How to Write Thank You Cards (by Eleven Year Old Me)

I’ve never liked writing. Or, at least, I’ve never liked writing when it’s expected of me. I could turn out three pages of Lord of the Rings related nonsense before I would ever touch a essay assignment. The very idea that I could write something actually worthwhile is appalling- for instance, why would I want to make a living out of this? Then it’s not fun anymore!

A subset of this balking at writing expectations comes about in the form of being very, very bad at writing letters and thank you notes. I should take this time to apologize to my relatives who don’t read this blog for sometimes getting the Christmas thank you cards out in, say, early July. It’s not that I don’t deeply appreciate your thoughtful gift, it’s that writing is terrible and awful and I don’t know why anyone ever does it. Sorry.


These four cards took me hours.

But it’s that time of year again, and it’s harder to drag my feet when it’s just myself I’m fighting. Mom isn’t here to nag me anymore, so I have to adult up and nag myself, which is just thoroughly unpleasant of me.

Today, only nineteen days after Christmas, I forced myself to spit out four very genuine thank you notes. Because, again, it’s not that I don’t love the gifts I receive, it’s just that I’m very bad at things like emotions and feelings and putting things down on paper. I mean, when we get down to it, do we really need communication and the written word? What good are they, anyway?

Eleven year old me had it far easier, because eleven year old me had a system and was allowed some leeway for being a child. Eleven year old me had very specific rules for writing thank you notes, in order to stretch them out and make them seem longer and nicer than they actually were. These were:

  • No contractions. “Was not” takes up more space on the page than “wasn’t.” Marginally.
  • Double spaces after all words and sometimes between each letter.
  • Start as far down on the card as possible, and make your signature take up almost half of the remaining space.
  • Fill up most of the page with stretched out words to show your “enthusiasm”, such as: “Thank you sooooooooooooo much.”
  • When in doubt, pretend you “forgot” and say you’ll “get around to it” whenever your mother reminds you to write thank you notes, preferably holding off until next Christmas rolls around.

Nowadays, of course, I write things that actually are nice and I’ve learned to fill up the page better, but it sure is great that this generation is comprised entirely of heathens and that I can get away with a “thanks for the gift, bro” and a quick hug when I’m given something by the younger crowd.

And man, don’t even get me started about writing letters to people. I apologize in advance to my friend David, who is LDS, going on a mission, and will receive maybe two letters from me in as many years, the same way his brothers did.

It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that writing is so horribly… horrible. Just awful, y’know. But you WordPress people that I follow, keep at it, you’re doing great and you’re very interesting. Anything I haven’t written is just splendid.


[Intense Coughing Fit]

One of the problems with nannying (of which there are many) is that you can’t call in sick unless your spleen is actively outside of your body. A mere stomach bug or a fever is not an excuse, because if you back out at the last minute your employers will panic and run around in circles until you agree to haul yourself and your separated spleen in anyway.

I’ve not been that sick, but I’ve been the sort of sick that saps you of energy and makes it even more difficult to stop three to six boys from killing each other with couch pillow zippers.

It’s been especially rough because my employers have been working later, to make up for taking Thanksgiving off. Last night my day ended at 8:30, and only after I excused myself from the rooms of half-asleep children to have a massive and untimely coughing fit. It’s been a joy.

Fortunately, I have a fail-safe way of rapidly de-stressing in the evening before I go to bed at nine so I can get eight hours of sleep, and that is: To resemble, as much as possible, a retired single sixty year old woman.

It starts with a bath.


A bubble bath, with tea, and a book, and candles, and a plant to read aloud to. 

I like to soak in this while I listen to the sounds of chaos outside my room. When I finally am done with work, there’s nothing more satisfying than listening to other people handle what I was handling not ten minutes before.

When I can snag Wi-Fi I like to play some soft classical (or Christmas) music, but my voice has been completely gone since Thanksgiving and I’m becoming bitter that I can’t belt out “YOU’RE A MEAN ONE, MISTER GRINCH” without sounding like I’m on my third pack of cigarettes.

I feel like the whole goal of the evening is to be as warm and comfortable as possible, because once I’m out of the warm and comfortable bath it’s straight to the warm and comfortable bed. The Jean of tomorrow gets to do the dishes.


Yes, those are pillows made to look like books, and everyone should have them.

I’m coming to the conclusion that this simple bathrobe is the greatest thing I have ever purchased. I haven’t read the tag, but I would wager it’s composed of something like “60% hair of the gods, 30% summer night air, 10% that feeling when you have nowhere to go and can watch the rain fall with a cup of tea in hand”. I sleep in it every night. My other pajamas are neglected and I can’t make myself care.

So the electric blanket is on, the computer is set up, more tea is on the beside table, and I have “Les Cinq Légends” which is Rise of the Guardians in French. There’s something very soothing about watching things in French for an extended period of time, even though all I know in French is essentially “oui”, “non,” and “pomme de terre.”

That’s it, really. I heartily recommend doing this after a long day to anyone.

It especially helps if you’ve just done something productive before, like making your bed to pretend it always looks this good.

Time Keeps On Slippin’

The seasons are changing. The trees surrounding the house are shabby and awkward looking as they lose their leaves in patches, like molting birds. The temperature has dropped, meaning the struggle to appropriately dress the oldest boy has begun. (“I can’t wear gloves! If I wear gloves I’ll look like the dumbest kid in the school!” “How smart can the rest of them really be if their hands are freezing off?”)


I guess this is a good time to take down my Halloween decorations. I mean, it’s not that late.

I’m not too fond of the east coast in the late fall. The trees that are so charmingly green all the rest of the year lose their jungle-like quality, and everything becomes rather bleak. Not even snow can make their skeletal frames look charming; I maintain that the evergreen- the state tree, animal, gem, and governor of Idaho- is really the only tree that can wear winter well.

But a few days ago, I woke to the sounds of three to six boys careening through the house, and when I looked outside, there was snow.


Three whole teaspoons of it!

This, combined with the anticipation of returning to Idaho for Christmas and the fact that nearby stores have been selling Christmas decorations since Easter, was the push I needed to do a little premature decorating of my own.


In the form of one two foot artificial tree and two dollar store decorations.

I don’t really like artificial trees. There’s just something so artificial about them, let me tell you. But I grant that it’s better than just chopping down a living tree every year, and at any rate the middle-south east coast needs all the pines it can get, so a fake tree it is.


Like a large Christmas pinecone.

Mercifully, artificial trees come with their own built-in stands that require no face-fulls of needles and direction from two other people to adjust, and it even came with lights already on it, which is good because all I had handy were purple Halloween lights.


I set it up in the corner of my tea shrine, because it was the only free area within two feet of an extension cord. I’ll bet the Feng Shui in my room is really off.

Next came the dollar store baubles.


Oh. Oh, I have to individually thread all of these? Let me put on the Grinch music real quick.

Besides a few assorted golden orbs I had no tree topper and nothing else of interest, save the lone unique ornament I purchased from the Disney World trip: Mary Poppins. She seemed a little fitting to have near the top of my tree, at least.


Ah, the symbol of nannydom.


All the charm of a department store Christmas tree.

The result, while bland, was not completely hideous, and I’m sure it will get better as more ornaments are acquired. It’s comforting to know that I’ll be 2,600 miles away from here on Christmas so I won’t have to stare at it.


But, uh, I guess I’ll leave these gourds up until after Thanksgiving, at least.

Now Please Leave Me Alone

I signed up for 2017 healthcare coverage today. I would have put it off a few days more, but I really wanted the emails to stop.

This is the intended effect of the emails, making sure everyone doesn’t put it off until the last day and then swamping the call centers, but I could have done without the reminder that I was procrastinating. “You could save as much as $28 if you update your 2017 plan now!” the emails happily exclaimed, as though my new recommended plan wasn’t an additional $350, a finger tip, and .5% of my soul.

Money matters aside, I felt a little insulted that the government needed to keep reminding me to update. Ranging from a cheery “Open enrollment is here!” to a terrifying “TIME’S RUNNING OUT,” the emails kept streaming in because I was too busy considering how little coverage I could get by on.

The phone calls started around this point, too. I don’t answer if I don’t know the number, but that didn’t stop the voicemails. “Jean, sign up for healthcare now!” they shrieked desperately as I ignored them in favor of shooting ghouls in a post-apocalyptic world. “If you don’t, you’re going to regret it! You need to do this! You need to do this RIGHT NOW so that when you INVARIABLY have problems you won’t CALL US LAST MINUTE and YELL AT US even though we’re ONLY DOING OUR JOB.”

At least, that’s what I assume they were getting at.

But the important thing is that the nagging worked, I’m now covered, and my new insurance plan for a young single healthy person on the east coast is only moderately abysmal. As a matter of fact, I’m paying a whole $2 less per month than I was last year, and I only had to drop two levels of coverage to keep it that way!

If there’s a lesson in this, it’s somethingsomething there’s actually no lesson in this. You pay a lot of money for a plan you’ll never use that won’t cover you for the same amount of money that you’ve spent, and have a happy new year.

An Afternoon Raid

The Barnes and Noble nearest to me is closing. This isn’t surprising, because it’s in the same neighborhood as a in-Walmart McDonald’s that someone on Google Reviews helpfully described as “The closest thing to the Mos Eisley spaceport you’ll ever find in real life”, and none of the creatures therein strike me as big readers.

Fortunately, this is not the Barnes and Noble I usually go to for my peace and quiet. Unfortunately, everything in this store is on sale, and I am as unable to resist book sales as I am able to reach things on high shelves (not).

So when my friends treacherously informed me that everything in the store was on sale, I sprinted over as early as my job would permit.

Of course, everything in the store was on sale by Barnes and Noble standards. 30% off plus my 5% member discount. In total, this means everything in the store was only about 5% cheaper than it would be new on Amazon, but never mind that. Books!


I was going to save for my future, but it turns out everything with a white sticker is 30% off, so forget that. My future is a nest of books.

Now, I had just returned from a trip to Disney World, the Land of Enchantment and High Pricing. I didn’t even pay for the tickets, food, or room and I had spent a considerable amount of money. And so even as I darted through the store, I had to constantly ask myself, “Do I need this? Do I really-“


Oh my God, all the journals are on sale!

I have a journal problem. The problem is that I love them too much. More specifically, I love to look at them, but not to actually use them for anything. “What if I mess up the pretty cover?” I always think. “Better to buy a lot of dollar store notebooks to go with the journals, so I can fill the notebooks with all my scribbles and save the journals for something cool.”

And then I never, ever use the journals.

I have several blank ones right now. In all fairness, they make my bookcases look classier.

I narrowly resisted buying an armful of journals, and when I turned the corner I faced another problem.


Oh, good. More things I can buy and never use.

Puzzles are very similar to journals in my mind, but I’m more likely to use one at least once. Because once > never, I bought a set of four.

And the worst thing is, soon even more things in this store will go on sale as their date of closing draws nearer, and I will have to go back again and buy more books and puzzles I don’t need, and I will probably own ten new leather journals by the end of the year.


But my bookshelf will look ten times as classy.

The Perks of Modern Medicine (Like Not Being Dead)

I can’t feel half of my face right now, and I’m drooling and I might chew on my tongue if I’m not careful, but it’s all right because Modern Medicine did this to me and it’s supposed to happen this way. Not to worry.

I had another batch of tea-related cavities filled today, and as I lay on the reclining chair and played an invisible piano to stave off the boredom, I realized yet again how lucky I am to have Modern Medicine in my life. For a start, dentists can put a lot of horrifying looking instruments in my mouth and I won’t even feel it. Sure, there might be a lot of weird drilling sounds and the dentist might occasionally ask the assistant to pass the wood sander, but I can file away ‘screaming in agony’ as unneeded in this day and age.

Besides, without Modern Medicine I’d probably be dead already. Like from the time as a baby that I got an ungodly high fever (conveniently reduced by proper medication). Or the time when I cleverly fell out of a tree and smacked my head on a rock below, because everyone knows the best trees to climb are the ones with a considerable amount of boulders at the base.

And my mouth would most likely be an absolute mess, because without Modern Medicine not much could be done about the wisdom teeth that decided, for whatever reason, to grow in sideways. “This seems like the proper way to be growing,” they said, as they steadily impacted the other teeth. “I can’t think of any better direction to grow at all.”

When I caught Scarlet Fever this summer, too, I might’ve been snuffed from this earth before I’d even realized what all the spots meant. But thanks to Modern Medicine, one can just take a daily pill to get over an exotic Victorian illness.

And the thing is, I’m a pretty healthy person, which is a blessing. But before Modern Medicine, I’d be a healthy person right up until the point when I wasn’t any longer.

But even writing this all out hasn’t made me grateful for the very thorough numbness across my face (it’s been an hour and a half and it’s still not gone, what did they do, turn the setting on the injection up to “X-Treme”?!), so I’ll just go sulk for a while instead. But I’ll do it with all my teeth.

I hope you’re feeling healthy today.

Disney Nannying: The Fifth (and Final) Day

The fifth day we were back in The Magic Kingdom, and for the last time. I felt this was a good thing, because The Family was beyond stressed and careening closer to manic and they all really just needed to go home and have a lie-down.

At one point the bigger boys wanted to go on Splash Mountain again, and the littler boys weren’t feeling up to it, so I took a gaggle of boys and we left Mr. and Mrs. Parent with the older ones. We were going pin trading.

For those who don’t know (as I didn’t until the very last day there), pin trading is where you get a lanyard and a bunch of Disney pins and trade them throughout the day with the Cast Members in the park. This will cost you a mere $150 – $500 if you want to have any more than one pin at a time. The trading is free, of course, but you have to start with a pin and that can cost you $10, $12, or your first born child.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d at least make a start by buying a lanyard and one or two pins, in preparation for future visits. Instead, I made the mistake of buying the treasure hunt kit, which gives you a map and clues to solve around the park in exchange for pins (these still cost money every time).


This is what $20 looks like, and that’s not counting the three pins you can’t even see right now.

The boys and I solved two of these clues and earned (paid for) two pins, but it quickly became apparent that we would never finish because we moved like a herd of injured buffalo in the park (slowly), so I stopped at just two. In fact, it feels right this way. Nothing illustrates this trip better to me than managing to complete only two of six things.

So we went on a few more rides instead.

We passed the Fairy Godmother on the way. I was so excited. The boys were indifferent.

We had a Fast Pass for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and as we skipped our way past the miserable people who were dealing with a wait time of an hour and a half, we passed Snow White’s cottage, and I never realized how much I wanted to be Snow White before then.


Look at that. Now if I could just kick all seven of these slobs out, it would be perfect.

We also went on the Haunted Mansion again, and I believe I’ve won the older boys over in regards to it, at least until a few years from now when all the rides at Disney World are “stupid” and “for babies”. Right now that’s only most of them.


I tried once again to get a picture of the dancing ghosts. Turns out my camera doesn’t work so well in the dark without the flash moving sideways at five miles an hour. Fancy that.

Towards the end of the day, Mrs. Parent had more shopping to do on Main Street, so the rest of us crowded awkwardly up to the side of the buildings to avoid being plowed over by the crowd of people assembling to watch the parade. And, to my horror, I discovered that The Family had no intentions of staying and watching the parade.

THE PARADE. The one we had missed twice already. The wonderful magical parade where all the Disney characters come out and there’s a lot of dancing and there’s an ACTUAL FIRE-BREATHING MALIFICENT.

I only stopped short of physically getting down on my hands and knees to beg. In the end, they mercifully agreed to stay and watch.














When the parade was finished, I gave all the kids an over-enthusiastic hug. “Wasn’t that amazing?!” I practically shouted in their ears, to which I received replies ranging from a noncommittal “Uh-huh,” to a whining “Moooom can we go now?”

All I’m getting out of this is that Disney World isn’t actually a place for kids.


I was trying to find The Family in this picture. See if you can spot them.

So we trundled out of the park for the last time. I couldn’t really linger, but I sure wanted to. In my head I’m already planning a vacation here with a good friend of mine, so that we can actually enjoy ourselves. There are so many things that make it wonderful.


Not the least of which is all the chocolates I collected during my stay at the hotel.


Spoils of war: Anna doll, Mary Poppins Christmas ornament, decorative Pirates of the Caribbean keys (there’s also a POTC necklace floating around here somewhere), various pins and maps and lanyards, as much tea as I could get through airport security.

Thanks, Walt Disney World. I had a good time.