7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 199)

December 7, 2012 | 40 comments

— 1 —

Advent is the liturgical season that most often leaves me with a sense of failure. There are so many cool things we could be doing to prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ, and I usually end up actually doing almost none of them. Unlike Lent or Easter, there are a ton of practical concerns that get in the way this time of year: Christmas pageants, holiday parties, shopping for gifts, etc., and it makes it hard to carve out time for what really matters.

This year, I was so blessed to receive my packet of Advent reflections from Labora Editions. Dan Lord, Simcha Fisher, Brandon Vogt, and Dorian Speed each wrote powerful, moving pieces, but one paragraph in particular has stuck with me over these past few days. When reflecting on how pregnancy and birth are often not the perfect experiences we might idealize it to be, Simcha (who is a mother of nine) writes:

And the big [birth] day itself? I don’t care who you are: no matter how holy or fit or hypnotized or drugged out you are, giving birth is horrible. Yes, it’s worth it. Yes, you choose it, and you want it to happen, and you’d do it again. But it hurts. It’s bloody. It’s messy, and exhausting, and sometimes you almost die. Just like the last week of Advent!

I’ve heard Advent/pregnancy analogies before, but this one really hit me. Maybe because I’m experiencing a non-perfect pregnancy that I am nevertheless happy about, it made me relax and accept imperfect Advents as a natural part of a full life.

— 2 —

For Advent inspiration, I’ve been hanging on basically every post by Jessica at A Shower of Roses. I just love it that women who have those kinds of staggering domestic gifts give the rest of us a glimpse into their lives. I just love having these beautiful posts to live vicariously through creative and gifted women like her. Who knows, maybe I’ll even give some of these ideas a shot one of these days (which would, if nothing else, give me plenty of material for a new Advent Fails blog).

— 3 —

See, here’s my problem: I have no attention to detail about my physical surroundings. Those of us who aspire to be brains in jars are only vaguely aware of where we are in time and space to begin with, and so those little decorating flourishes that make houses so wonderfully homey do not come naturally to us. For example: I realized the other day that there is some random scrap of paper taped to our living room wall. And it’s been there for months. Presumably a kid stood on the buffet to put it up there? No idea.

The kids have also taped up some papers in the entry hall, although at least these kind of count as “art”:

On the plus side, I don’t think I need to worry about Better Homes and Gardens harassing me about a photo shoot any time soon.

— 4 —

A friend alerts me that the new trend among homeschoolers is to hire tutors so that busy parents can outsource some of the grunt work. These aren’t necessarily experts in the subject (at least not for elementary school kids); rather, they function more as teacher’s assistants who answer questions and help young children stay on task. This was a bad can of worms for me to open, because it got me thinking about the resources I could use to make homeschooling run a little more smoothly around here. My list ended up looking something like this:

  • Tutor
  • Babysitter for baby
  • Second tutor
  • Masseuse
  • Sommelier
  • Grape peeler
  • Security guard (to stand outside my bedroom door while I take a nap)

This is just a start, obviously. I haven’t even gotten to the tour guide to arrange engaging field trips and the chauffeur to take them there.

— 5 —

Could it be possible that my eight-year-old son only needs seven to eight hours of sleep per night? A bit of background: This is the child who demonstrated a profound ability to go without sleep from day one (I recall asking the midwife, “Do two-day-old babies normally have six-hour stretches of ‘quiet alert’ time?”) He had an instinctive hatred of the entire concept of sleep, his babyhood naptime and bedtime routines requiring me to snake-charm him for about 45 minutes to get him to doze off, whereupon he’d wake up every two hours for the rest of the night. These days, he’s at his most alert at about 11:00 at night. He can go to sleep at 1:00 AM, wake up at 8:00 AM, and show no signs of tiredness the next day. He doesn’t fall asleep in the car, doze off during quiet time, or any other behavior that would be symptomatic of being sleep deprived. When I make him have lights-out time for longer stretches, he just lies awake and gets frustrated that he can’t sleep.

It would give me a certain amount of peace to just accept that this is the way he’s wired, and stop fighting bedtime battles that don’t need to be fought. I’m just mildly daunted by the idea of having a young child who needs less sleep than I do.

— 6 —

I’m getting excited about watching the show next week! Bookmark netny.net/watch-now if you’d like to watch it live online. It’ll air on Thursday at 8 PM Eastern / 7 PM Central. (Here’s a time zone converter to figure out when that will be for you.) Should be fun to see how it all turns out!

— 7 —

I didn’t get the job done for any kind of celebration for the feast of St. Nicholas. But I did come across this meme and laugh and laugh and laugh.

(If you’re not familiar with how jolly ol’ St. Nick dealt with people who spoke falsehoods about Jesus Christ, that story here.)



  1. SWP

    Testosterhome posted a similar note of exasperation about how busy busy busy she is and can’t get into Advent. I don’t understand- four candles- how hard is that? Pray before bedtime.

  2. Rebecca Fletcher

    I literally can NOT stop laughing at that picture of St. Nick. It’s just the funniest thing I’ve seen all week!

  3. Mike

    Regarding #4, I guess what you are really saying is that you require a full household staff. I approve of this. More people should employ full staffs. 😉

    And with #7, you and I posted the exact same meme for that item! I promise, I didn’t peek at your list before I wrote mine up; totally coincidental. LOL such is the power of the Interwebz!

    • Martha@romancingreilly

      I agree. If we employed more full, household staffs, we’d majorly help lower our unemployment rates!

  4. Katie@NFP and Me

    Our #7s are the same. That is my favorite St. Nicholas meme yet! Great minds! 🙂

    Advent is always hard for me to get into as well. There is so much other stuff going on (finals, parties, shopping for gifts) that I get too distracted. Praying for your Advent and your pregnancy.

  5. Sara H

    Well, I can’t give any medical evidence by my no.1 daughter sounds a bit like your son. She did sleep through the night and take fairly regular naps (once we just let her sleep on her stomach…I know, I know). However, by age 1 ish she was down to 1 nap and by age 3, when she started preschool, she was done with naps altogether. She lies awake at night for a bit before being able to sleep and really seems ok most of the time. Long term lack of sleep does build up to make her cranky, but she is 11 so that may be related to other issues of females at her age. I think some people are just wired a certain way…my no. 2 is the exact opposite with the same bed schedule so there must be something.

  6. Andrea

    My son doesn’t seem to need more than 8 hours of sleep…and he is 4. He was a newborn that would stay awake for 6-8 hours. My mother says I was the same as a child. I know I require much less sleep than my husband.

  7. Mary @ St Henry II

    Don’t have kids, but my DH has been like your son his entire life. How he manages to function, I’ll never understand, but he does! I guess some people are just born needing less sleep. 🙂

  8. Colleen Martin

    I think your son is fine as long as he is growing (physically, academically, socially) and it’s not affecting anything. But I am thankful that we have some wonderful sleepers in our house because I go to bed at 9:30!!!

    And that picture of St. Nick is the best thing I’ve seen all week!!!

  9. Deanna

    #3 is helpful to me who lives with people who have that trait. But what really cracks me up is that my husband (with trait) gets annoyed with our (adult) daughter (with trait) when she doesn’t see things which he sees that need to be taken care of in the house.

  10. Stephanie @CaptiveTheHeart

    You’re right; there’s so much pressure to do Advent-y or Christmassy things right now, and though I intend to do them with a spirit of preparation and meditation, more often than not they can become stressful–I know how you feel! This year, for the first time, I’ve been lucky/prepared enough to get most of my shopping done already, which has been leaving me with more time to spiritually focus, and I’m trying this thing where I designate just part of the day on weekends to do all of the necessary things. Instead of feeling like a chore, I look forward to them. Last weekend, my husband and decorated and put up our tree, tomorrow we’re baking cookies, and next Saturday I plan to wrap presents. Hopefully my motivation continues!

  11. Mary

    I have a boy like that, too, although yours sounds like he needs less sleep than mine. I don’t know that my son needs less sleep or if it’s just that he just has a very hard time turning off his brain. He will get overly emotional and weepy if I know he hasn’t had enough sleep. But no matter how little sleep he has, he cannot nap. Ever. I wish I was one of those people who didn’t need to sleep much!

    And on Advent…I totally get it but want to encourage you to say no and cut out some of the stuff that has you overwhelmed. It has made a huge difference for us!

  12. Bonnie

    Jen – James wakes up any time after 4:30am, though usually between 5-5:30, no matter how we change his bedtime or napping. He sits downstairs, by himself, watching a train movie while the rest of us sleep. Every day.

    Also, I don’t know if you’ve been following the Advent series at my blog, but Nancy Piccione had a wonderful post about choosing what to do for Advent. I encourage you – and anyone who finds themselves stressed out or overwhelmed by Advent and Christmas traditions to read it.

    • nancyo

      I have been LOVING your Advent series, Bonnie!

      • Bonnie

        Thanks, Nancy! So have I!

    • Lisa Schmidt

      Bonnie’s Advent series at her place, A Knotted Life, is really churning out some golden guest blogposts. The powerful messages shared by extraordinarily ordinary women have resonated deeply. Do check it out.

  13. Michelle

    I think that is very interesting about your boy. I suppose that adults that are wired that way, probably started out as kids that are wired that way.

    I am not crafty either. and I just got done cleaning my #2 and #3 kids’ room where I removed all sorts of things that had been stuck on the wall, LOL. It looks so much better now, but in six months, I am sure I’ll be doing the same thing all over again. Oh. Wait. I hope not since I’ll be 9 months pregnant with #6, LOL!!

    Enjoyed your quick takes today. Thank you for hosting!

  14. Jess G.

    Totally agree about Shower of Roses – what a resource! I have no idea how Jessica juggles it all so beautifully. I wish I had those domestic gifts! Her Catholic Cuisine blog is just amazing as well.

  15. Connie Rossini

    I have a non-sleeper as well. My first(!) son would only nap lying on the nursing pillow after eating, for about 20 minutes. If you touched him, he’d wake up. This was from day 1. So, I never got anything done. But I did a bit of reading without feeling guilty!

    Faith-based education, Carmelite spirituality

  16. 'Becca

    The best advice for Advent I have ever heard is to pray whenever you are waiting. No matter how busy you are, you will have times when you have to wait–and the busier you are, the more likely you are to become impatient and have sinful thoughts about the people delaying things and behave less than charitably with them. Prayer can help you fight the stress.

    I rarely slept more than 6 hours a night from my earliest memory until I was 18 and got mono. Please, please accept that your son knows what his body needs, and simply set some rules about what he is allowed to do during night hours when he is awake. My parents did not allow me to have a light on after 9pm until I was in high school, and as a result I spent 2-3 hours every night fighting my imaginings of what I saw in the shadows, worrying about stuff, and generally wasting time in ways that increased my overall anxiety. It sucked.

    Regarding #4, I think my son’s public school is an incredible bargain for the money!

  17. princessmorag.blogspot.com/

    My kids dropped naps at 2 years old – I’m still slightly bitter about this. And I swear I could sleep more hours than they do every night if it weren’t for wanting to spend some time with my husband.
    I don’t know that I WANT to be a brain in a jar, but I do often feel quite disembodied and glad to know it’s not just me!
    I hope you have a treat for every stupid lovenox injection you have to do – you deserve it – sticking needles in yourself everyday SUCKS, an imperfect pregnancy it definitely makes (how are the bruises?)
    Can I LOVE that you pictorially confessed to your clutter, again making me feel so much better about my own, although I AM going to do something about it…I am (maybe…eventually)

    • Christie Martin

      My kids did that same thing–no naps past two. Period, end of bliss. I have a friend who’d managed family naps up until her oldest was almost seven. The penance I need to do for the envy would be considerable if I hadn’t managed to grow in holiness from all the sleeplessness I’ve endured through the years. Well, theoretically, anyway. I’ve always been too groggy to remember to offer all that suffering up on a regular basis.

  18. Katrina Rose

    Besides our wreath, I have not been good at all in terms of observing Advent. And our Christmas cards stay up for months, too…way too many months

  19. The Boring Blogger

    We stopped homeschooling and started one of our kids in school and I keep wondering what the cost of a tutor would look like!

    Also, I love your Christmas decorations. We have bows on our broom and random construction paper art nailed into our walls. I tried to explain to the kids that tape is a great alternative to a nail and hammer hanging. Also far less damaging. Sigh.

  20. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    I love some good Advent reflection recommendations! Thanks!

    Also, I told my friends I couldn’t do girls night on Thursday and we’d have to move it to Tuesday. Your show is on, and I can’t miss it. Duh.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Wow, thanks! That’s awesome! 🙂

      • nancyo

        We moved our Catholic couples book group meeting to Wednesday so it wouldn’t interfere with watching your show. Can’t wait!

  21. Karen LH

    Will your show be available online at a different time? It airs right on top of choir practice. The choir director is starting to look a little manic just now, so skipping practice probably isn’t an option.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Unfortunately I don’t think it’ll be archived online. 🙁 But I’m pretty sure there will be a few reruns. I’ll update with those times when I know.

      • Cléo

        Yes, the video link even works on my Belgian internet! I hope to catch the show late thursday night then.

  22. Adrian G

    Thanks Jen, this is great. I especially like your self-deprecating house description and helper list. You’re a great inspiration of late- all the very best with the pregnancy.

  23. Gillian

    Wow, you weren’t kidding about the domestic prowess in #2!

  24. Shannon

    Re: #1 and the birth quote: this is the reason I love Zefferelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth.” No Mary kneeling piously by the manger. She’s sound asleep in the straw.

  25. Alex

    On #5. My Mom got all of her kids clip on lights, and we went to bed at 7, but were allowed to read as late as we wanted. This started out as 5 minutes, and by the time we were in sixth grade it often lasted hours!

  26. Trisha Niermeyer Potter

    As always, thanks for a great many laughs! It is hard to keep up with all of the traditional things going on this time of year and make time for what’s most important: preparing our hearts for Christ. Somehow, someway, I think it all works out if we are at least trying to put God at the center of our celebrations and spend what time we can with those we love.

    You’re photos with captions made me think of a sign I couldn’t help but enjoy: “Martha Stewart doesn’t live here.” My sign would have to be something more along the lines of Martha Stewart wouldn’t even enter here…but Christ is welcome anytime!

  27. Leila

    I absolutely LOVE the unopened boxes on the floor due to no room to store them! Again… soul sister.

  28. MelanieB

    The random drawings and scraps of paper taped to the walls (and windows and doors) yeah we have those. And, like you, I don’t even notice them. Also the pile of unopened boxes. This year, though, I’m vowing to do some wrapping BEFORE Dec 24. I’m a little nervous that this baby might decide to come two weeks early and there will be no Christmas.

    I’m not sure we’re going to be able to watch the show live at 8pm Eastern time since that’s the time we’re usually saying prayers and reading bedtime stories. Unless we just let the kids stay up late to watch Miss Jen’s show. Will it be available online to watch later? If not, then maybe we’ll go for letting the kids watch, though I’m afraid of how little I might actually catch with the four of them delivering constant running commentary and probably at least one kid screaming about how they just want to go to bed.

  29. Lisa V.

    I usually laugh and laugh and laugh when any kiind of tv show or online event began at 8:00pm since that is in the midst of eating or bathing my kids or otherwise being consumed with my kids but I’m actually going to do whatever is in my power to check out your show this week. Yes go ahead, be honored. Smile.

  30. Antonina

    I watched the first two episode of your show so I came to your website. And I am saddened to see that you have to be hospitalized. I will pray for you.

    Reading this entry however I would like to add my two cents. I was a kid that never slept. My mom gave up trying to put me to sleep at about age 8 and simply went to be before me. On school days I could function normally on 5 hours of sleep. It was just normal.

    However, when I became an adult I realized that it was not normal. I slept so little because I had terrible night mares and was very afraid to sleep. This was linked to emotional trauma. As I become more emotionally healthy I started sleeping longer.

    Now I can still function for about 3 days without any sleep. Which is helpful in my line of work. However, I can also sleep for 20 hours at a time. So I think people are wired differently – but I do wish my parents would try to figure out why I slept so little.

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