7 Quick Takes about interviews, crazy toddlers, and why my hand is probably going to fall off by the end of the week

April 4, 2014 | 47 comments

— 1 —

The Amazon “Look Inside” feature went live at 1:48 PM today, so you can now read the first pages of my book! There is a lot of material in the preview, so it should give you a good feel for it. (Did you think I listed the exact time for literary effect, and did not actually know to the minute when the feature went live because I’m not a data nerd and a publishing nerd who spends a ridiculous amount of time on my own Amazon page? God bless you, charitable reader.)

Go check it out, and don’t forget that anyone who pre-orders receives a free ebook instantly!

— 2 —

More exciting mail last week:


These are bookplates that will be included in the first copies of the book ordered directly from Ignatius Press! I was so excited by how beautifully they turned out…and then I saw this:


There is an entire row below that, too. That’s a lot of bookplates.

A thousand, to be exact.

And I am going to sign them. Every one.

— 3 —

I can’t remember the last time I felt this daunted by a project.

Oh, wait, yes I can! It was when I was out recording the audiobook and I realized that I was going to have to read 70, 000 words in one day after giving a long speech. Or maybe it was when I was in Raleigh to promote the book and had to give three hour-long talks in one weekend. Or perhaps it was when I started writing the ebook that I intended to be 15 pages and realized that it would be 95 pages if I were going to do it right.

Before you report Ignatius Press to human rights organizations for their treatment of authors, I should note that everything in this process that almost killed me was something I pushed for.

In fact, in a spasm of idealistic delusion that was extreme even by my standards, I initially wanted to sign 10X more bookplates than are in that box. If you knew what Joe and I had suggested for the book tour possibility, you would personally show up at my house with wire cutters to sever my internet connection to stop me from dashing out emails containing insane ideas (let’s just say an RV was involved — seriously, someone cut me off from communicating with my publisher’s marketing department).

— 4 —

I have spent a fair amount of time analyzing how it is that I perpetually find myself maxed out by situations that were my idea in the first place.

It occurs to me that I enjoy challenges that test the limits of human endurance — as long as I can sit motionless while undertaking them. Basically, I’m like an Olympic athlete or an explorer, except without moving.

Just as Ernest Shackleton braved the Antarctic for almost two years, I daringly talked into a microphone for 14 hours at the audiobook recording. You know how Teddy Roosevelt and his intrepid crew went on their harrowing expedition through an uncharted tributary of the Amazon, nearly dying the process? Me signing these bookplates is going to be exactly like that.

So I’m not a fool with a bad habit of getting myself in over my head, I’m a chair adventurer.

— 5 —



My aunt and uncle are in town, and we all went out to El Monumento tonight.

The last time we dared to take all the kids there it was fine, but this time the crazy two-year-old decided to bring her A-game. There was standing in the high chair, screaming while being carried out of the restaurant, a bathroom trip that was akin to wrestling a crocodile in a latrine, pointing fingers at adults to shout orders at them, and more screaming while being carried out of the restaurant.

But the best was after we got home. She’s really an incredibly joyful child — it’s just that she derives the most joy from causing chaos. And so she stood in the living room, smiling and laughing with unbridled delight as she relived the glorious memories of her trip to El Monumento. She clenched her fists in excitement when she recounted a screaming episode to her siblings, telling them, “I say ‘AAAAAH!’ at da west-want!”

She’s about to turn three. I know that the proper reaction is for a mother to look at her child wistfully and wonder how three whole years could have flown by so quickly.

But when I looked at her tonight and thought of all the hilarious and epic and sanity-testing moments of the past 35 months, I thought, “Shouldn’t she be almost three THOUSAND years old by now?!”

— 6 —

I don’t tell you guys enough how much I love your comments.

Last night I was putting said toddler to bed and she was requesting various songs for me to sing. Any time I would misunderstand her and start the wrong tune, she’d throw her head back and shriek as if the awful sounds emanating from my mouth caused her physical agony. When I’d stumble onto the right lullaby, she’d immediately turn off the screaming and say, “Yeah, dat one!”

When I finally finished, I could hear her chattering happily in her room, and I chuckled bitterly to think that I ever applied the phrase “strong-willed” to any of my other children. As I flopped onto the couch in the living room, I thought of this comment that a lovely young woman named Anna left a few weeks ago, which was so wonderful and encouraging that Joe and I have both memorized it and often quote it back to one another. Anna wrote:

Jen, my baby sister (13 years younger than I) was a holy terror when she was 2…and 3. Your toddler reminds me so much of her. My sister used to do things like use candle holders to scoop water out of the fish tank to drink it. She was also naked quite often.

Now, she is a beautiful, soft spoken 12 year old. You would never know in just meeting her what she put us through when she was small. She’s never known anything but homeschooling, and she has more real friends than all her siblings combined. She treats everyone with astounding kindness.

I tell you all this to let you know there is hope! This ends. We older siblings used to have to set the microwave timer to give us a definite end to our shifts of watching her. She was that insane. Your exhausted efforts to pour love into her matter. This season shall pass, but the care you give her will stay with her. Stay the course, fellow soldier!!

Prayers for you in this ridiculous time 🙂

I get teary-eyed every time I read it. You guys are the best.

— 7 —

I did a Skype interview with Bonnie Engstrom about my free ebook, The Family-First Creative. We recorded it in the morning, with me sitting on my bathroom floor. Then we found out that we didn’t get most of the footage, so we re-recorded it at 10 PM (hence the smeared eye makeup and waning will to live in the second half of the interview).

Bonnie is such a natural on camera. I’m convinced that she is one day going to be the host of a hit TV show, so it’ll make me look extremely cool to say that I once did a Skype interview with her back in the day.



  1. Nikita @TheUnpavedPath

    My hope is that I will be able to get you book. Just got to get the husband say ‘Alright order it!’ but with his work schedule (Sailor in training) asking for such things can be a hassle.

    Prayers to you and your family as always.

  2. Meghan

    Just when I was getting pulled in, I reached “pages 15-17 are not included in this preview” … whyy amazon, whyyy?

    (Although it must be noted, if you open the page a second time, the pages that are not included change. Hopefully this isn’t cheating.)

    • Catholic Lawyer Mama

      Do they really change??? Oh my gosh, that is SO EXCITING!!! Time to try again!

  3. The other Becky

    I have a new ambition. I want to make a great comment that is so good you will want to quote it! Now, just be sure to post something that will inspire my great comment.

  4. Emily

    I love the recounting of the restaurant escapade! My just-turned-3-year-old does the same thing: “Mommy, I loud! I s’reamin’!” “Yes, I noticed. Thanks, Faith.”

  5. Tracy Bua Smith

    Your reader’s encouraging comment was encouraging for me as well! We are having a grand ‘ole time with our 6 1/2 year old. Strong willed and stubborn is an understatement with this one! Super independent and super testing our patience. I have hope there is light at the end of this tunnel! And I pre-ordered your book on Amazon, not IP, so I’m glad I got your autograph at the IBT Conference 🙂

    Have a blessed day!

  6. Mandi @ Messy Wife, Blessed Life

    I saw your talk last Saturday (the “When Your Loved One is an Atheist” one) and it was great. I’ve been reading your blog for so long and was familiar with your voice from your show that it really felt like just listening to a friend! It was so great. I really wish I got to meet you but we had to cancel going to your talk on Friday night because of my own crazy 2-year-old (who calls my parents after Mass to tell them, “I went to Church! I scream and run away!”) who was in no state to be left with a babysitter and then had to leave immediately after seeing you on Saturday to pick her up from the babysitter by 4. I kept thinking “If anyone understands, it’s Jen.” Although really, I’m not sure why I was so desperately needing you to understand. It’s not like you knew I was supposed to meet you and was waiting all weekend and are now depressed because you didn’t meet me!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      What?? I AM really bummed that I didn’t get to meet you! And you totally should have brought the two-year-old to the talk. I would have felt right at home. 🙂

    • Tracy Bua Smith

      Hi Mandi!

      I’m sorry you were having troubles with your 2 year old and that our paths didn’t cross at IBT 🙁 But, maybe one day we will meet in real life! That will be a blessed day! 🙂 I hope you are having a blessed week!

  7. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    70,000 words read in a day and 1,000 bookplates signed.

    I suggest that your next trick be to smell 14,000 air fresheners, and then look at 8,000 cat videos – just to keep things well rounded.

  8. Anne McD

    Wait, wait, wait…. did you …. write a book, or something?


  9. Ann-Marie

    Perhaps keep the box of bookplates on your bathroom counter? Every time you make a visit you could knock out 10 or so (after washing your hands). I’m really enjoying the ebook – thanks for writing it just for me (because it feels like that!).

  10. Janet

    My three-year-old can also get really loud– although lately she’s been claiming that it’s not her, it’s her bear being so loud. The other day she was dancing around the living room with bear, and in the middle of it she looked at me, grinned, and said, “That’s a JOYFUL NOISE!”

    It reminded me of her “liturgical dance” phase last year, when she would join any song or chant at church by sticking her arms straight out, spinning slowly, and shouting “DOO DAH DOO DAH DOO DAH!” through the whole thing. Never did it anywhere else, no idea where she got it (or where it went, for that matter). Cute and funny… except at the time.

  11. Kathleen Basi

    #5 makes me laugh, but only out of empathy! Better to laugh than cry, right? I’m so glad you keep it real.

  12. Anna

    Wow! I am so glad that comment was helpful to you. I love it when the internet is used for good.

    PS just read your free e-book yesterday. Love it!

  13. Julia

    Can I just say THANK YOU for writing this, “She’s really an incredibly joyful child — it’s just that she derives the most joy from causing chaos.”

    I’ve been searching for the right words to describe my 18 month old little lady. You have hit the nail right on the head!

    Love your blog; I’ve been a silent reader for a while. Can’t wait to read the book,too! (It’s at the top of my birthday wish list.)

  14. Emily B

    #3 & #4 I hear you. I am FULL of great ideas. I consider it a gift, but would sure like someone to reel me in and help me focus on just one idea at a time.

  15. Jules

    I never doubted for a second you knew what time it was for #1, for I too am a data nerd and just expect such things. We did a workout at CrossFit last week that was the same one we did in January, and within moments of completion I’d calculated how much I’d improved as a percent of my original score. I wondered why nobody else was doing this and was willing to lend them my phone if they needed a calculator, but apparently they thought such a task was odd. I support you in your data collection efforts. The world needs us.

  16. Renee


    We only go out once a year with all of the children. That is on New Years Eve for Chinese food. Actually we go in the early afternoon and its a buffet.

    Just last week my husband and I went out for my birthday, it was two years prior the last time we had such ‘a date’.

  17. Roxane B. Salonen

    Hey Jen! Seeing your photo of the book plates brings me back to when my first children’s book came to my front door. I was in my pajamas of course, and I opened the box and set it out and then ran downstairs to call my husband on our land line. This was in 2005 and I don’t know if we even had cell phones! Maybe we did but mine must have been dead or something. Anyway, by the time we’d gotten off the line, I came upstairs to find my now-11-year-old running around the living room naked with one of the book jackets. Of course, said book jacket was now crumpled. And of course, as I began sobbing, I thought and maybe said out loud, “Can’t I ever have anything nice, ever? Can I not ever enjoy a moment?” It wasn’t long before I realized what a gift this moment was, and that it humbled me well, helped me realize that the best part of my life wasn’t about a shiny new book that I had written but about this little, diaper-less soul who was celebrating with me. I’ll admit, it took a friend pointing this out to me before I could realize it, but once I did, well, I’ll never see that moment the same. Here’s hoping you have many of these humbling moments too in the adventure ahead. I’ll be praying for you, sister!

    • Roxane B. Salonen

      Oh, it might be helpful to not that the now-11-year-old was only a toddler at the time, lest the visual be marred. 🙂

        • Jennifer Fulwiler

          Oh my gosh, what an amazing moment! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Divina

    Hi Jen, This is the first time I’m participating in Seven Quick Takes … such fun! Congratulations on finishing your book. A few months ago I watched your reality series on YouTube and enjoyed it immensely! I hope there will be more episodes someday. I found it quite intriguing that you felt there must be a Source of love outside of yourself and that this question led you to the Church. Fascinating!

  19. Roxane B. Salonen

    Not to be a comment hog or anything but I forgot to mention something. When I was signing my first big order of books, it definitely was a project, but I tried to think of each book that I signed as the gift it was – to think of the person to whom this book would be going, and to realize with each signature that God had blessed me with that opportunity, and how grateful I was for it. Granted, I didn’t have 100 orders that first round, but there were 100s and I really tried to connect each signature with an individual rather than just signing away. I hope this helps. Enjoy it as much as you can. It’s such a treasure that you are here!

    • Roxane B. Salonen

      Yet another typo. Need coffee! “I didn’t have 1,000 orders that first first.” Lord bless you for getting through my multi-comments this morning. 🙂

  20. Catholic Lawyer Mama

    Okay, so I’m totally being a procrastinator at work today, but I just can’t help it!!! I just read your preview (awesome!), ordered your book (so exciting!), and am about to download the e-book (beyond stoked!). At what point do I just write off this work-day as a total waste and just embrace the heck out of it? Maybe, for my next trick, I will start from the beginning of your blog and work my way forward? Great idea!!! 🙂

    • Natalie

      Yes! I also spent time at work today reading the book preview. So good! I cannot wait to read the whole thing.

  21. Maggie

    Our youngest was insanely strong willed as well. Does anyone else know any 4 year olds who have to have their bedroom door removed for two weeks due to repeated slammings? When I thought of the teenage years on their way I was terrified. But now she is the kindest, most tender hearted person I know. Strong willed and determined absolutely. (But life has thrown some real challenges at her so she’s needed it.) And she feels everything so deeply that I believe she’s needed that strong will to manage her inner life. It does get so much better with time.

  22. Amy

    A Chair Adventurer! I love it! (It’s so me.) I have zero energy but a mind that doesn’t stop wanting adventure. I am so excited for you about the book!

  23. Rakhi @ The Pitter Patter Diaries

    Anna’s comment on your post is so sweet and encouraging. I especially love this line: “Your exhausted efforts to pour love into her matter.” Exhausted – check. Love – check. Will matter in the end…thank the good sweet baby Jesus!

    I didn’t know anyone did book plates anymore – how lovely…shall I send a splint your way so your hand doesn’t just hang limply alongside? It can double as a gavel when trying to get a child’s attention. Sadly it does not act as a muzzle when getting said children to be quiet. Mea culpa.

    Can’t wait to read more than the preview! Soon and very soon…

  24. Patty

    Aww, I love Anna’s comment too! I remember reading it before, and your response. I had a crazy toddler, too. He got into every cupboard. He painted the carpet and walls with green craft paint. He screamed. He sprinkled Comet all over his sisters’ bed and then jumped on it, causing a cloud of Comet dust. He could wreak havoc and wreak it FAST. We had to take turns chasing him between the stacks at the library. When he began his formal homeschooling work he ran around the room a lot. Now he is the sweetest 14-year-old boy. He hugs me every day, and can sit long enough to read novels and do algebra lessons. Anna is right. The love you are pouring into your boisterous toddler is so worth it. You are building something very important.

  25. Rosie

    Man it’s a good thing those 2 and 3-year-olds are so stinking cute (yours especially!)… Mine lately has been throwing EPIC tantrums including yelling “NOBODY TALK! NOBODY SAY ANYFING!!!” and then freaking the heck out if anyone in the house talks about anything. Then she called my husband a dimwit over and over again and said she wanted all the doors in the house to break so that squirrels could get in. Then when we told her that squirrels got in the house she freaked out MORE and screamed, “DAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!!! DAT WOULD RUIN EVERYFING!!!”

    Basically she needs her own reality show.

  26. Julia

    Just ordered two copies of your book. Loved the preview. Should be a great read! One of the copies will be going to a friend for her 30th. I think she’ll really enjoy it.

  27. Lynne

    Hey, you got a cool plug from Fr. Rob Barron. How did I ever miss the fact that the saint name generator is *yours*? I followed his advice to look for a saint (I’m pretty sure you gave the same advice before; I didn’t follow your advice) and turned up with St. Teresa Margaret Redi. Who’s ever heard of her?? But upon further reading, she seems to be just who I needed. She emphasized suffering in silence–accepting all quietly for love of God so that others are unaware of your internal struggles. Perfect for the one whose motto is, “Misery loves company!” Another cool thing is that even though she was disfigured at the time of death (so much that they decided to have a hasty burial), this condition reversed itself so that she had the appearance of a sleeping child–fresh and with the smell of heavenly flowers. She’s one of the incorruptibles! Thank you for helping me find her! Here’s the link to Fr. Rob:


  28. Jenn

    Now I am sad that I pre-ordered it from *the wrong place*! My Amazon pre-order will not have a lovely bookplate with signature. Alas. I keep going to “the wrong Mass” too, at least according to my priest…. 🙂

    Congrats! I look forward to reading it!

  29. Shannon Miller

    Jen – I just had to leave you a note and second Anna’s comment. My own sister was very much like your precious “strong willed” little one. My army sgt father once picked her up, swinging her over his shoulder, and sternly reprimanded her in his very best drill sgt voice. She sighed and said “you know I’m just coming right back in here.” She was beyond head strong. I remember she made my mom cry when she was 3. It was hard. That baby sister got married this past weekend. SHe is still head strong, but she is also incredibly kind, tender-hearted even. She had a huge crowd of real, good friends. Everyone who meets her loves her.
    I have a quirky little guy who reminds me a lot of his aunt. Sometimes I remind myself of her antics so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel:)

  30. Anne

    Wait, wait, wait…..are you saying the travel-like-Jim-Gaffigan suggestion did not fly?? Come on, Jen! You can do it! LOL! (wink)

  31. Catherine

    Oh, just read the previews on Amazon! It’s so good!!

  32. Amy

    “Chair adventurer” – I like that! I used to be something of a thrill seeker in my younger years (rock climbing and skydiving and all that), but now that I’m a mom I don’t get into many actual adventures out in the world anymore, but I could consider myself a chair adventurer, maybe. Though I don’t commit myself to nearly as much stuff as you do!

    When I used to write and sign chart notes a lot, my hand used to get so sore, and my signature totally changed from writing it so much so quickly! You should take a picture of your first bookplate and your last, to compare 🙂

  33. Sonya

    Can you talk your publishers into maybe moving up that release date? I have pre-ordered, but I read the first 30 pages and now I am completely hooked. Its definitely going to be required reading in our house and I’m going to lobby the local colleges and universities too:) We just had a foot of snow scare here in the Twin Cities, but its melting away quickly, so its all safe for that book tour visit:)

  34. Monica

    Jen, I just finished reading your preview and it’s amazing! Throughout the day today I was trying to steal time away during my daughters naps to read the preview-that is my lenten sacrifice, and today it was very hard, thanks to you! I just want to say thank you for including so many pages in the preview. It was such a pleasure to read so many pages, I kept scrolling down to see that there would be another, and another. The preview pages give such a great glimpse into who you are, the different people in your life and the things that make you tick. I love that. Your writing style flows, captivates and is just so enjoyable. I can’t wait to get my hands on my copy of your book! By the way, my husband is from Houston, too and he went to UT in Austin (just for one year though). Now we have something more in common besides sharing the same personality type! Yeah!

  35. Kris

    I just wanted to add to the “crazy toddler” QT. I have one child who fits that description to a “T”. That boy was going to be the death of me. There is a reason there are more than 4 years between him and our next child. He threw screaming tantrums well past the age of 3, although they did taper off considerably. He also was my total rule breaker and my child who couldn’t care less about any punishment I could levy. Now, however, he is 15. He’s the most kind, loving child of the bunch. He is the BEST big brother, and my friends all refer to him as the “baby whisperer” because there is not a child in existence that doesn’t respond positively to him. He has the most formed conscience of any of my kids, and has never met a stranger. He is a natural leader of both younger kids and his own peer group. So there is definitely hope! He still tries my patience on occasion – more than any of the other kids. But he’s turned out to be such a great kid!

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