Thursday, December 24, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Shady Google Assistants, the Butterfly Effect, and A Little Holiday Trigonometry

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


My 16-year-old has been giving away handmade cards to our friends and family during the holiday season, and a few days ago she came to me. 

"All of a sudden I'm getting a bunch of ads for greeting cards," she said. "Is Google spying on me?" 

I started to answer, but my 14-year-old just picked up her phone to ask Google Assistant about it directly. This was how it defended itself against the accusation:

I don't know. That sounds, as the kids say, immediate sus.


Lately I've been on a homemade snacks kick. I kind of always am, but now I'm actually making the recipes instead of just Pinning them.

First I tried these green smoothie bars (except I made them in muffin form,) but nobody liked them. Some were more diplomatic about it than others. I asked my teenager what she thought and in a super-positive voice she answered "They taste... healthy!" Bless her heart.

I had more success with fruit leather. For my first attempt, I chose a banana orange recipe and was told by several of my kids that it's "like eating banana bread." I mean, actual banana bread is way less work so maybe next time I'll just do that, but still.


You all know I love parenting booksso I was intrigued when I saw this TED talk entitled "Why Most Parenting Advice Is Wrong." 

Several times this week, I've caught me debating myself over the content of this talk. This TED talk is the verbal equivalent of the optical illusion that is two pictures at once, but no matter how hard you try you can't see them at the same time. Do we matter or don't we?

Whatever the answer, we can at least agree with speaker's choice of opening metaphor. In comparing parenting to the Butterfly Effect, she likens children to the hurricane  and we all know that children are always the hurricane.


My 14-year-old, who is a cashier at the grocery store, was so excited to go to work on Christmas Eve. She could barely contain her excitement as she told me, "It's my LAST DAY of listening to Christmas music!"

As much as I love little Michael Jackson singing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," I can imagine it would get old after 40+ hours.

Everybody likes Christmas music, except for people who work in retail.


Our family has had to improvise a lot this Christmas. We usually stay here for the holidays, but COVID has impacted our plans in other ways.

For instance, looking at Christmas lights. We drove around and picked the house with the best light display like always, but instead of ding dong ditching a plate of thank-you cookies at their doorstep we just left a note in their mailbox. (That was a little disappointing, because watching my teens take a running leap into the van as Phillip peels out is one of the highlights of the season for me.)

We also couldn't find a ham for our traditional Christmas dinner. I planned to pick one up on my regular weekly shopping trip and they were out, and Phillip later went to three different grocery stores before he came in triumphantly announcing, "I got the last one in New England!"

Lastly, there was a run on Christmas trees. I guess it makes sense, since everyone is staying home and getting a tree instead of traveling and enjoying their mother-in-law's tree or whatever. We planned to get one sometime this week, but by then it was too late and the places we looked at were sold out.


The truth is, we didn't really look too hard for a tree. Our family is good at adapting, and I didn't want to take the last tree away from someone who would be devastated not to have one on Christmas.

We'd be fine with a substitute; it could even be fun. But what? We thought about making a full-size dowel Christmas tree, but by the time I priced it all out it was too expensive.

Here's what we came up with: 

Using boards left over from replacing our front porch (I believe the Pinterest term is "reclaimed wood,") Phillip built a 6' triangle. Cutting all the angles correctly requires some pretty intense mathematical calculations, so we jokingly call it "the trigonometree." 

The boys helped pound nails around the sides at 4" intervals. Then we strung Christmas lights from the nails, propped it up on the wall, and hung ornaments from it.

Don't worry, it's anchored to the wall with a nail and some wire.

In the end, our one-time makeshift solution was something we liked so much that we're keeping it to use again. Not every year, but it will definitely be back.

Sincerely looks like something you'd see on Instagram.


A few nights ago, it occurred to me that we should get a 2020 ornament. We always buy an ornament whenever we go on vacation, so decorating our tree at Christmas is like taking a walk down memory lane.

We didn't go anywhere this year, but it was such a significant event that I decided to order this ornament from Etsy. It says "the year we stayed home."

Because we were lucky enough to enjoy good health and a good financial situation, "the year we stayed home" was the most magical year of my life. 

Instead of going their separate ways to their separate activities, my younger kids were having school recess together in the yard and my older kids were hanging out and binge-watching shows together. The unexpected gift of so much time together led us to grow spiritually and emotionally more than I thought possible.

I think that's definitely worth having an ornament to remember it by, don't you?

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PurpleSlob said...

The name "trigonome-tree{" is fabulous!! You should seriously win a prize of some kind with it!!
Going to look at the ornament.
Google doesn't "Do that." Neither did Meatloaf. And I didn't believe him either.

Handsfullmom said...

Great job on the tree! Our neighbor gifted us a personalized ornament with our names, 2020, and "Our First Pandemic" written on it in beautiful script. I will treasure it always. Probably.