7 Quick Takes about FitBit, couch rejection, and an important lesson about letting your spouse know if you leave pipe valves open

January 10, 2014 | 52 comments

— 1 —

I hope everyone has emerged unscathed from the cold front that swept through pretty much everywhere earlier this week. Our own temperatures dipped well into the “People Who Live in Fear of Scorpions in their Beds at Night Should Not Have to Deal with This” range, and we had to make sure to keep all our faucets dripping most nights. I forget what houses in the northern climes have that prevent ice from bursting their pipes, but whatever it is, we don’t have it here.

On Tuesday morning I was standing in the kitchen when I suddenly heard water rushing. I followed the sound to discover a small river bursting from our outside spigot — which is not what you want to see the night after a hard freeze.


I called Joe at work but he didn’t answer. Then I called Yaya, my mom, and my dad, and they all agreed: our pipes burst. There could be no other explanation.

I called off homeschool for the day, canceled plans, and set about dealing with the emergency. Yaya rushed over to find the water shutoff valve while I tried again to get in touch with Joe, who was stuck in client meetings. Yaya and I couldn’t find the valve, so we called my dad. I blew up the phones to try to find a plumber who could get here within the next few days while Yaya started preparations for us to be without running water. My dad arrived and resumed the hunt for the main water valve.

As I picked up the phone to call another plumber, my dad walked in looking mildly startled. He explained that the pipes hadn’t burst; someone had turned on the outside spigot. I asked all the kids if they had done it, but they all said no. (Nobody even asked if it was me, since it would not occur to anyone that I would be outside and messing around with water in freezing weather.) Yaya and my dad left, all of us scratching our heads about how this could have happened.

A while later, Joe finally got out of meetings and called me back. When I explained what had happened, he said, “Oh. Yeah. I turned the water on.” Before he left for work he’d tested the spigot and nothing came out, so he left it open in case it helped the ice move. He forgot to mention it, and evidently it all came loose just before he went into his marathon of client meetings.

So…that was an eventful start to our week.

— 2 —

We finally got a new couch. To refresh your memory, Joe and I made the fateful mistake of buying a white living room set when we were first married. We also managed to get a model that has non-removable cushions and secret crevasses that open up to an interior pit that serves as a collection pool for crumbs and dust, also known as Carpet Beetles’ Delight.

Even after we dealt with the carpet beetle feeding trough situation, it was getting so hard to keep it looking clean that we considered getting rid of the couch even before we could afford a new one, perhaps throwing some pillows on the floor and telling people we’re in a Japanese phase.

Mercifully, my mom offered to help us replace the couch as a Christmas present, and we went to Ikea and got a new living room set. Here’s the before and after:


It is startling how much of a difference it makes to my wellbeing to come downstairs each morning to a nice-looking living room.

— 3 —

We were left with the prospect of figuring out what to do with the old couch, so we called Salvation Army to offer it as a donation. When the truck arrived to pick it up, I was giddy at the prospect of finally having this albatross out of my garage. But the driver took one look at it and refused to take it.

It tells you a lot about our lives that the furniture that was at the very center of our home is not good enough for the Salvation Army.

— 4 —

7qt246-fitbitMy birthday is this weekend. The main reason that is noteworthy is because I got a FitBit One as an early present! It’s a little device that you put in your pocket or clip to your clothes and it gives you all this great data about how active you are, how many steps you take each day, etc. You can even give it weight loss goals and it will dynamically recommend calorie intakes based on your activity level.

Between looking at my friends’ data and browsing the #fitbit hashtag on Instagram, I was startled by how low my step counts are. In fact, it’s kind of impressive that with six kids I’m managing to log only two or three “active” minutes per day. It makes me think that I’m using this thing all wrong. I need to stop going against my nature and start setting goals that I can actually get excited about, like how few steps I can take each day.

I can see it now: the kids ask me what’s for dinner, and I respond by pointing at my FitBit and saying, “You guys are on your own tonight — trying to keep it under 2, 000 steps today.”

— 5 —

Oh my gosh. I just had the BEST idea EVER. You know what we need? An app that combines InstaWeather with FitBit, so that you can post pictures to Instagram that contain both weather and activity data. I know, I know, you thought that it could not possibly get any more exciting than Instaweather — I didn’t either. But why confine ourselves to adding only one type of data to our selfies? If it’s thrilling to let people know that your picture was taken when it’s 58 degrees with 68.4% humidity, how much more thrilling would it be to let them know that you also climbed 4.3 flights of stairs so far that day?

Some enterprising app developer needs to get on this immediately. I want InstaFitWeather available for download by next month.

— 6 —

While we’re on the subject of great gifts, one of my favorite things that we gave the kids for Christmas was this shadow puppet set:


Anything that entertains kids of all ages at night without involving glowing screens is a huge win in my book.

— 7 —

Hallie and I are going to have some exciting updates about the conference pretty soon! We’ve had some logistical issues to hammer out, which took a particularly long time since we both had zero bandwidth during Advent and Christmas, but things are back on track now and we should be able to release all sorts of great details soon. I’m excited!

Hope you all have a great weekend.



  1. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    I’m pretty sure you can integrate FitBit with Beeminder if you want to make goals with consequences. (Beeminder is free to use, unless you don’t hit your goals, in which case you pay a forfeit; I use it for writing goals).

  2. BΓ©nΓ©dicte Fuller

    Happy birthday Jennifer, and a very belated happy new year! Looking forward to reading on your blog for 2014 πŸ™‚

  3. Wendy

    My husband and I have a plan in place in case of an emergency. If I call his cell phone three times in a row without leaving a message, he knows something is wrong and does what he can to call me immediately. I’ve only had to use it once, and it worked extremely well.

  4. KackyK

    #1 is awesome…absolutely my life! And #3, we all have something like that in our house…or at least that is what I tell myself ;). Happy Friday!

  5. Amy

    I didn’t know we have anything in our pipes “up here” to keep them from bursting either. I never thought about that before. Wonder what it is?

    I’m very excited to hear more about the conference!

    • Bonnie


  6. Michelle @ Endless Strength

    Looking forward to the information about your event! I have the days blocked off at work around that weekend so I am coming! πŸ™‚

    And…too funny about the InstaFitWeather app. It amazes me all the things we share (and I’m not judging either..>I share my workouts and stuff like that…just kind of cracks me up).

    That is a funny story about your water. You should tell Joe — and you didn’t think a NOTE would be handy in this case? πŸ™‚

  7. Amelia @ One Catholic Mama

    That couch was white? Looks about like what a white couch in our house would end up looking like.

  8. Kristina

    I’m glad your pipes hadn’t burst afterall!
    Now I’m wondering what we have ‘up here’ (Ontario Canada) to prevent our pipes from bursting too! I always figured it was just insulation. Do you not insulate your walls and pipes?
    We had -4 degree weather (that’s before wind chill!) here this week, and I thought to myself, “I’ll take it over Jen’s scorpions!”

  9. Kelly Kaczmarczyk


    I grew up in the Houston area and now live in Holland, MI. When I learned that our temperatures were going to be around -35 degrees with the wind chill I was asking if I needed to trickle water from all the pipes. My mother-in-law explained that the houses in the north have basements that keep the pipes from freezing. I did live in a trailer park at one time in my youth and we had to trickle water, but it makes sense now since obviously the trailer didn’t have a basement.

    I don’t know if that’s the only thing, but it certainly makes sense enough to me.

    Happy birthday!

  10. Theresa

    Ahhhh…fellow couch destroyer. I can’t even tell you how old our furniture is…lost count. Everyone has strict rules about lifting the cushions…DO NOT LIFT THE CUSHIONS!

    Meanwhile, hubby and I continue to drool over a nice old fashioned brown leather sofa…someday.

    Have a blessed and hopefully warmer week! ~ Theresa

  11. Tina

    We, too, had a sofa the Salvation Army would not take. We went leather as well, and I am not kidding when I say it is a life changer. I’m sure you already know what I mean.

  12. Smoochagator

    Happy Early Birthday! You know, you’re the second person I know who mentioned the FitBit this morning. I just saw an ad for the FitBit on Facebook a couple of days ago and have convinced myself I need one, and now everyone I know (okay, two people) has one and I DON’T! Funny how I can convince myself that I really NEED something when I wasn’t even aware of its existence a week ago πŸ˜‰ Maybe when I prove to myself that I’m going to keep up some sort of fitness program I’ll treat myself to a FitBit.

    GIRL, DO I FEEL YOU ON THE FURNITURE THING. Years ago, my husband and I had to get rid of the sofa/loveseat combo (bought on Craigslist for $100) that was in our living room because it had been completely shredded by our new puppy. I mean, the holes in it were so big the cats used it as a jungle gym. They were able to DISAPPEAR INTO THE COUCH. I was mortified when we put it out on the curb for the garbage man. Jon said we should have just found a WVU fan to sell it to.

    And both of the furniture sets we’ve had since we got rid of THAT set were hand-me-downs. I wish we could get a leather set like yours, because OH MY GOODNESS being about to wipe spills off would be awesome! But we have way more animals than people in our house and leather + claws = disaster. (Of course, cloth couch + animals = flea infestation, so once again, DO I FEEL YOUR FURNITURE PAIN. And this is why I don’t have a lifestyle blog, because no one aspires to live in a house like mine.)

    Can’t wait to hear the conference news! I really, REALLY hope I can come but I live a million miles away so the biggest challenge will be airfare. We’ll see if I can make it happen because I would SOOOO love to meet you and Hallie and all the other cool people that live in my computer πŸ˜€

  13. MamaG

    A very happy birthday to you Jen, and blessings during the coming year! Thank you for your wit and wisdom. Thank you for lifting me up on the days I reside in a Dungeon of Despair. I am hopeful that I can get into the conference. I think I need it. I have never been to anything like it.

  14. TheresaEH

    I like your new furniture! I may have to check into that fit bit for me.

  15. Monica

    Numbers 1 and 4 had me laughing, especially number 4 and the line to your kids on how they’re on their own for dinner, you don’t want to exceed your steps for the day. That is one of your best!

  16. Katey

    No offense Jen, but I would have tossed that couch and replaced it with lawn furniture rather than have to face THAT everyday! My kids are hard on our furniture too but luckily our couch is meant to be brown!

  17. Caroline M.

    Jenn, that couch made me feel so much better about life. You should get an extra crown in heaven just for posting it.

  18. Jennifer Gregory Miller

    Quite an improvement on the couch. We went to leather first thing because it does clean up so well, and doesn’t hold odors as much as cloth. Do the same in our cars, too. It’s not about snobbery, it’s about cleanliness.

    Love the shadow puppets! What a great idea.

  19. Kelly M.

    That couch looks like it’s straight out of a CSI episode. I can’t unsee it.
    And Happy Birthday to you!

  20. Christy

    When we got new furniture this summer no thrift store or salvation army would take our old couches within a 200 mile radius! Its a little embarrassing!

  21. Stephanie

    Love your new couch! I discovered long ago that white is good for picture frames and baseboards. Otherwise, the dirt wins.

  22. Angie | Many Little Blessings

    This made me burst out laughing: β€œYou guys are on your own tonight β€” trying to keep it under 2,000 steps today.”

    One day when I was really sick over Christmas break, I got in 745 steps for the day. I couldn’t even fathom that.

    My highest record is 25,099 for the day. That was our first day in Disney World last year. By the end of the day, I thought my family was going to mutiny.

  23. dweej

    Some friends came over today and during the course of some incredibly exciting game, a three year old decided to remove the couch cushions from the DEN sofa. Not the living room but the DEN. Which is, I would say, like the difference between looking into a bucket of rodent feces vs. looking into a bucket of clean water. Not good. I would have slow-motion tackled the poor tiny child so as to save myself from the horrible embarrassment, but her MOTHER was standing right in my way. Oy! No tocas los coushionitos!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Oh my gosh. Someone would have called 911 if that had happened over here pre-couch-replacement.

  24. Angie

    Every time I read “fitbit”, my brain keeps adding a -ch to the end of it! I promise I am a good Catholic lady, but apparently my subconscious is still holding on to old habits! πŸ˜‰

    • Lynne

      lol! Now that’s funny!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      ROFL!!!! And with that, I will never see the word the same way again either.

  25. Monika

    If you are feeling particularly full-of-energy or want to prep the couch for donation, or craigslist, buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and put a spray top on it. Spray one section at a time, and rub with a clean white rag. I’ve cleaned our light brown microfiber couch this way several times.
    New Couch looks great!

    • Lynn

      Thank you for the rubbing alcohol tip! I have some spots that won’t come out with a little green machine, so I’ll try that.

      Jennifer, when I saw your couches, my first thought was that they look just like mine! And then I looked back and realized yours were originally white, but I bought mine that brown color.

      It was a good thing your husband turned on the faucet: It had frozen, and the ice has to expand somewhere. It either moves toward the tap, *if the tap is open* or it has to expand the pipe diameter, and can burst it. So by fooling you into thinking the pipe was broken, he may very well have saved you from the real thing πŸ™‚

  26. Sara McD

    That thing? That keeps pipes from freezing? Heat. Like, from a furnace. Insulation too. πŸ™‚

    When we moved we couldn’t give away our old furniture either.

  27. Bonnie

    Just a suggestion: locate the main water shut off valve now that you are not in a panic, and make sure Joe, Yaya, your mom and dad, and your oldest kids know where it is and how to shut it off. This comes in handy in case the hot water heater bursts, or a washer hose breaks, or other sorts of unforeseen water emergencies. You should also know where the water shutoff valves are to the toilet and under each sink (if you have them)in case a faucet breaks or the toilet is overflowing. It probably would be a good idea also to know how and where to shut off the electricity at the circuit box. It helps to know a few practical things.

  28. Catie

    Love your new couch! That’d make me smile in the morning, too. πŸ™‚

    LOVE the shadow puppet idea! And happy early birthday!

  29. elizabethe

    I have a fitbit. Turns out, you have to remember to actually clip it onto your body for it to work.

    Also, people with dinosaur loving children should note that there is also a dinosaur shadow puppet set. Not sure if I can justify getting another present for my kids right this very second, but I put it on their wish list.

  30. Lynne

    Hurray for new furniture! Hurray for IKEA! Hurray for mother’s who chip in!

    Side note: when my kids go in IKEA they like to pretend they live there in those little scenes. But their uber-favorite thing is a little plastic kid chair shaped like an egg that has a canopy/cover thing that folds down from the top to completely enclose them in the egg-chair. It’s like a child’s version of the Relaxman, I guess. So I’m in IKEA frantically hunting for them through aisles and hordes and they’re just off huddling in the egg.

  31. Trisha Niermeyer Potter

    Thanks for being a good example and inspiration for me in writing, blogging, living the faith, keeping up with the kids, and maintaining a sense of humor. The Lord is certainly challenging me this year and choosing a word for the year (as you did) has proven to be part of that challenge. The word that came to me in prayer was: GENTLE I find this highly interesting for a variety of reasons, some of them much like yours for resisting GO as your word. Clearly, God knows each of us well and isn’t through with us, yet.

  32. Jill VT

    Jennifer, I feel like we are cosmic sisters in a way: we both have six albino kids; we both live in flyover country (although Austin is a gajillion times sexier than Tulsa); we both have lawyer husbands, and we both had couches rejected by charitable organizations. Can we be best friends?! πŸ˜‰

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Of course! Wine at my place tomorrow. It’s just like a 12 hour drive for you, right? πŸ™‚

  33. Dreena Tischler

    I’ve had a fitbit since the original. I find it actually works best if you clip it onto the center of your bra. Most of the time it doesn’t show. It’s also a lot less likely to fall into the toilet. Enjoy!

  34. Rebecca

    We had a couch like that; we left it on the curb but no one took it. But what I really want to know is, where did it end up??

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      It’s still sitting in our garage. Arrgh!

  35. Barbara C.

    I find the FitBit One to be very intriguing. I really like the idea of a silent alarm, because I have an even harder time sleeping when I have the alarm set because I worry it will wake up the little ones in my bed. Of course, I just imagine going into to look at the sleep stats and the FitBit saying, “You get the same amount of sleep as POW in the Hanoi Hilton” or “How are you even functional?” LOL

  36. Emily Davis

    This Texan mama is too excited to hear more details about the conference.
    Leave your couch on the curb. Someone will take it.


  37. joanne

    Houses in the Midwest are built completely differently than in the South. I grew up in the Midwest and our hot water heater was in the middle of the basement, and the water pipes were threaded up through interior walls where possible. In the house I live in now (in TX) the water heater is in the garage and the water pipes are threaded through exterior walls so that when it is cold outside the water pipes get cold. Also a lot of places in the Midwest use ground water which is a constant temperature winter and summer – cool but not cold so it would take a lot to get the water to actually get cold enough to freeze. Here in TX when it is cold outside the tap water is cold because it comes out of a water tower, so it takes less to make it freeze.

  38. GeekLady

    Don’t feel bad about the Salvation Army thing. Himself had a small couch he’d gotten there when we first dated. It was in very good shape, the only thing wrong was one of the back cushions had been torn off at the top and reattached with safety pins. It CAME from the Salvation Army in this condition. But when he needed to get rid of it, they wouldn’t take it as a donation because of the rip, even though it came from them like that in the first place!

  39. Julia Motekaitis

    Oooooo! πŸ™‚ Awaiting the news of the conference with baited breath! The shadow puppets are sensational. Paired with my “don’t wake the sleeping giant” (aka Mommy) game that would be an excellent way to keep people quiet and happy during the weekend nap hours! Happy almost birthday to you!!!!

    • Julia

      Pretty sure no one else is up past midnight, suddenly debating in their mind whether it’s “baited” or “bated,” except for me…sorry! I could not let a spelling error go uncorrected! πŸ™‚

  40. Maria @ Frugal Homesteading

    Oh my goodness that sofa!!

    I look upon my black leather sofas with renewed appreciation. And perhaps I should clean them soon.

    You are very humble/ honest/ crazy to take a picture of the old one, let alone post it on the blog. πŸ˜‰ Congrats on the new ones — they look amazing!

  41. Stephen Battey

    Hey! It’s nice to see fellow bloggers tracking their steps on Fitbit!

    I have no problem hitting my step goals, but I don’t have kids. It must be difficult with them.

    Feel free to add me as a friend on fitbit, maybe you just need some extra motivation.

    On another note, I have that couch, just not in leather. Excellent choice.

  42. Matt

    Love the FITBIT! I just did some head to head comparisons against the bodybugg and personally I liked it much better! Nice couch too btw πŸ˜‰

Connect With Me On Social Media or Explore My Site



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


- SubscribeΒ 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