7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 156)

December 16, 2011 | 35 comments

— 1 —

We finally got the tree decorated. Which is good. Because it really needed to happen. For a couple of weeks it looked like this:

What happened there was that Yaya kindly bought us a Christmas tree this year, a little before I was ready to decorate it. (Translation: She was so appalled that we didn’t get around to buying a tree last year that she took matters into her own hands this time. One day in late November I heard a some banging noises and squealing tires outside. I opened the front door to glimpse Yaya’s car speeding around the corner, and looked down to see a large Douglas Fir at my feet.)

Anyway, in between the time when we had the tree and when we were actually ready to decorate the tree, I just started throwing things in its general direction as I walked by. So when the kids talked me into getting this fancy garland at the grocery store, and I had no idea where to store it since all our places where we can put things so that they won’t be destroyed by little hands are already taken, I just threw it in the general direction of the tree and forgot about it. (And, sadly, it was kind of an improvement over The Great Can’t-Deal Christmas of 2010.)

If I keep playing my cards right, I just might be up for a spread in House Horrible magazine one of these days.

— 2 —

I realize that a lot of Catholic families don’t have a tree quite this early. They make sure that Advent is…Advent-ish (I am obviously tired while writing this), so that the Christmas season can be completely…Christmas-like (or maybe I just don’t have a brain anymore). Anyway, you know what I mean: the season of Advent is about preparing for the Lord, and the season of Christmas is about celebrating his coming. I love this. But we are just not able to go there yet.

Our families have been shockingly supportive of all the upheaval that’s taken place since my husband and I became Catholic. They are baffled but understanding about my husband’s choice to get on a career path that means less money but more time with family. They nod uncomfortably when they offer to serve us something that we’ve given up for Lent. They try not to think about the fact that we don’t use contraception. Heck, Yaya even goes to church with us! But there are some lines you can’t cross, and I think that if we tried to change the family Christmas traditions, we’d have big problems.

In our families, you start celebrating Christmas the day after Thanksgiving and have a tree no later than the first weekend of December. Any deviation from this is taken as a clear indicator that you are a joyless person who cares neither about the season nor about living any kind of quality life. And so, we have stuck with the traditional American Christmas schedule. Submitting to the authority of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ is one thing; not playing Jingle Bells until December 25 is another thing entirely.

— 3 —

All that talk in #1 about throwing things into trees that you don’t know what to do with reminded me of a story I’ve never shared, for reasons you will understand shortly:

A few years ago I had a new friend come over to the house. She is an actual classy person who has a lovely home that is always inviting to visitors, and I was hoping that we’d become friends, so before she and her kids arrived I just about worked myself to death to fix up the house to give a completely inaccurate impression of what kind of people live here. At one point she was sipping on the cup of tea I’d brewed for her, and she took a moment to gaze out the porch door and compliment our bird feeder. I stood next to her, talking about how the kids helped set up the feeder, when a horrible sight caught my eye: Out in the back yard there was a pair of horribly soiled children’s underwear, which we’d thrown out there desperately the day before while dealing with the kind of potty accident that just about called for a hazmat suit. I’d planned to do something about the underwear languishing in the middle of my back yard at some point, but, hey, you can’t remember everything.

Unfortunately my friend saw the atrocity at the same time I did, and I ran out to deal with it before she had a chance to flee. Gingerly picking up the now-retired pair of underwear with a stick, I walked it over to the side of the house, then promptly returned. As we sipped our tea back in the kitchen, I went out of my way to dissociate myself with the decision to have something like that in our back yard in the first place.

“My husband put them out there, ” I explained with a casual laugh, glossing over the part about me shrieking JUST THROW THEM OUT THERE!!! beforehand. “Aren’t men so funny?” I said with a wink. “Dirty underwear in the yard. Imagine!”

And then she asked a question that caught me completely off guard: “So what did you do with them?”

There was no way to spin this. The truth was that as soon as I’d had the muddy-looking item on the end of that stick, I’d done what I always do in these situations: I got completely overwhelmed and threw my hands up in despair, defaulting to whatever course of action would involve the least amount of effort for me. So, as I explained to my friend, who would now have a much better impression of the type of person she was dealing with here: “I, uhh, threw them in the bushes on the side of the house.”

— 4 —

We had the kids’ pictures taken with Santa the other day (“we” meaning “my mom, dad, and Yaya wrangled five kids under the age of eight to the mall while I stayed home and relaxed” — just keeping it real here, folks). After the pictures were finished, my dad noticed that this particular Santa must have been from the western part of the North Pole:

— 5 —

Speaking of Texas stories, last weekend my husband and I went out to dinner with some friends who have an 11, 000 acre ranch (that’s about 44.5 sq. km.) way out in the western part of the state. We had a lot of interesting conversations with them about what it’s like to live on that amount of land. Then we went to the next party, hosted by another friend who is also from west Texas, and told her about our other friends’ amazing ranch. She seemed kind of amused by this quaint little plot of land, which was surprising…until we remembered that she’s part of the King Ranch family. Her ranch is about 825, 000 acres (about 3, 300 sq. km.) — or, about the size of Rhode Island. I’m pretty sure that that kind of exchange would only happen in Texas, or perhaps the outer regions of Mongolia.

— 6 —

I have good news for you, internet: Now that my husband is done with his JD, MBA, and CPA certifications, he has turned all his intelligence and analytical ability to crafting the perfect winter drink. After a couple of weeks of experimentation on a basic rum cream, I do believe that he has achieved this lofty goal. So, as a special gift from me to you, I present you with our super secret recipe:

1 cup of ice
4 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup half & half (or heavy cream)
2 Tbsp chocolate syrup
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp coconut cream
2 Tbsp cherry juice from a jar of marischino cherries
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 to 3 shots dark rum (light rum is an acceptable alternative)
1/2 shot coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua)

Merry Christmas from the Fulwilers!

— 7 —

As you make your Christmas plans, don’t forget about people you know who have lost someone special through death or divorce this year. I’ve often heard people who’ve experienced loss, especially if it happened early in the year, talk about feeling especially sorrowful on their first Christmas without their loved ones. They experience an initial outpouring of support at the time of the loss, but then feel alone by the time the holiday season rolls around. So if you know folks who have been through something difficult this year, consider taking their contact with you on Christmas, and give them a call to let them know you care.

UPDATE: Robin has a powerful post about those who mourn in the Christmas season. She writes: “If you have a friend who is longing for someone else this Advent, especially someone who died in the last year or two, sit down this week-end and write a note, or send an email. It might be the most important thing you do this month.” Read the third comment too.



  1. jen

    Re: #5: the conversation could also theoretically take place in Montana.

  2. Erin

    No 5. Or in the Outback of Australia where they also talk about Cattle Stations being so many square kilometres. The biggest cattle station in Australia is 34,000 km2. People live so remotely from their neighbours and their nearest town, which is not often big anyway, that Outback kids attend school via School of the Air. Mixture of correspondence lessons and radio lessons (although now days via a telephone network system). Can you tell we’ve just returned from a trip to the Outback?

    No3. Jen you constantly make me laugh.

  3. George @ Convert Journal

    #6 reminds me of a neighbor’s recent eggnog party. I don’t usually drink the stuff but tried it this year. Good, but more “spirits” than I had thought.

    My entry this week… The chain reaction of love. Planned Parenthood benefits when Kathleen Sebelius’ AG shreds key documents supporting 107 criminal charges. What happened to one 9.9 ounce blob of tissue. Paralyzed at 13 by an accident, cured by another 13 years later. One genuine Catholic college. A sane analysis of the Occupy Wall Street thing. One candidate addresses the war on religion.

  4. Michael

    re #4 Well, Santa herds reindeer of course.

  5. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    I’m hoping that rum cream recipe is supposed to be for more than one person, or I’m gonna be tossing dirty underwear off to the side of the house with a stick (or maybe into the Christmas tree, since there’s no room anywhere else).

  6. Theresa in Alberta

    Dear Yaya…..
    why don’t ya go all the way and join RCIA !!!!

  7. sara m

    My husband is in the bar and restaurant business. If we steal your drink, we’ll have to come up with an appropriate name – maybe The Scorpion.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I love that! Just plan on calling it that. 🙂

  8. nancyo

    You’re right on schedule; the Vatican tree is being lit today!

  9. Judy

    Well Jennifer…you’ve finally done it.
    You have made me laugh harder than I did at the “Banana Costume” video AND the “Ya-ya VS the bees’ nest” post, combined!
    I am going to WAKE my daughter, 16, up now…just to come and read these Quick Takes…for she is a “major” Jennifer Fulwiler~ The Great Humorist fan and THIS WILL MAKE HER DAY.
    Thanks to your hubby for the great drink 😉
    And, btw…as my own friend exited my home yesterday, she paused on the front steps to say, “Um…there seems to be a pair of WELL-worn socks on the steps here….not sure who they belong to but….”
    We giggled and I promptly asserted, “Well…at least it wasn’t underwear….right?”
    We giggled again.

  10. Michelle

    Hilarious story about the soiled underwear! Isn’t it funny how our pride takes a forefront and our humility sneaks out the back door when we want to make a new friend or impress someone? You are awesome.

  11. Rebecca

    #7 is a good reminder -thank-you.

    And that drink is so going to be our contribution to Christmas Eve dinner at my Mom’s house!

  12. Trisha Niermeyer Potter @ Prints of Grace

    I think your tree decorations are great, and that Yaya’s delivery of a Christmas tree was hilarious! Soiled undies in the backyard sound like something that would be on the Simpsons’ Christmas special when Martha Stewart paid them a visit. It’s amazing how much humility children and hazmat clean-up bring us. We try to pull off the notion that we are charming and refined, but we can’t hide all of the evidence to the contrary. “Pay no attention to the poopy panties flailed into the backyard, but watch out for the kid behind the curtain.”
    Thanks for sharing more laughter! Praying that you’re writing project goes smashingly well!

  13. Steph @ Moving to MD

    Always cracking me up Jen. Love the Christmas tree before shot.

    And even though I’m not a huge fan of cocktails, that dessert/drink sounds pretty tasty. You would have had my husband at condensed milk.

  14. Laura

    God keeps us humble in so many ways, doesn’t he? As for Christmas traditions, a number of years ago we all agreed here that we wanted to wait to decorate the tree and house until the weekend before Christmas. We’re good with that; the problem is getting the younger kids to realize that the other people who still decorate early aren’t sinning!
    God Bless.

  15. Leanne

    I have a possible idea for your Christmas tradition problem: turn your Christmas tree into an Advent Calendar! You can add decorative baubles to your heart’s content around the calendar ornaments (boxes maybe?). Then Christmas eve you can put up your favorite Christmas ornaments. (I have to confess I love your garland tossed on the tree 🙂 )

    Having the Christmas tree after Easter doesn’t bother me (although I’m not Catholic, but Episcopalian and I didn’t think we were that different, especially as my Catholic in-laws have the tree up in early December) — it’s another sign of the waiting of Advent, really (which as a kid admittedly translated into the “waiting for presents”) but then I am also in the choir and we’re singing Christmas tunes in October, so…

  16. Tales from the Monastery

    Thank you for the morning laugh! And thanks for hosting the quick takes.

  17. Dennis Alcover

    #5 reminded me of my favorite line from Bonanza, when Hoss was bringing a young lady (no doubt doomed to die soon, since being associated with Cartwright men was a sure way to shorten a woman’s life-span). She asked when they would get to the Ponderosa, and he told her they had crossed onto the Ponderosa a couple of days before, and that they should get to the house in a few more days. Not Texas, but only in America!

  18. Dwija {House Unseen}

    Oh my lordy, lordy, lordy. I laughed so hard at the dirty underwear outside that I can barely remember any of your other takes. Not that they weren’t great- it’s just….well, (sadly) poop trumps everything in dweejland.

  19. Karianna@Caffeinated Catholic Mama

    Your description of Yaya dropping off the tree had me rollin’! DH and girls picked up the tree last weekend and decorated while I was in MO, but to be honest, I loved the timing. His is a right-after-Thanksgiving family as well, and I think he was kind of taken aback with my desire to wait a bit. Gaudate Sunday is a good compromise. 🙂

    I LOVE #7!! I am going to sit down and write a personal note to a friend today.

  20. JC

    My wife and I have been trying a new approach to Christmas trees this year. We got our tree during the Thanskgiving weekend, and then are adding one new layer of decorations to it each week during advent. She made some decorations based on “People Look East” and we’re adding them one “verse” at a time. It’s an experiment in tree decorating, I’ll say that much, but it’s been kind of fun (and give an Advent feel to it). Not sure if we’ll always be so on top of things in future years, though. 🙂

  21. Ashley

    I kid you not – we have that same garland. Or we had it, until my kids tore it apart and it had to be thrown away. Our tree does have lights but we are also ornament free. I’ll be in House Horrible on the page adjacent yours!

  22. Kim Priaulx

    Great drink recipe! A bit sweet…but it’s tasty! Thanks!

  23. Melanie

    Funny! We have a friend who owns a business providing etiquette training for personal and corporate clients. I am a wreck whenever we get together.

  24. Ashley

    I’ve wondered what your parents and Yaya think of your conversion….

    The second season of Downtown Abbey is on. If I remember correctly you’re a fan of Downton Abbey too. I was pretty thrilled to find out, I thought we were going to have to wait until January.

  25. Bridget

    #3 reminds me of our first play-date with (now dear) friends from our home school community:
    We were the only 2 families to attend the “medical waste facility” tour and we stayed until the smell almost killed us, then headed to our house for a prearranged lunch and play date.
    I offered them fresh from Costco apple-chicken sausages, pasta and grapes, only to learn that they were on a super-strict Feingold Diet, even grapes were off limits due to the high salicylates! Thankfully, she had packed her kids’ lunches!

  26. Jacqueline

    Hi Jen,

    I’m a long-time lurker and ‘fan’, and it takes a cattle station (what we call ranches) to make me comment! Just for interest, the largest cattle station in the world is in my state South Australia – 6,000,000 acres.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  27. TRS

    We’ll all just call the drink the Fulwiler!!

    Aptly so.

  28. Anon post for the prayer request

    My husband mourns at Christmas. It makes celebrating the holidays as a family almost impossible. Every year of our married life it has gotten worse.

    Please pray for him.

  29. Shirley

    Loved the underwear story! Sounds like something we would do! Also, I was born in Kingsville, TX (where the King Ranch is), and my grandfather built a lot of the buildings on the ranch! Crazy, small worls:)

  30. Amanda

    Oh my goodness, you had me seriously unable to breathe from laughter at that underwear study, haha!

    Btw, my husband wants to know how this drink is made, is it stirred, shaken, what? We’ll be writing it down in our Christmas recipe book as The Scorpion per the above poster’s suggestion 🙂

  31. diane

    Black Friday is like “Amateur Night” which is also called New Year’s Eve. Traffic will be horendous, peope will revert to the law of the jungle in order to get some silly ass doll or be one of the first fifty people to get a flat screen for 50% off. Shopping on Black Fridays remind me of the movie Braveheart when two forces collide in the middle and all hell breaks loose. I’ll sit here and watch the world go by for a day or so. Besides, we’ve had our shopping done for months.

  32. Barbara

    Holy cow, I love the Advent-ish and Christmas-like commentary regarding your tree. We are lucky we got our Advent wreath lit at least once each week of Advent. We were so excited that we actually wove the thread of “spreading the light of Christ” theme and “preparing our hearts to receive Him” into dinner conversations. Our tree is up and is going out on December 27th. No guilt over that because, WE DID THE ADVENT THING THIS YEAR! WE WIN!

Connect With Me On Social Media or Explore My Site



The "THIS IS JEN" podcast is on Facebook & all podcast apps


- Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play (audio)

- Get weekly bonus episodes on Patreon

- Sign up for my email list to be the first
to know about new tour dates