7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 161)

— 1 —

Yesterday afternoon, I thought I had found a one-two punch of improving our neighbors’ impressions of The Homeschoolers and getting some socialization for the kids. (Disclaimer: Socialization is not a problem for everyone who educates at home. Many such families have no problem whatsoever exposing their children to the company of other human beings. The stereotype comes from people like me, who were weird to begin with.) Anyway, yesterday I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies and set them on a stand in our front yard as a lure for the kids who were playing outside after school.

It worked! The warm cookies were like a kid magnet, and within minutes a half dozen children were hanging around our front yard. I pretended to be very busy rearranging the two chairs on the front porch while I kept an eye on the interactions. Just when the older kids got past some awkward hellos and began to chat with potential new friends, my sugar-crazed toddler grabbed two cookies and stuffed them into her mouth with both hands, grunting and smearing chocolate all over her face, arms, and neck. I chirped a polite reminder for her not to eat all the cookies, hoping my calm and classy tone would balance out her behavior, and leave people with the overall impression that we were probably not mountain people who had come in from the hills to take up residence in this neighborhood. Upon hearing my admonishment, she opened her mouth, and let a chewed blob of cookies fall from her mouth and splat onto the middle of the plate. The kids scattered like cockroaches.

Maybe we’ll try again tomorrow.

— 2 —

This is kind of an odd juxtaposition, but here it goes anyway: I’ve been using the book Mornings With Fulton Sheen as meditation starters for my morning prayer time. It’s great stuff. Each page has a reflection from something the late Archbishop wrote, along with a corresponding Bible verse. An example from page 51:

“Man becomes like that which he loves. If he loves gold, he becomes like it — cold, hard and yellow. The more he acquires, the more he suffers at surrendering even the least of it, just as it hurts to have a single hair pulled out even thought your head is full of them.”

Wisdom is worth much more than gold, and understanding should be chosen over silver. (Proverbs 16:16)

There are a bunch of daily meditation books like this (Karen Edmisten’s Through the Year With Mary and Bert Ghezzi’s Breakfast with Benedict are also great). I always find them to be good ways to kickstart my prayer time, especially if I’ve been going through a spiritual dry spell.

— 3 —

Scorpion HutI’ve continued my commitment to get up at 6:00 AM (by “continued” I mean “I sometimes get up when the first number on the clock still says 6“) and one of the most exciting parts of each morning is when I put on my slippers. I know what you’re thinking: Wow, that sounds thrilling. Putting on slippers? Tell me more. Can I also get a detailed list of what you eat for breakfast? But wait. This is actually a tension-filled moment of death-defying anticipation in this house, and here’s why:

It occurred to me the other day that these shoes, which are tall and poofy slipper-boots, are a perfect scorpion habitat. I mean, so perfect that the marketing department should throw out all this foot warming mumbo jumbo and just market them as arachnid condos. So when we combine the facts that scorpions like small, warm spaces and are also nocturnal, we see that it is a matter of when, not if, I will encounter one in my slipper-boots at 6 AM. I’ve been shaking the slippers out every morning, but there’s always a chance that one of the scorpion’s claws could get stuck in the furry fabric, in which case the result of my shaking would only be that I now have an extremely angry and alert scorpion waiting for me in my shoes.

— 4 —

I wouldn’t wear those slippers, someone just thought after reading my last take. Believe me, I am sympathetic to this line of thinking. But around here we have scorpions in our beds, our towels, our kitchens, our toy piles, our living rooms. Alas, even our toilets are not outside of the universe of possibilities of where one might encounter a scorpion. If I were to optimize my life on not being stung, I would stand on a stool in my living room and scream in despair all day (though not too close to the air vent, since scorpions fall out of there sometimes). As it is, even my most mundane tasks are packed with the tension of WILL I OR WILL I NOT BE STUNG BY A POISONOUS ARACHNID WHEN I DO THIS? Let it never be said that I don’t have an exciting life.

— 5 —

If you have young children, I think you need one of these. I got it for my two-year-old for Christmas after seeing the reviews on Amazon, which led me to beleive that it is specifically mentioned in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s a glow bug thing that shoots lights from its shell. And it has buttons that change the colors. Okay. Obviously I am up too late to describe this very well, so let me put it this way: It does cool stuff that will get your children to beg you to turn out the lights at night.

— 6 —

I’m speaking at the Diocese of Venice Apologetics Conference on February 7, so if you’re in the area come on by! (That’s Venice, Florida, by the way. Though I am certainly open to the possibility should anyone want me to speak in Venice, Italy. I don’t know Italian, but I do offer a pantomimed version of my talks.)

In what should be a humbling turn of events, the weekend before I’ll be seeing Matthew Kelly speak at our parish. He’s arguably one of the best speakers in the world, and talks like this are why:

— 7 —

Book progress: I have about 48,000 words down. According to my writing schedule, I’m supposed to have about 57,000 by this point. I’m not too worried — if I keep focused and stay off of Twitter, I think I can make it up over the next few weeks.

Writing tip: I’ve tried everything under the sun to keep myself motivated to write, and nothing has worked as well as simple word count deadlines. When I’ve based my schedule on what topics I was going to cover when, I could come up with all sorts of elaborate rationalizations that made it seem like I was doing something, when really I was doing nothing (“I didn’t cover top X per se, but I did research topic Y, which is related…”). Word count deadlines keep you typing.


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  1. says

    I love that you lured neighbor kids with cookies. Genius!

    I’m struggling to write a dry scientific article as part of my thesis. I’ll try your word count quota trick this week, thanks for the tip and keep up the writing pace. (I’ve only got 3300 words and I thought it was a lot!)

  2. says

    I have actually noticed something similar with my Kindle – the little ticker saying what percentage of the book I’ve finished is a positive inducement to keep on keepin’ on even if the reading is challenging.

  3. says

    #3-4 remind me of living in Montana and peoples’ assurances that there were no rattlesnakes north of the highway and that they didn’t cross railroad tracks.

    THEY LIED!!!!

    Someone killed a rattlesnake by the church (50 feet from the house) at which point I decided not to walk to church again until there was snow on the ground.

  4. says

    Congrats on the book progress (and for staying off twitter). Keep it up, I’d like to read it very soon :)

    I wish I was near Venice (even if it is only Florida). Have a wonderful, scorpion-free trip!

  5. says

    Rising Early loses a lot of its charm when it’s coerced by the insane school district where your husband works. He’s got to be there at 6:30am, which means his first alarm starts going off at 4:45.

  6. says

    The Fulton Sheen book sounds great! My boyfriend got me the Divine Intimacy for Christmas, so that’s been my launching point, and I love it. I think that in the future, I would like to have some sort of daily devotional (Divine Office, or something else) to jumpstart my morning prayer time. Even though I wake up early, my brain isn’t always 100% functioning…

  7. says

    Though I write fiction, I do think the word count deadlines are a great way to slog through. It is always so much easier for me to rearrange words after they are on the screen (instead of endlessly rearranging in my muddled mind!) I would never have believed when I was struggling at 45K that I would now be at 140K and needing to cut! Which brings about a whole new series of problems. Ahhhh, the writing life!

    PS–I think you would really enjoy “Habit of Being” a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters over twenty years. It is part writing guide, part spiritual direction all with Flannery’s amazing wit.

  8. says

    It’s not fair to compare yourself to Matthew Kelly. He’s been doing it much longer and he has an accent.

    But as good as he is online he is so much more dynamic in person. Enjoy!

  9. says

    You could always try my husband’s method- “I can have insert-delicious-caffeinated-or-alcoholic-beverage-here if I finish XYZ chore.” Usually it’s coffee for doing the dishes (because I’m the luckiest woman on earth), but it could be wine for words. You’re welcome!

  10. says

    I’ve come to learn to never underestimate the power of a chocolate chip cookie. You’re on the right track, I do believe!

    Godspeed on your upcoming travels and continued writing – and congrats on keeping up on your morning schedule.

  11. says

    I don’t know how you can live with all those bugs around. When I moved to Vancouver years ago, I saw Grouse Mountain and I thought “Look at big bug habitat! They should pave it!” I’ve since made peace with nature, and can even sleep in a tent, but I still love my super cold, bug killing winters. Woo hoo for -31 degrees.

    I’ve also had my toddlers suddenly eat/spit out weird things in front of people I was trying to befriend. I figure we’ll get them back when they are teens.

    Good luck with your book. You can do it!

  12. says

    My DDs got the ladybug light for Christmas from my ILs. Last weekend, DH peeked in on them playing in their room. Lights were off. Ladybug was on. Veggie Tales on the CD player. It was like some strange, super sweet rave.

    Love the scorpion stories!

  13. LeAnna says

    Scorpions glow under black lights. If you can find a way of rigging one to a flashlight or something you could try shining it into your shoe. My husband’s Jamaican relatives use the black light method to detect the nasties, although he admits that it’s hard to use this technique on shoes and much easier to use to find them in bedding etc.

  14. says

    OK, number 1 is SO funny!!! It reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend (who is one of those friends you have mostly because of the “discussions” you can get into) who once said, “Joy. Homeschoolers are just not NORMAL.” I’m not homeschooling at the moment (and I’m sad about it), but every day that I was, I would remember that and think, “Normal is overrated!!!” :-)

  15. says

    The cookie idea is brilliant! I’m a firm believer in baking to make friends. :)

    And scorpions… shudder! Not sad that we don’t have those here.

    Sending good thoughts and prayers for perseverance as you continue your book!

  16. says

    Ok, I would totally live up here in Michigan, where it is a balmy 10*F today, (minus 2*F this morning) than to ever dream of putting my foot into a slipper that may house a vicious scorpion! EEK!

  17. says

    I LOVE listening to Matthew Kelly cd’s while I’m driving!
    Prayers for your perseverance in writing!
    I used the image from the cover of my book for the link up today…to inspire you…I figured if you saw someone else’s “Finished Product”, you might be driven to “keep going”! And, while you are shaking slippers for Scorpions, I am ripping sheets off of beds to hunt for hidden Stink Bugs. ICK.

  18. Mamabearjd says

    One thing I’ve noticed is that people who have 2 kids or less are completely baffled by toddler behavior. It’s like the moms cop complete amnesia, and their kids are shocked by normal things that littles do. We have just 4 kids, and when I go to the school with the two youngest in tow, it’s like a freak show. And they’re good – but still, the kids watch like they’ve been given access to a reality show. So maybe it’s not just the homeschooling!

    • says

      Or you could try probing the slippers with a cattle prod. Erm, you may want to try this on a non-enclosed scorpion first, just in case.

      • Vieve says

        I was going to comment for the first time ever in order to tell you to close off the top of those boots with rubber bands as soon as you take them off. It will give your mornings security. I remember riding a roach infested night train in china once that was so bad I rubber banded off a long sleeve shirt and pants and took sleeping pills together through it. Sounds like I would be doing that nightly in you part of the country. Shudder!

  19. Justin K. says

    Hmmm… My wife and I bought the bug thingy already…for ourselves because she had glow in the dark stars all over her room growing up! Lol, now it sits unused and unloved in the nursery but JJ’s night light, which is more the brightness of a desk lamp than a night light, is the Holy Family instead! Doesn’t work so well though, no matter what he hates his crib when he’s awake in it.

  20. says

    Giving out free warm, homemade chocolate chip cookies is definitely a wonderful way to attract neighborhood kids, and don’t worry about your chocolate-smearing two year old. She was providing entertainment and comic relief, which also eases introductions and friendship beginnings.

    Yeah, those slippers are luxury scorpion condos. I wouldn’t look forward to slipping into those in the morning if they were located at Scorpion Central. Yikes! Perhaps it would get some more creative juices flowing and kick your word count up to have that sort of adrenaline rush before you get writing. I suppose it’s worth a try.

    I would love to hear Matthew Kelly speak in person. I’ve read a number of his books and listened to many of his Lighthouse CDs. Unfortunately the one DVD of The Seven Levels of Intimacy we have of his has such poor recording sound that it’s hard to understand. Live would work for me!

  21. says

    If you are bound and determined to wear those scorpion condos (meaning, I personally would purchase different fuzzy slippers), sleep with them under the covers with you. I’m guessing that scorpions are a little less likely to be in your bed than to be crawling around the walls and floors at night.

  22. says

    Your scorpion stories always make me laugh. And I hope you love the Matthew Kelly talk! I got to see him many years ago when he came to our church, and he was hilarious, powerful, and SO relatable. Enjoy it!

  23. says

    Re: Point #4 on Venice…if you do ever get invited to Venice (the original one, of which Pope Paul III once said, “If there were no Venice,someone would have to invent her”), tell them you need me (and only me) as your translator…

  24. Ingrid O. says

    That chocolate chip strategy worked. I must try that one too to lure children at my place and help them socialize. Do you have children of your own now?

    I really love your post! Very valuable for people.


  25. Myrna says

    I have seen such videos being shared on YouTube and FaceBook and I was really into it. I look forward to future videos of this amazing guy featured.