Dec 4, 2017

When You Have Feelings and You Need to Feel Your Feelings--With Music

On our way home from Utah after Thanksgiving, I had lots of time in the car and not a lot to do so I started messing around with playlists on Spotify.

I'll confess, I'm very new to Spotify. Max has it and one day asked me for the name of a song he wanted to add to one of his playlists.
I promptly stole his phone and started making this super kick-butt 80's playlist for him. I may or may not have been a master of the mix tape back in the day. But that's neither here nor there. Over the next few days, I kept adding to "Max's Rad 80's".

And then he was like:
"Mom, give me my phone back and make your own Spotify account. Also, can you get us premium?"
And I was like:
"Whatevs. You are welcome for the best music you've ever heard!! Top 40 sucks and Hip Hop is for losers! Tell your friends! And NO, we're not getting premium."

Or something.

Anyway, I got cut off from my rad playlist and decided I would just go ahead and make my own Spotify account-- like he said-- even though I *mostly* almost always categorically disapprove of anything I...
a) hear about from a teenager first and/or
b) am told to do by a teenager

But then we're all stuck in the car and we have 10 billion more hours and Doug wants some music on and Max wants me to pick one of his Spotify playlists....
Which reminds me that his taste in music is questionable and mine is amazing......
So I play my Rad 80's mix and then start working on a NEW list. This time in my very own account.

Turns out I was in a mood and wanted some music to match my mood.
I wanted to feel some feelings. Not necessarily sad or mad or angry feelings. Just *deep* feelings. The feelings that make you cry a little on the inside.

I started creating a playlist titled--for lack of a more clever name:

I got a few songs on it and thought it would be fun to ask Facebook for suggestions. I even tagged a few people who I happen to know have strong feelings about music--and also similar taste to mine. was a really good decision.

I don't want to over-sell it or anything, buuuuuuuuuuuuuut...
this playlist may just be my gift to humanity.
My legacy. The best thing I've ever created.
(Except for, ya know, my kids and whatnot.)

So anyway, if you want you can "Follow" my "Angsty" playlist on Spotify.
If you need help, ask your kids to 'teen-splain' it to you. (FYI, Teensplaining--which I just coined--is 10,000 X more obnoxious than Mansplaining so prepare yourself for some serious condescendtion from your adorable child.)

(If you want to avoid all that you can listen from the link in the side bar over there in the right side bar.)

I've been listening to this play list for a few days and I have to say it's almost perfect. If I were currently taking Zoloft, I would be increasing my dose. But in a good way, ya know??


And let me know if you have any suggestions!

My Spotify User Name is: Emilydeon and the playlist is "Angsty".


Oct 9, 2017

Quick, Easy, and Cheap Emergency Preparedness

The multiple natural disasters happening near and far have me, as usual, thinking back to our time in Japan after the 3/11/11 Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Meltdown.
I still remember a week or two after it happened, I logged in to Facebook one day to send out an update and there was the rest of the world: blithely going about their lives. It was a very odd when we felt like we were living in a nightmare.

I remember in the weeks and months after the quake, we would be talking about our experiences, mention preparedness or 72 hour kits, and our friends and family would nonchalantly (or sheepishly) mention "Yeah, I guess I should get something just in case..."


(Sometimes I get a little vehement. Usually I keep said vehemence to myself. The rest of the time, I blog about it or yell it at bad drivers.)

I feel incredibly heart sick for those affected by natural disasters, (AND man-made disasters like Vegas). Heart sick and anxious and fearful and helpless. But those feelings don't help anyone. Talking about those feelings on-line probably won't help anyone. But maybe writing about preparedness WILL help someone. I don't really wanna be a preparedness blogger. But here we all are.

We can't prepare for everything. We can't prevent all bad things from happening. But we can take some basic steps to bring a little peace into our lives.

I know "Emergency Preparedness" can be daunting. To some it just seems like an overwhelming chore.
Some don't want to spend a lot of money and try to DIY it. 
After all, you might think, "I just need to print a list from Pinterest, take it to two or three stores, buy every supply on the list {times number of family members,} take items home, assemble in appropriate carrying aparatus, and then find a place to store it all!"
I'm here to tell you it does not need to be that hard.

Here's the deal though: It does cost a little money. But you can get a good start for around $40-$50.

Maybe you are completely broke. Maybe buying one or two emergency supplies is your only option. If that's the case, you can make it work. Get a list, and get a few things when you can afford them. (Start with a case of bottled water, next add emergency food bars, and go from there.) THAT IS BETTER THAN NOTHING!

(Also, tell your parents that you would LOVE a 72-hour kit for Christmas. They might just be THRILLED to hook you up!)

For the rest of you, please listen closely to my words:
Think about your budget. Think about the things you spend money on every single month. Think about some of the things you buy that are WANTS and not absolute needs.
 Most of us have SOMETHING in our budget that isn't strictly  necessary to keep us alive. Most of us have SOMETHING we can sacrifice for a good cause. THIS IS THAT CAUSE.

In case you're wondering, I speak from experience. We purchased our 2-Backpack-72-hour-kit-for-Four-People when we were broke and living on student loans during UCSF Dental School. Our expenses (living in San Francisco) were high, and our budget was tiny. But we were counseled by church leaders to be prepared. 
We immediately bought what we needed and started saving a little cash to keep on hand. I had those same emergency 72-hour kits a few years later on 3/11/11, and a tiny "can" safe full of $800/cash we had slowly saved over time.

{With the power out, and ATM's, cash registers and credit card machines not working, guess what I used to buy extra diapers with after the quake? Cash from my tiny safe.}

So here's my advice, once you've determined that you're going to skip dinner out for a few weeks, and turn off your cable for a month, or disconnect your ungrateful teens cell coverage for three months, (just to keep them humble), you can start the lengthy, tedious, difficult process to becoming prepared.

First, get on-line
Second, buy a pre-made 72-hour kit. 

That's it.

I just looked on Amazon. They have a 72-hour-kit for FOUR people on-sale for $139.95. That is actually pretty darn cheap. If that is still too rich for your blood, get a one person kit for around $50. (I picked one up at Home Depot once for around $35!)
A ONE person 72-hour kit could also be a THREE person 24-hour kit. In other words, it's better than nothing.
Look at Amazon,,, or any other site of your choice. Give yourself 30-40 minutes to shop around and find the best bargain, and THEN JUST BUY ONE!!!

(You just might be so proud of yourself that next month you go back and buy another one!)

It doesn't actually have to be a long painful process. I ain't got time for that. YOU ain't got time for that.

Even IF you want to DIY it, I STILL recommend buying your first fully assembled kit. Here's why: you will instantly have a whole bunch of emergency stuff.
All at once.
All in one place.
All packed neatly.
All well thought out.
You will immediately feel a little better at the thought that you are not COMPLETELY unprepared for a disaster.

After that, you can TOTALLY bargain shop and add to it until it meets the needs of your entire family.

If you do want to outfit your family all at once, don't buy individual one-person packs or a lot of the items will be needlessly duplicated. If you can afford it, buy a pack built for 2 or 4.
That way, you aren't paying for 4 emergency hand crank radios but you're still getting 4 emergency whistles and rain coats and the right amount of food and water.

It's been a few years since Doug and I have made any significant updates to our stock of survival gear, and it's been at least a year since we rotated the food and clothes in our 72-hour-kits. (The food bricks last a long time, the snack-y stuff needs to be rotated.)

But we are now to the point we have everything we need and plenty of luxury items.
Some of those "luxury" items aren't all that fancy, like:
Snack food and candy in addition to emergency protein bars.
Mountain Home just-add-water meals
*Card games and small toys and comfort items for kids
A spare set of clothes for each person
Plus a few high tech gadgets like a solar phone charger

If we have to shelter in place, we can survive with enough food and water for a loooong time. If we have to evacuate, we have enough food and shelter and water and warmth for 72 hours for all seven of us. We didn't buy everything all at once. But we started with a basic kit for the four (at the time) members of our family, and built from there.

I KNOW this is not what most people want to spend money on--something you will stick in a closet and may never need. But I am here to tell you that preparedness FEELS GOOD! It alleviates stress and anxiety! It is calming! It is proactive! And it is something we can all accomplish if we want to!!

Please search the archives if you want posts written by me and by my friends on what we had and what we wished we had had in our preparedness supplies in the aftermath of the Tohoku quake. (Search for Preparedness or Misawa Monday Preparedness Perspective.)
And please ask if you have any questions. I'm happy to help!

Haven't got a single thing yet except a full HydroFlask by the kitchen sink?? 
Let me know when you've successfully hit the "Buy Now" button on your first 72-hour kit. I'll be here cheering for you. 
Somewhere in the middle? 
What are you still missing?
If you are already completely prepared, tell me where you got your stuff and what you are super happy to have!

Remember: "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear."



*From my friend Kellie in Houston:
We didn't need to evacuate but were stuck at home for multiple days in a row with 7 kids... separate from the 72 hour kits, have a rubbermaid filled with glow sticks, Play-doh, a few new games or craft items.  I thought about it and purchased a few days before the storm hit and I am soooo glad I did, seriously saved our week.  I am now thinking about setting aside a permanent "emergency fun kit"

SHE WAS PREPARED!!! It was a rotten situation but I can guarantee her preparedness made it easier! Great job Kellie!!

Why I'm passionate about preparedness: Surviving the Earthquake in Japan

We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around, yes. Problems everywhere, yes. But … you can’t, you don’t, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen.
— Gordon B. Hinckley

Jun 21, 2017

60ish Ideas For Screen-Free Summer Fun

60ish Ideas for Fun Summer Activities with ZERO screens and (hopefully) minimal parental supervision required. Customize to fit your needs!

It's summer time!!! And if you are anything like me, you feel an equal mixture of glee at "No more lunch packing or homework!!" and abject terror of "I'm BORED" and "I'm STARVING is it breakfast/lunch/dinner time yet?" on repeat

For me, my goal, every summer, is exactly the same. To get them to do a little work in the morning. (Usually work books from Costco--my boys will actually do the Star Wars ones--and a few chores like read scriptures, practice piano, make bed, unload dishes.)

When chores are done, I want them playing outside in the backyard as much as possible.
(Yes, we will have trips to the beach/pool/ice cream parlor--just not every day!!)

If they've spent hours keeping busy in the morning and afternoon, I have no problem letting them chill literally and figuratively with a show or Minecraft session in the late afternoon/early evening. I just can't handle being begged for devices

Sure, this seems like a pipe dream, but I know it's possible because when I was a kid
For hours and hours.
Coming in as little as possible and only when absolutely desperate to use the bathroom or eat.

So last year I made this list and hung it on the wall, but it had one fatal flaw.
One of the items was...
"Make a Lego stop-motion video."

This was the ONLY item on the list that in any way involved electronics, so naturally, it was the only thing anyone ever wanted to do on the list. "Mom, can you un-lock the iPad so I can make a Lego stop-motion video??" That only worked like the first 23 times, and then I cottoned on.

This year, it has been dashed from the list.

Also, I thought I would add a few more specific details to my list to make it easier for my children to actually visualize the activity.
For example
"Go on a bike ride" became
"Go on a bike ride to the Meeting House."

I don't want them to get on their bikes and over-tax their poor, tired little brains by having to come up with a destination. (Lest they give up and come inside.) So I got more specific.

Naturally, if you don't have a turn-of-the-century German Meeting House within biking distance, you might want to amend the list to your specifications.

I recommend copying and pasting the list into a new document and customizing it to fit your kids--and the play structures you have available. ;)

(If someone wants to tell me how to make this into a printable and customizable PDF, I'm all ears.)

Here's to hoping this helps! Good luck to all of us!!!

Time for SUMMER FUN !

Take a walk to the look-out
Ride a bike to the meeting house
Ride a scooter up the hill and back down
Go for a nature walk and collect sticks, leaves and cool rocks (but leave them outside.)
Climb a tree
Play hide and seek
Play Sardines
Play Kick-the-can
Play Kick Ball
Play Red-Rover
Put on a Puppet Show
Write a play and act it out with siblings (Jane Austen style)
Play Basketball
How many free throws can you make? (100=$1 from Mom
Knock out
Jump on the Trampoline
Dead Man
Practice your flips
Freeze Tag!
Read a book
In your room
Outside on a blanket
In a blanket fort!
Play in the Playroom
Board games
Stuffed animals
Play a board game or card game with a younger sibling
Play with Play-Doh (outside with permission and you have to clean up after.)
Draw a picture
Jump rope (set a new record for consecutive jumps!)
Cut shapes for a picture and glue together Leo Lionni style
Make a collage with pics cut from a magazine
Play Kickball
Play Wiffle Ball
Play Badminton
Play Frisbee
Keep an Art or Nature journal of your summer
Make mud pies
Build with Legos
Make a Lego village outside
Make a Lego zip-line
Make a Lego universe
Make a Fairy House or Fairy Garden in the corner of the yard
Build a fort (EVERYTHING needs to be put away after)
Eat lunch outside on a blanket
Press summer flowers for an art project later
Run through the sprinklers
Blow bubbles
Draw pictures with chalk outside
Use chalk to make a Hopscotch game
Memorize a scripture and earn $1
Read 10 stories to little sibling and earn $1
Do 10 extra chores to earn Special Time (art/cooking/clay) with Mom
Do a secret service for someone
Write someone an anonymous love note!
Paint (with permission)
Paint beach rocks (with permission)
Make a panorama in a shoe box-but only if you can find your own shoe box. (Do not ask Mom to find you a shoe-box.)
Write a and illustrate a story. Bind with yarn.
Write in your journal
Write to the missionaries
Open and use one of the many How To {craft/draw/experiment} Books Mom has bought for you!
Draw an imaginary creature and write a story about it
Make dinner for your family with Mom's approval.
Brush your teeth and don’t forget to floss (--Your Dentist)
Go to bed and stay in your bed until 7 am tomorrow ;)
Get extra practice on your instrument so you’ll be extra AMAZING
Don’t veg away your summer! Fill it with FUN ACTIVITIES!!!

Have a FABULOUS and FUN DAY!!!

P.S. It occurs to me that I should have an alternative list of "Mom's Choice" activities for the times they refuse to pick something from the first list.  THIS list will have things like...

  • Move the Wood Pile from where it is, to three feet to the left of where it is.
  • Wash all the lower level windows on the inside and outside.
  • Pull 200 weeds and lay them out in stacks of ten so I know you actually did it. And...
  • White wash the fence...
I'll get right to work on that one...

P.S. What did I miss? Do you have any brilliant summer time activities your kids love? Let me know in the comments!!

Jun 20, 2017

A Tale of Two Cities. The Highlights. Part 3.

Woke up to a text from my sister Jay-Bird in Abu Dhabi. She wanted to know what the boys DID love about two of her favorite cities on earth. Fair question. I realize my last two posts weren't the happiest representation of our trip.

Now for some of the many HAPPY MEMORIES!!! The stuff you think about after you've forgotten the fights over cell-phone usage!

Our hotel was super modern and had an awesome foosball table.
Fun to see the boys playing together happily.

This modern egg thing is super cool...

...until your brother comes and spins it against your will.

First views of Paris from Max and Sam's room.
They had their own room the first leg.
Our first night in France, we found a restaurant specializing in food from central France. Many items were served with "Aligot". Max ordered the Duck Breast with Aligot. They brought out the duck, and then dumped a whole sauce pan full of Aligot on top. Turns out, Aligot is sorta like cheese fondue mixed with mashed potatoes. Max doesn't like fondue or mashed potatoes. So he ate the delicious duck breast, and Doug and I happily ate the Aligot with bread. Soooooo yummy!!! Win/win.
Bravely trying, and loving, French Onion Soup.

Looked good. Tasted great.

Max bravely tried Duck Breast with Aligot. 

No one can resist a teeter-totter but we may have scared some children

Handsome devil!
Are we really here? Is this really happening??
Visting the Eiffel Tower on our first night was pretty surreal. We were all a little jet-lagged and astounded that we were actually in France, eating French food, watching French people French kiss, and looking up at the Eiffel Tower together. It was really cool.
Sam found this PDA hilarious and outrageous.
Max found the dudes shoes hilarious and outrageous.
The first platform 
On a side note, it's also possible that some paper air planes were thrown from the top of said Eiffel Tower, but I can neither confirm nor deny.

The top has a wire cage around it which is why I can handle my kids being at the top without puking.

"Look at that aerodynamic piece of paper spiraling down to the ground." 
Sharing was not going to happen. We all got our own.
More PDA. More speculation about whether they were actually French Kissing.

Monday Schedule:
Our first full day started with the breakfast buffet at the hotel. Racks of fresh pastries with Nutella made everyone very happy. (The second morning we discovered the hot milk and French Nesquik which is way better than American Nesquik. So, so good. Wish I brought a pound or two home.)

The first day we ate everything and then slowly tapered off
to normal human-sized meals the next few breakfasts.
After breakfast:
Notre Dame (Super cool up on the roof.)
Trying to get a peak at the pealing bells.
"Those boys are good eggs."
Shakespeare and Company Bookstore (Where Sam petted a cat and Max played the piano and Sam bought "The Princess Bride".)
Sainte-Chapelle where the glass made us gasp.
Sainte Chapelle was BEAUTIFUL!!!
The Louvre was hot and crowded but Mona greeted us with her enigmatic smile unperturbed. Boys were pretty good sports and happy to explore!
Max's favorite's from the Louvre
Give a lady some room to breathe!
Fancy French dinner where the boys tried Escargot in order to earn crepes for dessert.
Both Sam and Max ate Escargot! Great job boys!!!
"I guess it was worth it..." So we got crepes and then on the way home we got more crepes.

Tuesday Schedule:
Max and Doug took a French pastry cooking class, LOVED IT, and had a great time.
Sam and I explored a sorta lame museum but still enjoyed ourselves.
Sam did NOT want to have an art lesson with me in the Renoir gardens, but I forgave him because he was sweet and smiley about it.

This delicious pastry was made by my 15 year old! Great work Max!!
Met back up to explore...
Sacré-Cœur! (Bought our souvenir Nativity. Only two figures this time. 1 Joseph 2. Mary holding Jesus.)
Such a cool building!
(Boys bought fidget spinners on the steps.)
Ubered to Versailles.
Versailles is ALSO amazing and super cool to look around. We rented a golf cart to explore the grounds and let Max drive a little. He was disappointed it only went about 3.2 mph.
Quick food stop: "We'll take one of each please."
Walked to the brand new Paris L.D.S. Temple
This glass in the visitor's center was so darn pretty. We loved looking around this peaceful place!
The grounds were just as pretty as the building.
Ubered back to hotel
Sent the boys out for dinner crepes, and took ourselves to a yummy Italian place.
(Spied on boys to make sure they made it to crepe stand safely.)

Wednesday Schedule:
Woke up late and missed our train to London (via Chunnel) by about 10 minutes. (Didn't know you had to check in 30 mins early...)
Had a two hour delay, but made it just in time for...
High Tea at "The Orangery"
(The boys actually liked my Raspberry Tea...! and we all liked the dainty finger sandwiches.)
Sam was so excited to see a real British phone booth. And then a double-decker bus drove by.
The gleeful exclamations were awesome.
Relaxed and walked in Kensington Gardens after visiting Diana's Memorial garden
Soaking in London
"I'll use this for my cover shot."
Made our way to the fun, bustling Covent Garden
Watched Agatha Christie's "The Mouse Trap". The boys loved it and didn't guess who the murderer was! Win!!
Ate dessert after the show at an Italian place I visited on my last trip.

Thursday Schedule:
Big Red Bus Tour
Hopped off at The Tower of London
This guy told a cool story about when he attempted to steal
the crown jewels and nearly got away with them...
Took a Thames river boat tour.
It dropped us off at Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
Barely missed being able to go in Westminster Abbey
Went to Buckingham Palace and saw ladies in hats going in for a garden party.
Hopped on bus to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese where Samuel Johnson spent time writing the first dictionary. Ate yummy pub food there and finally discovered what Bubble and Squeak is.
Saw Les Miserables. Kept us all on the edge of our seats. The boys LOVED it but Sam was a little shocked at how sad it is. He wasn't familiar with the story at all before hand, but loved the music.
We loved walking around lively Piccadilly Circus after the show.

Friday Schedule:
Straight to Kings Cross Station where we grabbed some pastries from stalls outside before checking out Platform 9 3/4. Doug and the boys made it through, I did not.
Tube to Paddington then Train to Windsor to see the queens weekend residence.
We met with our friends the Harrises who used to leave near us in Carlsbad. They drove about four hours to meet up with us--with 5 kids in the car! Now THAT is friendship.
Went on a beautiful river cruise.
Explored a used book store. (And came out weighing about 50 extra pounds.)
Spent the afternoon taking in the charming town.
Had a picnic and spent the afternoon enjoying and relaxing Eton and had such a lovely day!
Made it back to London in time to grab a quick bite and buy last minute tickets to see...
Mamma Mia!!
It was so so fun. The boys love ABBA and the movie Mamma Mia so they knew all the songs. They had to adjust to the crowd clapping along, but we all totally loved it.

Saturday Schedule:
Our last morning in London.
Woke up and found a fun little place for breakfast.
Headed to the Sherlock Holmes museum. (But only went to the gift shop 'cause that place is ex.pen.sive.)
Ubered to The London Eye and checked the last thing off of Max's London To Do List.(So very cool to see London from above.)
Train via Chunnel back to Paris. (Getting out of town a few hours before the London Bridge terrorist attack.)
Checked back into the same hotel. 
Met up with our Monacan friend Ugo and his friend Juliette at an amazing restaurant. The best meal ever to end our awesome trip. The boys tried: Seared duck foie gras, AND Knife-cut Charolais steak tartare. What incredibly brave teens! I was so impressed with them!
And then we all had one more crepe...

Sunday Schedule:
Ate one last buffet breakfast. Sadly, I could only manage hot chocolate and Mueslix. Too much gluttony early in the week.
Made it to Charles De Gaulle in plenty of time. Only to have an unclaimed backpack clear our terminal and make us almost miss our flight.
I mean, we were five minutes away from missing our flight people. SO GLAD WE DIDN'T MISS OUR FLIGHT. Or, ya know, get blown up. Also glad that didn't happen.

Finally made it home to our sweet baby boys Sunday night around 7p.m.
And there was much rejoicing! Yaaaaaaay!

Special thanks to our amazing niece for taking such good care of my boys and being so darn fun and nice. I promise you'll like kids again one day. Give it a few months.

Many thanks to Business Credit Card points for completely covering our 4 round trip tickets.

And MAJOR thanks to our amazing friends The Harrises and Ugo and his friend Juliette for traveling hours to see us. You made our trip so much better!! We love you guys.

We had an amazing trip and are so grateful we had the opportunity to take our boys with us. I hope they'll remember it forever and forgive us for taking the games off their phones.