7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 230)

August 30, 2013 | 30 comments

— 1 —

I have been working like a crazywoman this week, and my time has been spent on two things: 1) creating household systems with such detail and complexity that they give me 100% certainty that every day will run like a well-oiled machine from now until New Year’s, and 2) fixing my never-ending RSS feed issues. I’ll discuss the RSS issue in #3 (sorry, you’ll have to wait to read about this scintillating topic), but first let’s talk about the systems:

— 2 —

So it turns out that I have a hyper-organized side. Friends who have been to my house just double-checked the URL in their browser and said to themselves, “Wait, I thought I was on Jen Fulwiler’s site.” I admit that upon walking into my place of dwelling, one’s immediate reaction would probably not be to look at the kids’ pictures haphazardly taped over smudged handprints on the walls and exclaim, “She’s so organized!”

I am terrible at decision making (which means that my house tends to get cluttered, since I can never decide what to throw out until I devote hours and hours of time to the intensive thinking that this requires), and my attention to detail is at simian levels (hence me not even noticing when the kids tape stuff to the walls). However, I’ve realized that I actually LOVE creating systems for recurring tasks like meal planning, cleanup, activity prep, etc., and I have a fairly high success rate of finding ones that work. For example, I’ve been using the same meal planning system for seven years now, and dinner is rarely a source of stress, even though I have no inherent culinary talents.

Five file folders, one thick binder, and fifteen printed charts and checklists later, I feel like I have all sorts of great systems in place to keep this family of eight on track for the Fall. I am perhaps just slightly overconfident, since this plan looks so good on paper that I’m convinced it will solve all our problems for the entire semester. I’ll let you know how it goes.

— 3 —

If you have tried to subscribe to my RSS feed in recent weeks, you may have noticed that you can’t. It’s that same brain-melting issue where a single white space is causing the entire problem, and if I could just carefully look at tens of thousands of lines of code across hundreds of files, we’d be all good.

Yesterday I was trying to fix it but couldn’t even replicate it on the staging server, which is supposed to be an identical copy of the live site, and I decided that if I avoid throwing my laptop out the window by the end of this that I should be canonized. Look for this in the 2113 edition of The Lives of the Saints:

St. Jennifer was beleaguered by painful feed issues for years. Just when it would seem to be fixed, the problems would arise again, only to be more complicated and difficult to repair. Whereas many other bloggers would have given in to the temptation to have a long and public meltdown, St. Jennifer merely complained about it on her blog every other day, and used only the mildest four-letter words when discussing her plight with friends. The technical support people at her host reported that her eyes were always set on Heaven when this issue came up, as she would often report the latest feed breakage made her “want to die.”

— 4 —

A bit more information about this tweet from yesterday:


You see, my girls pronounce little and litter as “litt-oh.” Earlier in the day, I got in a protracted conversation with my four-year-old about what snack she could have, and I eventually told her to get a granola bar from the large box or one of the other snacks in the smaller box. I forgot all about it in the half hour that I spent trying to get the fussy baby to calm down, so when she walked up to me and announced that she just ate something from the “litt-oh box, ” I almost passed out.

— 5 —

Have you ever fantasized about becoming a world-class spammer, or is that just me? (It’s just me, isn’t it?)

I mean, it’s not exactly that it’s my heart’s deepest desire to clog people’s inboxes with garbage emails, but the perfectionist in me gets tired of seeing this done poorly. I got one such email the other day — it was so close to doing it right: It claimed to be from a major bank, and the logo was flawless. The reply-to email seemed legit. The subject was “Urgent problem with your account, ” which was plausible. But then the body said, “Dear Gentlemens: you must click here for page of the information for the moneys.” Upon Googling it I found that if people clicked on the link, it would take them to a malware site that would download spyware onto their computer. But of course nobody would since that shoddy text was a tipoff of the malevolent nature of the email.

Obviously I need to confess the sin of pride more often, because my immediate reaction was to think that it would have been so much more effective if they’d put me in charge. With a few tweaks to the design and some basic editing of the body copy, I could increase their spyware downloads by 80%!

(Yes, I have often thought that the world would be a better place if I didn’t have an internet connection.)

— 6 —

This conversation?


It took place before I knew who this text was from.

I eventually discovered, to my delight, that it’s from a beloved babysitter who is a close family friend; the only reason I didn’t realize it was her is because I couldn’t imagine that her number wouldn’t have made over in the transfer to my new phone. But I didn’t know that when I first replied. Because I was having the kind of day where I didn’t really care if it was from someone we knew or not. Frankly, I thought that if it were a thief casing our house by posing as a babysitter, he or she might be able to provide me with a little childcare and some much-needed decluttering help.

— 7 —

For all the parents whose Fridays are already feeling a little long: 50 Reasons My Toddler Won’t Nap.



  1. J.R. Baldwin

    I am the same and am also looking into a better cleaning and organizing system. You’ve inspired me be more diligent in the pursuit of success! 🙂

    Ah pride… yes. Hilarious!

  2. Kim

    I would love it if you could share your systems, particularly meal time. I’m in dire need of assistance in planning and desperately want order. Thank you!

  3. Rosie

    AAAAAAAAAAAH I’m so excited that you linked to me!!! Some day I will tell Cecilia that she made me famous for 15 minutes in the blogger world and she’ll be like, “Mom, that’s weird.” Then I’ll send her to her room for a nap.

    • Rakhi @ The Pitter Patter Diaries

      Oh, you crack me up, Rosie! It was one of my favorite posts this week too! Was nodding along the whooole time. 🙂

  4. Judy

    Thank you so much for always making me laugh! My husband and I are attending the THIRST conference _ primarily because you are speaking! I’m so looking forward to meeting you!

  5. Jules

    Love the system idea! Everything is better with systems. I could go on for paragraphs, and did in my head, but I realize maybe not everybody loves them as much as I do. One suggestion though – if one fails don’t assume they all are awful or you’re just bad at them. That’s what a lot of people do but usually a root cause analysis will discover more minor and easier to fix problems. So keep it up!

  6. Meika

    That not-so-clean/don’t-see-details/somehow-deeply-organized thing – it’s a thing, I think. I’m the same way, and I don’t think I’m that amazingly unique that we would be the only two humans on the planet to have this particular combination of traits. And I wonder if it’s related to the brain-in-jar thing, too. I think you should publish your worksheets if they work for you – I’m especially interested in your checklists because I have this sneaking suspicion that they just might revolutionize my world. 🙂

    • Melissa

      I think it is a thing, too. Because I am similar. Sometimes. Of course one would never, ever know it to look at anything in my house, but I have spreadsheets that organize some financial stuff gloriously, and they make me very happy. I even have a spreadsheet about the 21 kinds of pumpkin that I planted this year. (New pumpkin patch! If you’re near Harrisonburg, VA, check us out! http://www.facebook.com/maylandpumpkinpatch Okay, no more self-promotion.)

      About #7—Cecilia has even more imagination than her mom did at that age. I know this because I am Rosie’s mom. Watching her children grow is the most wonderful thing! It’s like watching my own kids grow up all over again, but on steroids, because my grandchildren seem to be even smarter than my own kids were at that age. ::happy sigh::

  7. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Hahaha! I’m dying over #5 re:spam: “the perfectionist in me gets tired of seeing this done poorly.”

    And what do I need to do to get a text like #6? That is my new prayer.

  8. Lacey @ Forgot the Flour

    I laughed out loud and read your text message convo to my husband… too funny! Then I laughed til I cried reading the 50 reasons my toddler won’t nap. We’ve been going through pacifier weaning the last few weeks and naps have been the worst of it. At least we can turn our weeping into laughter. Oh man. Too good.

  9. Amy Caroline

    Sounds like you do need a night out! And the litt-oh box… sigh, I laughed so hard!

  10. KB

    Ever have a day when you would welcome the villain Syndrome from “The Incredibles”?

  11. Paula

    What would St.Jennifer be the patron Saint of?!

  12. Carol Kennedy

    I so get the spam thing. I think the same thing!! I also fantasize about running “How to make an effect garage sale sign” workshops. I meant, come on people. Use a thicker marker. Make the words “garage sale” a little smaller and the address much more readable. I could go on…but I won’t.

  13. Rebekah

    You are NOT the only one to mentally edit spam. As an English teacher, oh my, whenever I get one of those poorly written things I bang my head on the table and think, “Couldn’t you at least use spell check?!”

  14. Teresa

    I would love a future post on your menu planning system! That’s an area I struggle with every week and would love to hear your system since it’s worked so well so long for you. 🙂

  15. Julie

    I’ve been using the same meal planning system for seven years now, and dinner is rarely a source of stress . PLEASE SHARE THIS SYSTEM ! –

  16. Wanda

    Please share meal planning! It’s the bane of my existence!

  17. Kris

    I would LOVE to know what meal planning system you use!

  18. Erika Marie @ Simplemama

    I love how you can turn even the most mundane household chores into something humorous. thank you. 😉
    I LOVE making schedules and charts of what we are “going” to do. I don’t necessarily like applying them to real life since real life isn’t always cooperative. If I could somehow make life follow “my” plans, we’d be in ship shape all the time.

  19. Lauren

    Haha I love number 6. Any babysitter, any time! :). And litter boxes + toddlers scare me… I can only imagine the gross things that my kids would do based on how quickly they eat/drink out of dog bowls at other people’s houses.

  20. Trisha Niermeyer Potter

    I was thinking of you and your fam this evening when someone showed us a picture of the house their daughter and son-in-law just bought in Austin, Texas. I cringed thinking of the horrible red ant bites I used to get when I was under 5 and getting eaten alive when we lived there. Of course, immediately after having a poor me thought, I jumped right to, oh nevermind Jenn and her brood plus scorpions is waaaaaaay worse. God bless you, your lists, and your litter box finds. 🙂 Thanks for being a continuing source of laughter and inspiration for me and many others!

  21. Carolyn @ 4Life4Life

    Your cause for sainthood is hilarious.
    And ditto the others– give us your planning methods. YOU MUST TELL US!
    My crazed face and shaking fists demand it!
    I’m actually interested in your meal planning… But you might have covered that before so I’ll go a searchin to make sure I didn’t skip over it.

  22. Micaela

    Oh. My. Gosh. I just came here directly from Rosie’s post about 50 Reasons her toddler won’t nap and between the two of you, I have blurry vision, and both my stomach and cheeks hurt. Hilarious. St. Jennifer, indeed!

  23. Rhonda Ortiz

    #3 – LOL. I think I’ve had that canonization fantasy before…

  24. Margaret Mary

    I agree about you sharing the meal planning system – it’s an area I’d love to get under control around here!

  25. Lisa Schmidt

    We started our first week (ever) of homeschooling here at Das Schmidt Haus this week, and it’s been good. Let me repeat if only to assure myself: it’s been good! It’s pushed me to realize how unorganized I am, and my spirit longs for more order. Now I’m busy planning systems for our house, too. The one and only K-Dubs (aka TeamWhitaker.com) turned me on to her meal planning system. Would love to see yours, too – especially those in relation to homeschooling!

    Oh, my original plan for this week was to share the visuals of our homeschooling curricula as you wrote about last week, but I’ll probably scrape 75% of it in two weeks so no need for that at this point. Oy!

  26. MelanieB

    Did you get an iPhone?! I thought you were all Android all the time. Sorry I lost track of what else I was going to say because I was too distracted by that screen shot.

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