masks in the winter are going to keep my face SO WARM. 

Silver linings, people.


Four of my kids are doing hybrid learning at the public school. Last week, they started online learning and this week they had their first few days of in-person school.

They claim it's not that different. According to my 12-year-old, "School is basically the same, we just stay apart and wear masks. You kind of forget you're wearing them after a while."

All I can say is that I'm glad it's not in-person every day. Getting everyone up, fed, dressed, giving the two big kids rides to school and getting the two younger ones on the bus is EXHAUSTING. Doing it 5 days a week is just excessive.


One hard thing about having a big family is answering the same question over and over. On Thursday a glass baking dish shattered in our oven while I was making dinner, which meant I had to hold a press conference about it afterward for every single person in the house.

By the time the last few stragglers came in asking what happened, all I could manage was an irritated, "It's broken glass, don't look at it and don't talk to me about it, let's eat what's left of our dinner."

And then there was cleanup. All of the sauce had splashed to the bottom of the oven when the dish broke, and then it cooled to a nice hard cement crust with shards of broken glass embedded in it. Cleaning it up was by far the least enjoyable way I've spent an evening this week.

Although if I'm being honest, who knows when the oven would've gotten cleaned otherwise?


I'm still learning how to use our minivan. I'm not used to the touchscreens and backup cameras and new-fangled gadgetry cars come with nowadays. 

My gearshift is actually a knob that you turn (FYI, car manufacturers: not a good idea because in the two months we've owned the car I've already had a passenger mistake it for the volume knob and switch gears while I'm driving.

The knob has five positions: 'park,' 'reverse,' 'neutral,' 'drive,' and 'L.'

Sometimes the kids will ask me what 'L' stands for. I'm not 100% sure, so I just tell them it stands for 'liftoff.' 

Someday when we're really late for something important, we'll try it out.


My mom sent us an Edible Arrangements, just because. It was such a nice surprise! We had it for a treat after Family Home Evening, which is like a weekly family devotional we do in our religion.

We talked about the second Article of Faith, and then we dug in:

The amount of stickiness my kids got on the floor and table after this impressed even me, and I've seen some things.

We were admiring how the different shapes were cut and one daughter commented, "We could make these, you know."

"What would we call our business?" I asked.

"Arranged Edibles," my 16-year-old suggested.

"Edible Rearrangements," my 14-year-old chimed in.

I think we might have some sort of copyright infringement lawsuit in our future.


Three of the kids are doing soccer this season, but with restrictions. They wear masks, play intra-town instead of against other schools, and they have to bring a "COVID card" to every practice and game.

The COVID card is a little index card with a checkbox of Coronavirus symptoms, and a parent must sign and date it to certify that their child is symptom-free. Theoretically, this should help limit the spread of the virus.

We keep a stack of them in a Ziploc bag near the door, and whenever I reach into it my first instinct is to lick my finger to get just one instead of a few stuck together. 

I'm trying. I promise I am.


The kids have been listening to a lot of "trap remixes" on YouTube (which sound to me like what I'd call "techno remixes," but I'm old so what do I know?)

They've started kind of an informal contest to see who can find the most bizarre one, the song you'd never, ever in a million years think "I definitely need to add a beat drop to this!" 

So far, it's a tie between Baby Shark and Scott Joplin's The Entertainer. The Internet is a weird, weird place.

My teenager also downloaded a remix app on her phone and is having fun ruining all my songs on the radio in the car by putting random techno sounds to them. Honestly, it reminds me a little of this:

Have a good weekend, guys!

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Friday, September 18, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Magical Mint Snowflake, A Different Kind of School Year, and Household Explosions

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


Phillip's team at work has been working really hard lately, so he planned a fun activity to say "thanks." He told them all to go buy a flavor of ice cream that they wouldn't ordinarily buy, and set up an online team game of some sort to play while they ate it.

And remember, the instructions were to buy a flavor you wouldn't ordinarily buy, so this is what Phillip got for himself:

The funny part was that Phillip bought this and only this at the store, and he was all by himself, so it looked pretty clear what was going on: a 39-year-old man had such an intense craving for Frozen II Magical Mint Snowflake ice cream, he'd gotten up and gone to the grocery store for the express purpose of buying an entire gallon of it.

Actually, it was pretty tasty. Now that I've had it, that would be understandable.


I visited my friend Casey's garden for some help with mine. She's got a beautiful garden that she's built little by little, learning by doing, and the best thing (in my opinion) is how she tries to do everything at low or no cost.

She built her vegetable garden fence with fallen branches from the yard, grows strawberries in some crates her husband found on the side of the road, and relocates plants from elsewhere on her property to live in her garden if she thinks they'll look good there.

"See those flowers?" she said, pointing to some blossoms I'd admired earlier. "I grow those from seeds I save from the previous year. I originally cut the dead flowers off some plants in a McDonald's parking lot."

When I grow up, I think I want to be Casey.


On my birthday, I got new laundry hampers for our master bathroom and just loved how they made the place look.

I loved it so much I took this picture and sent it to my mom. 

Fast-forward a few months, and this is how it looks now:

Not pictured: the gaping hole in the wall left over from a DIY emergency plumbing repair a few weeks ago.

To be perfectly honest, though, it probably looked like this almost immediately. I was just too frazzled to notice.


School started this week, and our first day of school pictures did not look at all like I'd imagined 6 months ago:

I have no idea why his iPad is propped up on a 20-lb bag of rice. I just live here.

Phillip works from home, my teenager is doing some online university courses while homeschooling, and 4 of my kids are doing remote learning three days a week with our public school, meaning that I'm in the background of someone's Zoom call literally all day.

As my 16-year-old put it, I'm like a Yeti but not rare.


Other than furtively getting dressed in the bathroom hoping one of my kids doesn't wander in with a tech issue and show me to their class half-naked, I'm actually really liking our current school setup.

I was really dreading how this was going to go, but the 4 younger kids doing the public school's hybrid learning plan seem to be learning and having fun, and I like that they're constantly popping in for lunch and on breaks (even though it means I get nothing else done.)

And my 16-year-old, who's homeschooling this year, is reveling in the freedom of determining her own schedule. When she got hungry at 11 yesterday and asked, "Can I eat lunch this early?" I just shrugged and said "You're homeschooled, you can do whatever you want." I think I heard the Hallelujah Chorus playing inside her brain.


Phillip has gotten into making fermented sodas. I try not to know too much about the process, but he makes a starter microbe mix out of ginger, adds juice to the bottle after a couple of days, and then in a few more days the "bug" has eaten the sugar and turned it into a sparkling carbonated kind of drink. 

Anyway, doing this is a learning curve, and there was a mishap where one of the glass bottles exploded while sitting on the counter.

Luckily, my 16-year-old and I who were in the room didn't get hit by any flying shards of glass, but we were picking them up in the mudroom 10 feet away and the room was basically covered in sticky juice residue.

When we called Phillip in to help with the cleanup effort, he took one look around and told me, "You're welcome for the Take."


My 14-year-old recently picked up The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook at the library.

Which is ironic, because the whole premise of the book is that they were, you know, hungry.

I've seen things like unofficial Harry Potter cookbooks before, which makes sense because they actually do mention lots of different kinds of foods, drinks, and desserts in the Harry Potter series. But what could be in here?

So I flipped open to a random recipe and saw this:

I've read the books and yes, this is something they probably would've made from the squirrels Katniss hunted in the woods. But surely the 'squirrel' part of the title was just for show, and the actual ingredients were normal things you can buy at the grocery store, right?

First ingredient: 2-3 pounds squirrel.

I have so many questions. Is this recipe assuming that you hunt your own squirrels, or that you somehow have a squirrel meat supplier somewhere? Is that a thing people have? How many squirrels is 2-3 pounds? Does that include the bones? How do you clean a squirrel, anyway? Why am I still reading this recipe??

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Friday, September 11, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Bad Concepts for Picture Books, Starting Up the Crazy Train, and the Secret to Looking Youthful

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


The keypad on my phone is the worst. If I can't use speech-to-text, it takes me longer to fix all the spelling errors than it does to type the text. At first I thought it was just me, but other family members have commented on how impossible it is to text from my phone.

And now that I've spelled things wrong so many times, on the off-chance I spell it right then autocorrect changes it... to the misspelling.

The other day I was running errands and realized there was no way I was going to be able to get home and feed everyone in a timely manner, so I shot Phillip a quick text:


On Saturday, we went to the beach and since we'd be in the car for a little while, I grabbed some picture books to dole out to the younger kids while Phillip drove.

"Can I have that one? What's it called?" a small person requested from the backseat, pointing at the one on top of the stack on my lap.

"Diary of a Worm," I replied, handing it back to the second row of seats.

Phillip eye's widened in horror. "DIARRHEA OR WORMS?!?"

I almost died laughing at what he thought he'd heard me say, especially since the novel I've been reading just had the main character suffering from a horrible stomach ailment in Cuba and wondering this exact thing. 

Diarrhea or Worms? really does sound like the title of the worst Choose Your Own Adventure book ever.

I will never read this the same way again.


After 6 months of quiet, this week started the wheels of the crazy train have started to roll again.

School starts next week, my daughter started riding lessons, and someone in our house has had soccer practice every night this week. I was trying to find a free evening when the missionaries from my church could come over for a visit and while I was scanning the calendar, unable to find a free night I suddenly realized: I remember this.

Not having time to cook dinner, letalone eat together. 

Feeling like I'm herding cats because everyone's got their own agenda. 

Just being home long enough to throw our crap in the door before we leave again, and the house looks like a bomb went off because I'm too busy to follow everyone around reminding them to clean up after themselves.

I miss quarantine already.


School starts next week, and our school is following a hybrid model. The student body is split into two halves and using the school on a rotating basis, so my kids will be doing "remote learning" on the days when other students are in the classroom, and vice versa.

I'm still fuzzy on the details (so I'm hoping I'm  just understanding them wrong,) but it sounds to me like there's going to be a webcam in the back of each classroom, and on remote days you sit on your computer for hours watching the teacher teach the group that's there that day. It sounds mind-numbingly boring.

After her high school orientation, I asked my 14-year-old what she thinks about how this school year is going to go. She said she's "optimistically sure this will never work."

Actually, I know exactly what she means, because that's how I feel. I mean, it sounds so impossibly awful, it's got to be better than that, right??

So anyway, we're both optimistically sure this will never work. Also known as "in denial."


I missed the entirety of this, but apparently we had a visitor while I was out (see Take #1.)

Photos courtesy of my 16-year-old.

When the missionaries came over later that evening and my kids told them "There was a bear in our yard!" the one from Utah was like, "WHAT!?!" and the one from Alaska was like, "Oh," just as serenely as if we'd been discussing the weather. (They have a lot of bears in Alaska.)

For those of you who don't know the bear poem ("if it's brown, lie down; if it's black, fight back,") black bears are pretty timid and not usually very dangerous. The mean kind are grizzlies, which don't live in New England. Black bears are generally scared of people and will go away if you make some noise.

(Obviously, everyone was indoors when this happened. When my kids are outside, they're so loud I'm sure every bear within 100 miles is cowering in fear.)

As much as we love our suet birdfeeder, though, we're going to have to take it down for a little while. Because that's why this bear decided to come pay us a visit.

The kids report that the bear then fell off the retaining wall he was perching on to do this, which I really wished I could have seen.


One summer project we're trying to finish is repainting the girls' bedroom. When we moved here ten years ago, I did it bubble-gum pink and apparently that's not cool when you're 16. Or whatever.

The girls chose a color scheme and we went to the paint store for a sample. I was standing at the counter with my two teenage daughters and the cashier asked, "Are you three sisters?"

I just laughed politely, figuring the guy was either joking or thinking "That's one exhausted-looking old lady, let's give her a thrill." 

But then he persisted. He gestured to me and said, "Are you mom, then?"

I was confused. He actually thought we were all sisters? Listen dude, I feel like I'm 150 years old most of the time. Surely that shows.

After we left, I asked my daughters what just happened, and one pointed out "Well, we are wearing masks so 70% of our faces are covered." 

Okay, I guess that makes more sense.


The other project we've been doing is clearing out the basement. Random stuff collects and possibly multiplies down there, and we need to get rid of it if this "finishing the basement" thing is really going to happen.

One item down there is an old ping-pong ball table, in such sad shape we can't really even give it away. I wanted to pay to dispose of it at the transfer station, but Phillip said he could take it apart and hack it up so we could just put it in trash bags for free.

A little while later, I went to check on his progress and he'd made a desk out of it.


He said he was going to cut it up and throw it away, but then got to thinking about how we probably needed another study desk for the kids, so he made this:

Waste not, want not.

I love that man.

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Friday, September 4, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Stadium Seating, Planning Ahead for Cheese Time, and Secretly Thinking Things Are a Little Weird

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


I'm pleased to announce that we got our new couches out of the garage and moved them into their permanent home in the basement!

Our eventual goal is to finish the basement and make it into a comfortable family movie-watching area, and the couches are fitting nicely into the plan. 

Right now, they are both facing the TV, one up on cinder blocks behind the other to create stadium seating, and it's pretty awesome. 

The kids are already calling it "the home theater," and while it's still got a long way to go, I'm starting to be able to see it, too.


My 4- and 6-year-olds have been a little out of control lately, so I felt like they needed more structure at home.

I made a little schedule I could stick on the fridge and rearrange with magnets, to help redirect their attention to activities that aren't running around screaming and throwing a wet Pull-up at each other. 

At first, both boys were enthusiastically following along (outside time! story time! clean up time!) and the new schedule seemed to be working like a charm. And after only a few days, they already seemed significantly less feral.

Then my older kids took it upon themselves to take words from our magnetic poetry set and edit the schedule, making sure that everyone in the house lost all respect for it immediately.
After "bad time" and "hard time," at least we can all look forward to "be a pig time."

It was nice while it lasted. 


My 14-year-old had a violin recital but because of COVID, it was held in the yard outside her teacher's house, and everybody wore masks. 

I enjoyed listening to everyone, but every few minutes I would sneak glances at the parents sitting 6 feet apart across the lawn and picture the following whispered conversation with another mom:

Me: This is real life, right?

Her: Oh, yes. We're all totally cool with... [gesturing around] ... this. 

Me: Me, too. Me, too. For sure. I just wanted to make sure you didn't think it was weird, because I absolutely do not.

Her: Of course! This is so not weird for me. It's almost weird how not-weird it is, you know?

Me: I mean, I could see how some people might think it was a little bizarre, sitting in the yard watching your kid play Mozart in a surgical mask, but this is totally normal.

Her: Obviously. That's why we're all just clapping like it's any old recital that isn't weird at all.

Me: Right. Because it is.

Her: It so is.

Does anyone else ever feel like they need to do a secret sanity check when they're out in public? 

We need a code word to signal each other, something that means "I still remember what normal life was like before COVID-19." Give me a secret handshake or something. Let me know I'm not the only one.


I'm in the process of getting the kids' fall clothes out of the attic and seeing who fits into what.

I brought down a box for my 4-year-old that I thought would be the right size, but most of the pants were already too short.

"How did you get so big?" I asked him jokingly.

"Uhh... because I eat all my food and I'm 4?"

Fair enough.


Once upon a time, I taught myself how to knit. I knitted like crazy for a year and a half, and stopped when I had a baby and never started again. That baby is 6 now.

My daughter recently wanted to knit a scarf so I showed her how to get started, and it turns out that knitting is kind of like riding a bike. 

I was actually pretty impressed that I remembered how to do it, and now I really want to knit something. I need a project idea.


I took my teenager shopping and while she was looking at shoes, I kept busy browsing through a nearby rack of clothes. 

I found an outfit that amused me and brought it to her, holding it up and proudly announcing, "Gumby!"

Halloween is coming, ladies.

In response, she just stared at me blankly. It was like I'd strung together two complete nonsense syllables.

"Do you not know who Gumby is?"

Blank stare.

Several days later, I searched for "Gumby" on YouTube and my daughter noticed. "Hey, is that the guy who looks like that outfit you saw at the mall?"

I nodded.

After a few minutes of watching the video in silence, she said, "But he doesn't have any clothes."


On a walk downtown, my three youngest kids and I passed a monument to fallen firefighters. They stopped to look at it, walking all around the bronze statue of a uniformed firefighter and taking it in.

"This to remember firefighters who died putting out fires and saving people," I said, seizing this oh-so-teachable moment to discuss our community helpers.

"Look at his eyes!" My 8-year-old squealed. "They're so... creepy!"

"That's not exactly what"

"Ooh, and he's got an axe to murder us!"

This was one of those times where you just sigh and wonder Should I even start to correct that or do I just accept it and move on?

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