7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 43)

July 24, 2009 | 70 comments

— 1 —

We went to the San Antonio zoo yesterday. In 101-degree heat. With a four-hour round trip drive. Does that sound challenging? It was. However, it was all worth it to meet up with the other Kidsave families — who are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met — and to see how excited all the girls were to be there. My kids liked it as well, although as it got closer to naptime and they began to look more and more like angry tomatoes, the excitement of the exotic animals began to wear off for them.

Also, in the “scary things that bite” sections, I was trying to get the kids excited as we walked past rattlesnakes, poisonous spiders and scorpions but it kind of fell flat when I announced, “Look, kids! It’s…a bunch of stuff that you can find in the back yard.”

— 2 —

I have a new job description for myself: wife, mother, writer and Hannah Montana English-to-Spanish translator. Rita is absolutely enchanted with this show but doesn’t know a word of English, so I narrate each episode in bad Spanish.

It’s a good thing she has the peppy visuals, because my descriptions alone make the show sound Kafkaesque. “Hannah without the hair is Miley…the friend does not know that Miley is famous because is secret that she is Hannah…and the father of Miley is mad…because she wants to sing and not go to dance with the nice boy…” I can only imagine the plot summaries she’s going to recount to her friends when she returns to Colombia.

— 3 —

“You’re letting her watch Hannah Montana?” you say? I know. Early on I tried to avoid it, but 12-year-old girls have Hannah Montana radar, and when I was flipping through the TV menu she spotted it immediately. Trying to steer her to something more enriching, I suggested that we watch EWTN in Spanish instead. “Look!” I announced, “A movie about Maria Goretti! How lovely to watch a film about a saint.” About thirty minutes into the movie I learned that I should do a little research to make sure I know about a saint’s life before encouraging children to watch movies about them. Just before the assault scene I switched it over to Hannah Montana in a desperate attempt to put on something a little more light. We’ve watched it daily ever since then.

— 4 —

Earlier this week we toured some amazing caves in our area. The tour was fascinating. It was so weird to look up at the top of the cavern and realize that we were standing right under the highway. The craziest part was when they turned out the lights to let us see the total darkness of the cave. The guide told us to close our eyes while he turned off the lights; when we opened our eyes again, there was no difference. None. Just complete darkness. I waved my hand an inch in front of my face and couldn’t see any trace of it. So creepy.

That experience made me realize that it takes a special type of person to be a cave explorer, that type being “not me.” I have a newfound fascination with people who are able to do that. Anyone know of any good books about cave exploration?

— 5 —

What are we going to do about the lack of a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun in the English language? Saying “he or she” all the time is way too clunky, but just using “he” or “she” often comes across like you’re trying to make some kind of political statement. Is there someone we can petition about this? Maybe we should just riot? Maybe we could all just agree to use “them” in the singular sense and fie on anyone who says we’re using it incorrectly. Who’s with me?

— 6 —

A huge “THANK YOU!!!!!!” to those who recommended duct tape in response to my feces apocalypse post. Putting a couple layers of duct tape across the flaps on my daughter’s diaper is a new part of our naptime and bedtime routines, and it’s had a 9 out of 10 success rate. Granted, 1/10th of the time it’s still pretty grim, but it’s a huge improvement.

— 7 —

A few people have mentioned that I seem stressed lately. My friend Elizabeth said in an email the othe day, “You sound SO incredibly tense and stressy-filled lately on your blog.” I found that interesting since I have been especially, ah, “challenged” lately but I didn’t realize it was so obvious.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’ve been having a tough time, and I think that 95% of it simply comes down to not having much “introvert time, ” i.e. time when I don’t have to be “on” at all. I haven’t felt comfortable enforcing that with a guest in the house, worrying that it would be rude to essentially say, “Now that the kids are down for naps and it’s just you and I…I’m going to sit alone in my office. See you later!”

Though I technically knew that that was how I recharge my batteries and de-stress (I talked about that some here), I had no idea just how much it impacts me when I don’t have time like that. Even the slightest things leave me feeling like I CAN’T. DEAL. Nothing about having Rita here has been unmanagable in and of itself, but all the activity and responsibility + almost zero alone time has left me running in the red zone lately.

What I’ve realized is that when you have a guest staying with you for five weeks, you can’t be in “guest mode” all the time — you have to relax around them the way you would around family. Starting today I’m going to make it a high priority to get back to having daily introvert time. I’ll be interested to see how much it helps. I’ll report back in next week’s 7 Quick Takes.

Have a great weekend, everyone!



Below is a Mr. Linky list if you’d like to add a link to your own 7 Quick Takes post. There are only two rules: (1) Make sure the link you submit is to the URL of your post and not your main blog URL. (2) Include a link back here. 

NOTE: Normally this isn’t a big deal, but because we’re going to use this list for something on Monday, this time I will need to delete any links that are not to the specific 7 Quick Takes post. If your link gets deleted because you accidentally entered the main URL of your blog, please re-submit with the link to your 7QT post. If you’re not sure how to do that, this post offers a great explanation. Thanks!


2. Genny @ MyCup2Yours
3. Angie @ Many Little Blessings
4. Theresa @ Off Topic
5. AllHisBenefits
6. Kathy @ The Political Housewyf
7. venite
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  1. Genny

    Being in guest mode all the time can be tiring; enjoy your "introvert time"!

    I'm looking forward to seeing what you have planned for Monday. πŸ™‚

  2. Kelly the Kitchen Kop

    Hi Jen,

    I read every-single-post you write even though I don't always participate in 7 Quick Takes. I always love hearing from someone else who lives a somewhat frazzled life like my own! πŸ™‚


  3. Theresa

    Well, on this special day for quick takes I managed to link back to this Conversion Diary post instead of my own post. Then it looked like it wasn't posted after all so I entered the right URL, but when I reloaded it only showed the wrong URL. I'm not going to risk being listed three times so in the end I will be listed with either only the wrong link, or twice with one right and one wrong. Oh well.

  4. allhisbenefits

    Thanks for hosting, Jen. I have just prayed that you would find His balance between company and personal downtime for the remaining time Rita is with you. Bless you for tackling it! He leads!

  5. Kathy

    I'm with you on #5: English needs a gender neutral pronoun.

    In French, the pronoun for a group of 999 women and one guy is "he (plural)". So, it could be worse.

  6. Angie @ Many Little Blessings

    Totally laughing about your new job. Can you believe that we have never watched Hannah Montana? (Still, my four year old daughter knows exactly who it is. What's up with that?)

    Oh, and yeah, kind of had to laugh about getting her to watch the St. Maria Goretti movie. Not exactly what a 12 year old girl wants to think about, huh? I don't blame you for switching to Hannah Montana. I need to watch that movie though, you know, not being a 12 year old girl.

    Good luck on destressing a bit! I'll offer up a few Hail Marys for you right after I hit submit. πŸ™‚

  7. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jennifer, I realized last year during a writers' retreat that I am in desperate need of alone/decharging time. I was a complete hermit and practically snarled at anyone who tried to borrow some of "my time" from me. Wow! I think that all writers, even if we consider ourselves extroverted in some regards, need quite a bit of down time, and when we're busy mothers, it's hard to come by. Best of luck in the quest!

  8. Anna

    #5… I think I once wrote a blog post (about being pro-life) where, at the end, I argue we should use "se" as the third person singular. Relevant quote:

    What I think would be better is if we had in our language a singular, gender-neutral, human pronoun. Something like "se" (pronounced say). "When the doctor comes, se will set your arm". "I'm going to knit sem a blanket." "When the client gets here, I'll cut ses hair."

    Maybe if all your readers start using this, it will start a trend? πŸ™‚

  9. Erin

    Though there are a lot of English professors out there who will disagree emphatically, linguists delight in the observation that "they" and "them" are becoming our new gender-neutral and sometimes-singular pronouns. Language changes over time as the needs of those who speak it change. By the time we're old and have grandkids, I would bet this use of these pronouns will be disputed by far fewer English grammarians. You're just an "early adopter". πŸ˜€

  10. blissful_e

    I'm with you about using "them" in the singular sense!

  11. Carrien

    Rita may be happy for some quiet time alone as well.

    I'm with you on the gender neutral pronoun. Just can't think of a suitable word.

  12. Sarah Reinhard

    Guilty confession…I've tried to dislike Hannah Montana. I've tried to ban her, avoid her, hate her.

    I. Can't. Do. It.

    Yes, I like her.

    Shhhh, don't tell anyone, OK? (My 4yo will tell them anyway…)

  13. Scarlett

    #5: He IS the accepted pronoun for use in gender neutral situations. Besides, I'd much rather sound like I'm trying to make a statement about proper grammar than sound like I have no grammar.

  14. Jasmine

    "I've been thinking a lot about why I've been having a tough time…"

    Have you been spending quiet time in prayer with God?

    That's ALWAYS the issue with me. When God is by your side, present in every moment, an extrovert can be at peace by himself and an introvert can be at peace while with others all the time.

    I'm not saying you shouldn't take time for yourself to "re-charge," but if prayer's been lacking, remember that, too. πŸ™‚

  15. Chris

    "Maybe we could all just agree to use 'them' in the singular sense and fie on anyone who says we're using it incorrectly. Who's with me?"

    With tongue firmly in cheek, I'll respond that we need a separate movement to arouse anyone with a grammatical bone in his body to properly use "he" in the singular sense and fie on anyone who says he is attempting a political statement by his correct usage. Anyone in favor may pop himself some corn, sit back, and enjoy the theatrics as other folks bend themselves out of shape in response to his simplistic endeavors.

  16. Tami Boesiger

    Very interesting about your introvert time, Jennifer. I hope you figure out how to work it in again.

  17. Mary

    This is my first "Friday" to join you. I feel like I am leaping inot the "big leagues". I hope your able to get some down time soon.

  18. Megan@Blueberry Scones

    About #5: I had a coworker who wanted to use "it" in this situation. I *gasped* when he said this, it was such a terrible idea!

  19. el-e-e

    Don't know what you're planning for Monday but I'm willing to RISK IT.

    πŸ˜‰ Have a good weekend – hope you do get some time to recharge your batteries.

    And I totally agree about the gender-neutral pronoun.

  20. This Heavenly Life

    I agree with you about 'he or she'! It is such a mouthful, where 'they' could be perfectly acceptable in a perfect world! I'll sign your petition πŸ™‚

  21. Elena

    Thanks, Jen.

  22. Melanie B

    You definitely need to take your introvert recharge time. It will make you a better host for Rita if you aren't all stressed and operating in emergency mode. You can't give her the love and attention she needs if you are draining yourself and not recharging. (I'm working on this myself right now adjusting to having my mom here for several weeks and new baby who isn't necessarily napping during my recharge time.) I hope you'll be able to find a way to graciously find Rita something to do while you recharge your batteries.

  23. Jordana

    No alone time and a chance to just be off can be so hard. But I suspect that it could be hard on Rita to have to be "on" all the time too. Maybe she would enjoy some time alone with her thoughts, the tv, a book, etc?

    And for the first time in quite a while, I could actually hold 7 thoughts in my head long enough to write a Quick Takes post of my own.

  24. Dawn Farias

    Yes, I feel that way, too, when I don't get introverted time. And I love touring the caves around here!! Should take the family to Natural Bridge Caverns soon…

    7 QTF: Adventures in Restricted Media
    Thanks for hosting!

  25. 'Becca

    I'd like to have a gender-neutral pronoun. Sometimes in writing I'll just use "h", but I'm not sure how to pronounce that. More often I follow American Psychological Association policy and use "his" for every other example and "her" for the rest.

  26. Maggie

    This was fun this week. Thanks!

  27. Charlotte (Matilda)

    This was fun! Thanks, Jen!

  28. Jen V.

    Hi! I've been reading your blog for about a year or so… but I rarely comment and have never done the quick takes before.

    I love reading your posts. Especially when you talk about how hard it is for an introvert to handle a home with small children. As an introvert myself I definitely can relate to the need for alone time.

    Fortunately, with a newborn, nightime feedings help me to get quiet time, if not alone time.

  29. Nzie (theRosyGardener)

    I finally have my act together and did another one of these. πŸ˜€

    I'm with Scarlett on he/she/they. It's completely illogical to have "they" about one person only (although I do it in speech, I admit!). Pick one or the other- I don't care which, use "she"- or alternate as some authors do– anything's better than poor grammar for a minor issue in the grand scheme of women's equality.

    Your cave quick take reminded me of a story about visiting caves when I was little… I have only been spelunking once myself.. other than that it's been tourist attractions.

  30. Anonymous

    Your TV probably has a SAP button. This is a secondary audio channel and is used quite often to broadcast the audio in Spanish. If the Disney channel is using it then if you hit that button it should overdub everything in Spanish.

  31. Cheryl

    I tend to use they/them for the gender neutral pronouns. He may be the grammatical standard, but they/them is being used with increasing frequency, and grammar IS a living, adapting thing. It'll be interesting to see what ends up in accepted use.

    Good luck getting your introvert time! I recharge the same way (admittedly HARD with a 3 and a 4 year old around!).

    Love the blog – and I did enjoy my first foray into the 7 Quick Takes!

  32. Kristen

    I'm joining all the fun too!

  33. Melissa Stover

    i'm the same way with a guest or when my kids have overnight company. it's hard to just relax in your own home. you feel like you always have to be on duty.

  34. Love2Learn Mom

    Caves and Caverns by Gail Gibbons is a decent picture book on the topic, but we absolutely loved IMAX's Journey into Amazing Caves. I wrote about it here a few years ago.

    Totally understand the introvert thing. Thanks for hosting!

  35. BettySue

    "He" (and other masculine words such as "man") have always been generic words for a human in the
    English language. Only Females are special enough to have words devoted only to them. It was the feminists who began to muddy the waters. If you control the language, you control the people, and intimidating us into not using the correct "he" is their way of controling our language.

  36. Alison

    Newbie just trying to participate! Enjoy the blog from a fellow convert.

  37. Anonymous

    re gender neutral pronoun — a linguist with the Manhattan Institute, Dr. John McWhorter, thinks that they/them/their will eventually become standard usage. It is part of the natural ongoing evolution of all human language. So if you adopted that usage, you would be ahead of your time hee hee.

    re alone time — yah, ya need it. I just hate having houseguests. I hate reading/hearing from people whose idea of Christianity is all houseguest-hospitality-oriented. Makes me feel like a worm. I hate it when people do that. Well, my religion, anyway, is about more than that. God made you and He don't make junk. πŸ™‚

  38. Martina

    Hey girl!

    I linked up your blog to mine and am giving you an award. Come check it out. πŸ™‚

    Hope your weekend rocks!

  39. Jane

    I love Hannah Montanna.

  40. Thomas

    I always love checking in to read your Seven Quick Takes, it's so nice to have an insight into another parents' life because I feel like we all have similar struggles and triumphs through the week. Thanks!

  41. tradertif

    Using "them" in the singular sense sounds great to me! (I do it all the time already!)

  42. TwoSquareMeals

    If it weren't for 7QT I wouldn't be blogging at all this summer!

  43. MaryLouise

    One of my favorite books about caves is a novel- Blind Descent by Nevada Barr. About entering Lechuguilla cavern as a Nat. Park Service Ranger. Barr writes adult books ie. not the best of morals and the author has "God" issues, but then many of us are traveling/searching as Neveda herself will admit. None-the-less, great detail about spelunking and all the issues surrounding being deep in the earth in the dark. Love2learnmom"s suggestion of Gail Gibons book, Caves and Caverns is great for kids.
    Caves! Cool! Isn't God wonderful!?

    PS thanks Karen for the link to the Kartchner caverns book

  44. Suburban Correspondent

    s/he – that's what I do…

  45. Elizabeth@Frabjous Days

    I'm in!

    BTW 'they' is still too annoying and illiterate to use… to this pedant, at least!

  46. Agnes Regina

    Good luck relaxing… what Maria Goretti movie was it?… I knew about her long before I was 12, (although, okay, I didn't know exactly what it was that Alessandro wanted her to do… how graphic is the scene, though? all I can imagine would be a struggle and maybe the knife descending before they fade to black.)

  47. Peony Moss

    1. Introvert time: TAKE IT. Maybe Rita can do some quiet activity like drawing or working on a scrapbook of her experiences. She might like it too.

    2. I'm with those who vote for continuing to use "he" as the personal pronoun.

  48. Tara Sz.

    Hey Jen – great new photo! Is that the one that has the "Dummies" book somewhere? I love that anecdote. πŸ™‚

  49. Dymphna

    I so know what u mean by "introvert time". My dh and I are both that way. I enjoy being around other people, but I really need time to recharge my batteries.

  50. ViolinMama

    Ok, I bit! I posted a link and did my first 7 Quick Takes….

    And as for your last part about being so stressed lately, etc..what is it about so many of us feeling that? I saw Elizabeth was, Kate was, a few others, and oye, me especially. I feel like I keep messing up with others, myself, and my emotions have been off the charts. Maybe it is weaning…maybe it is my first dealing with PMS in over 2 years, but I feel like while I have the faith to deal with something big like a job loss, illness, or God forbid – death in the family….I feel like I don't have enough faith to get through the small stressors and they are about to take me down. Why is that?? It's been the subject of my summer blog entries…and letting myself off the hook and letting myself forgive myself like I always do to others just doesn't see to work. I start needing approval other than from just God…and well…ugh.

    Anyways….your post rang a chord with me. Thanks for sharing even the low times….it helps us all know we do go through the same things…even with God carrying us the whole time….we still feel low sometimes.

    (you know…maybe I need the routine the fall, winter and spring give to keep me in check? I don't know….I just wonder why this summer has so many questioning their stress levels!)
    God Bless! Can't wait for your reveal on Monday!

  51. Joey

    i'm here… my first week!

  52. Pharmgirl

    I agree with you on #5! I am happy to just say "they" and ignore anyone who corrects me!

    Also, I never thought I'd say this but I'm looking forward to Monday! I can't wait to see what you have in store.

  53. This Heavenly Life

    Oh, and I just noticed your new picture on the sidebar – beautiful! I like the scholarly books in the background πŸ™‚

  54. Christian H

    "What are we going to do about the lack of a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun in the English language? Saying "he or she" all the time is way too clunky, but just using "he" or "she" often comes across like you're trying to make some kind of political statement. Is there someone we can petition about this? Maybe we should just riot? Maybe we could all just agree to use "them" in the singular sense and fie on anyone who says we're using it incorrectly. Who's with me?"

    Hahahahaha. As an English nerd, I'm happy that real people are also taking the trouble to deal with this problem.

  55. Fr. Christian Mathis

    ok….very strange. I was also at the San Antonio Zoo yesterday with my brother his wife and my niece. Did we run into one another? We may never know.

    I am back in Tennessee now, but that is freaky.

  56. MemeGRL

    In my personal writing, I always use s/he to save typing. In speech, I'm out of ideas. Thanks for caring about this!

  57. Liz C.

    My older children have been giggling their heads off over the mental pictures of a "Poo Apocalypse."

    As for quiet recharge time–I'm a genetic hermit, so I understand! What about turning Rita loose with some bigger-kid craft materials, and letting her create? There's a great book called Wee Felt Folk that will help her make all sorts of little dolls with just some pipe cleaners, embroidery floss, a few wooden beads for head, some paint or fine markers, and craft felt for clothes.

  58. MemeGRL

    In my personal writing, I always use s/he to save typing. In speech, I'm out of ideas. Thanks for caring about this!

  59. Margie

    Oh my goodness, I'm not Catholic and knew about Maria Goretti (thanks solely to Kathleen Norris' The Cloister Walk). I nearly fell out of my chair. Sure! Hannah Montana is great!

  60. Sara

    As a soon-to-be-nun, I've had no experience with diaper escape artists, but I've watched many friends match wits and wills with a sneaky baby. It seems you have to put duct tape all the way around the waste band of the diaper, not just on the flaps. One unfortunate friend was forced to duct tape the onesie – a strip between the legs secured by another strip around the waist; it sort of looked like a baby chastity belt πŸ™‚

  61. reprehriestless warillever

    That lack of down-time is getting me down as well. That 15 minutes makes such a difference, and now that one of the toddlers refuses to take a nap (jumps out of crib/bed, screams, throws toys) I am wearing down at the edges.

  62. Linda

    I've always thought caves were particularly creepy. I would never go spelunking.

  63. Rebecca

    #7: I can SO relate to that. I have a particularly hard time staying as a guest at other people's houses because I feel rude if I am not interacting with them. You probably should make it a priority to find a safe time for yourself, too. (You never know, Rita herself might need it and just not be expressing it.)

  64. Mahsheed

    This part "About thirty minutes into the movie I learned that I should do a little research to make sure I know about a saint's life before encouraging children to watch movies about them." made me laugh. Unless it's the Disney version, I'm sure!

  65. lana

    #7. I look forward to your insights on this in the coming weeks. I have fallen flat on my face in this department over the last 10 days and it has been, um…not pretty.

  66. Laura

    #5…. As a native Spanish speaking person, I get the frustration…. what I do is use the "they"… and most people I know do too to avoid misunderstandings… most people won't say we are using it wrong… so go with it!

  67. Diane

    I'm a first-time participant in Quick Takes also. What fun. Jen your post was great, poor Bob! I think it would be fun to write about all of our most embarrassing moments.

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