Seven Quick Takes: Friday, July 18

1. I have not done Quick Takes in weeks now, but I will do them now since I know people really like them. I am pretty sure that I saw all of my blog readers while on my trip; well at least those of you who are in the family. I was teased by several of my aunts about my writing, but at least they read my writing. 🙂

2. Several people in the family joined in with the Novena to Bl. Louis and Zelie Martin, which I thought went very well. I loved that it did no just have the daily prayers, but a reflection on the life of the blesseds as well. I hope to read more about them soon. The creator of the site which has the novena text, Maureen O’Riordan, contacted me after seeing referrals from LWLP. She was really excited that so many of you joined in the novena. I plan to do it again next year.

3. I said earlier this week that the trip went well, but apparently I blocked out of my memory the children having trouble in the Appalachian Mountains. Their stomachs and the mountains did no agree, and one child neglected to inform her parents of the situation until she was a stinky mess. Yeah, that was fun. And I just realized today that Dramamine could have solved the problem of the mountains and children who will not nap in the car. Next time we go, we will bring the Dramamine! But the mountains were lovely. Apparently, we took no pictures of the mountains, just the people. So, here we have F an I on a .5 mile hike at an overlook. We hiked after we drove to the top of the mountain.

4. The next day we took a real hike: 531 steps down into a gorge and 531 back up with children on our backs. G (5) did them all by herself.

The way down.

At the very bottom.

All I could think about on the way up was how hard my heart was pounding and if my aorta was going to dissect. If it could happen to my father, then it could happen to me, right? It turns out that it is harder to carry a 3 year old on your back than a one year old, and that G is in better shape than us all. M and I were wiped out at the top and G was running around ready for more.

5. The highlight in Ohio was our huge family Fourth of July gathering, where we had all of my maternal grandparent’s descendants except for 5 (of the 17) grandchildren. (In my count I include the one on the way.) The 7 great-grandchildren did their best to make up for the missing grandchildren. We also had a baby shower for my aunt (in-law) who is having her and my uncle’s first child very soon! It was a lovely shower, and my creative and talented mother made an adorable centerpiece. I wish I had her flower arranging skills:

6. Michigan had a couple of highlights, one of them being seeing good friends. One evening, after the kids were in bed, M and I went over to our bachelor friend’s house and we chatted until 1am with four other guy friends. It was just like back in college when the guys would debate and discuss about the Church, morality, charismatics, tradition, etc. It was a lot of fun, but the next day I was soooo tired. I guess I have lost my stamina for late nights… We also had lunch with another friend on a different day. Our last day in A2 we spent with our dear friends, and L’s godparents, from college (and high school for M), and their two cute boys. I tried to convince them to move to Minnesota, but I don’t think they will. They have a great house and all of their extended family there. We will just have to settle for seeing them a couple of times a year and try to plan more vacations with them.

7. The last two days of our trip were spent in Western Michigan at a wedding of one of M’s cousins. It was a lovely wedding in a very modern looking Catholic church. I love that M has lots of head-covering at liturgy cousins and their little daughers in hats or veils. M’s mom’s side is even bigger than my mom’s side. His grandparents had a celebration for their 60th anniversary the day after the wedding, and they are so awesome that they had the caterer make food especially for the kids separate from the adult line. The kids actually ate their food, and my kids managed to not spill the red punch all over their nice dresses even though relatives continued to give them more and more punch. The kids were thoroughly entertained by their teenage boy cousins pretending to put them in the trash cans. F handled the crowded by sitting possessively in her booster seat and then napping in a stroller. Once she woke up, she looked suspiciously at anyone who caught her eye. Anyway, we drove home the next day, the kids only needed one day of cranky transition time, and we are back to our comfortable at home routine.

For more Quick Takes, head on over to Jen at Conversion Diary:

Home again, home again, Jiggity Jig

Whew! What a long 17 days.

2,673 Miles, 40 hours, 3 children ages five and under, five stops, one wedding, two audiobooks…

Also, we were blessed with what my grandfather calls an “uneventful trip.” For those of you outside the family this translates into “no car trouble.” It was a lot of fun. We got to see all living grandparents and great-grandparents, lots of cousins and aunts and uncles on the maternal sides of M’s and my families. And F managed to scream half the time we were in a large crowd unless she was in her booster seat or stroller or in my arms (and she screamed about 1/3 of the time she was in my arms). Otherwise everything was awesome.

We were fed so well and so much, M and I were talking seriously about just eating salad for a couple of weeks. In reality that means, less fatty, carby foods, lots of salad, but other food as well. 🙂

We came home to crazy growth in the garden.


Lettuce anyone?
 We have to eat massive salads every meal in order to eat all of this lettuce. I wonder how long it will stay good. I have just been harvesting leaves, but I am thinking maybe I should just pull up the whole head. And my spinach started seeding, but still tastes okay… should we still eat it? I am not joking, when I offer lettuce to anyone who wants to come by for some. 🙂

Alright, that’s it for now. I will be back soon. 🙂

A June Wednesday

Planning ahead…
So, we are going on one of our family road trips at the end of month, and M has decided that I am going to take a vacation from my blogging as well. I could see myself seizing the extra free time with other adults around and writing more, but he thinks we should just relax and read Michael O’Brien novels. I am totally up for that, but I am a little sad to set my writing aside for a few weeks. (I am also sad that we are not vacationing with college friends Up North again this summer.) Maybe it will help me come up with more good ideas to take a break. I always seem to have a hard time writing when I stop for awhile, but maybe I really just need a good vacation.

The only thing I do not look forward to on vacation is sleeping, because I know that the kids will not sleep as well as they do at home, and therefore I will be tired. We are going to see how F does in a room with her sisters and us since night weaning (and sleeping through the night for the past month). I imagine she will do better than we ever expected.

Food for the Winter…
I am praying that the strawberries at our favorite picking place are ready by my birthday next week. I want to pick 30 lbs this year and can about 50% more jam than we made last year. We just ran out mid-May from last summer and I am hoping to make it through the year with some to spare and more to giveaway. I love the taste of my homemade jam in my homemade yogurt for breakfast or a snack.

Living today…
M had a conference on campus to go to this evening, and he was hoping to meet one of our old professors from Franciscan University for lunch. This plan fell through because of flight delays, but M has been gone since this morning. I managed lunch, nap, dinner, and bedtime alone, which I really loath doing, but I did it! And L only came out twice!

This morning L (3.5)  had her first ever “class” with an adult instructor who was not me. She had been on the waiting list for swim lessons and got in after the first two of eight classes. She was so excited to be like her sister and even listened to the instructor. It was so sweet to see her big smile and excitement as she followed instructions. It is less frightening to have a second child do these things than a first.

Growing children…
G had her second vacation Bible school last week, and she is so much more mature than she was last year! It is really neat to see how much more mature she is than she was a year ago. Even with her reading lessons which we started last September, she is doing so much better with. It is like she reached a level of intellectual maturity that she had not been at before.

Wrapping it up…

Since M is still out at his conference dinner and talk, I am making myself a lime daiquiri. The only catch is that I had to make the simple syrup as well, and it has to chill. So, while it is chilling I am chillin’ at the blog. I last made a daiquiri when M was off interviewing for jobs when L was 15 months old. It may have even been an evening when he was on the very same campus that he is on tonight. It is he same bottle of rum, since M does not drink rum. He prefers scotch or gin. When the few ounces that are left in the bottle are gone, I will have to ask: why is the rum gone?

My new food processor is totally photo-bombing here. It is upset that I have not yet featured it photographically on the blog.

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, January 10

1. Merry Christmas (it is still the Season After Epiphany!) and Happy New Year! I took a little vacation from my blog to spend nearly three weeks traveling with M and the kids to visit almost every relative we could and a number of friends. Of four large family gatherings in three different states, we only missed one and that could not be helped. As Road Trip Pros, we clocked 2200 miles on our van going from Minnesota, through Wisconsin, Indiana, stopping in Michigan, stopping in Ohio, going back through Indiana, stopping in Illinois, stopping in Missouri, and then headed back up North through Iowa and back into Minnesota! It was a lot of fun, and we had great times with family.

2. The house survived our prolonged absence without any major problems, without any problems that we can tell. Even the Polar Vortex left our home unscathed. Turning off the water and the hot water heater, and praying continually everyday that nothing would go wrong or flood seems to have worked out for us this time. We would not like to have another Saga of the Leaky Pipe.

3. Our good old snowman still stands in the front yard. I have never had a snowman this old! I will have to post a picture of him when I take a new one.

The day he was made. Now he is five weeks old!

4. The kids had today what we call “the grandparent effect”, which occurs after they have been visiting with other adults who give them more attention than they normally get at home. L (3) complained all day that she wanted to go on another trip, and G (4.5) got so cranky that she took a nap (which happens for her every 60 days or so). F (1) could not handle life today, but I think that was due to teething and having a cold. We will adjust back into normal life soon.

5. When we were in St. Louis, we were reminded of how they deal with snow outside of Minnesota (and Buffalo, NY): CLOSE EVERYTHING! They had 8-12 inches on a Sunday, and then a high of 5 the next day. Everything was closed, all the schools and many businesses. We stayed inside, because, really who likes to be in a -15 windchill? My mom braved the great outdoors to pick up our favorite St. Louis Style pizza. They opened at 4pm for pickup only, and we were so relieved! We almost went all the way to St. Louis without our favorite pizza! We made a Ted Drewes Frozen Custard run the night before the storm, and my dad stocked up on their quart sizes while everyone else was buying milk and bread.

6. Now that we are past the holiday business, I am going to start a Winter deep clean/organization. There are things we moved that we never unpacked and things that got brought up from the basement that never were put back, plus we have a new excess of toys. I am going to make it through the Winter by busying myself inside with lots of things to do. Starting next week I am going to make my lists and get into organization mode.

7. I am not sure what else to say tonight, since I am being waited for by my husband. We are going to rewatch a few Sherlocks before PBS airs the new season in 11 days. If you want to catch up, PBS has the old shows available for watching until January 19.

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary.

My Eight Tips for Happy (Screen-Free) Road Trips


Since the birth of our first child 4.5 years ago, my husband and I have taken our daughter(s) on 26,054 miles worth of road trips divided between about 20 trips. That means we have driven more than the equivalent of once around the world with little kids in the backseat! We travel a lot. We travel because we live hundreds of miles away from many people that we love, and we like to travel. I’d like to think we are becoming experts on traveling with little kids, and we have yet to occupy our children at all with screens. Here are things we do to make traveling smooth:

1. Packing List: We always make a packing list. If we did not we would forget something essential. At times we have forgotten essential things, but usually we do not. Further, it keeps us from packing things we don’t need.

2. Food for the car: I know that a lot of families have rules about food in the car. On road trips, food is essential for happy, well-contented children. Some people like to stop for lunch, even when it is just a sack lunch. On full-day road trips we always eat lunch in the car, sometimes even dinner. If it takes your children 30 minutes to eat dinner, that is 30 minutes of content and happy road time, and 30 miles of road gone by. Sometimes we even do dinner on the road. When choosing food for the car I like to pick easy to chew foods. One of my favorite foods for the car is string cheese, even our 10 month old could eat this in the car. We always bring a small cooler, since having cold snacks is a nice break from room temperature crackers and pretzels. The kids each have a snack cup that they can easily hold, which we refill with snacks and meals at each stop.

3. Toys and books for the car:  We have several essential car toys. The first is a magna-doodle per child. baby doll per child. Since our oldest was one she loved having her doll in the car. It is perfect for seated, imaginative play. I am not sure what would be a good comparable toy for a boy (dinosaurs?). And finally, lots and lots of books. The girls have a basket of books placed between their seats and they spend much of each trip looking through these books. I always pick out books that are thin paper backs with lots of pictures. We have a number of children’s magazines that they love to look through also. That is it. We started our road trips four years ago with these types of toys and they have not failed us.
We bought them here.

Our 2.5 and 4.5 year old spend hours drawing on their magna-doodles every road trip. Since the pen is attached, they never lose it, and it is mess-free! The second is a

4. Good Music and Audiobooks: My husband and I both collected a lot of music before we met, and after many years of road trips we have our favorite road trip music. The whole collection of our favorites usually gets us there and back again. Plus, our kids have a taste for and enjoy the music as well. Our oldest is now able to simple chapter books, so we have started to use audiobooks for the family to enjoy. Though we did our last 1900 mile round trip with just music.

5. On the Nursing Baby: I have traveled with three nursing babies over the past 4.5 years. In general my babies have been able to wait 2-3 hours in between nursing, which is generally about how long we drive between stops. I have always brought a pump so that I can bottle feed the baby when a stop is not convenient or we are trying to make better time. I know some mom’s who exclusively pump while on the road. For us, we have found that we can do a stop in 20 minutes even with nursing if I take the older girls to the bathroom while M changes the baby’s diaper in the car (with a minivan there is no need to take the baby into the restroom). When I return to the car, I feed the baby and M get’s his turn on the restroom. When he comes back, he sets up the kids with snacks and gathers the toys and books back to their basket.

*I would advise against nursing the baby while the car is moving (leaning over the carseat). I did it once, but shortly after read thispost about the dangers of doing so. The safety of a baby is more important than saving 10 minutes.  
6. Rest Stops: I explained the basic idea of rest stops above, but I will reiterate it. We find that arranging them so that no parent is waiting around is the most efficient way to stop. Further, everyone has to go at EVERY stop. If we had boys, I suspect we would stop even faster since then I could go to the restroom alone… Another tip I have is for newly potty-trained children to travel in a diaper or training pants. Accidents happen.

7. Empty Gas Station coffee cups (with a separate lid) are great for road sickness. Trust me, you don’t want your child to miss the cup…

8. When possible travel with favorite pillows, toys, blankets, white noise machines, travel beds.  I could devote a whole post to my favorite travel items. Our favorite white noise machine is this: 
Dohm-DS Sound Screen
 It pulls air through itself, making a soft but powerful sound blocking white noise to make the sound of home anywhere we are. We use a Pack N Play for the baby, and this portable cot for toddlers.

That is about it. Happy traveling!

Seven Quick Takes, Sept. 27

1. I wrote this piece for Truth and Charity this week. It is about societies attitude on having children and how it is messed up. And I also try to figure out the right attitude to have.

2. We drove the 900 miles to Buffalo, NY this week. It is a long way. Why is our country so big?

3. I think we are going to break two little four year old girls’ hearts again when we have to leave Buffalo. But before that we have a big gathering of friends tonight. It is great to be back.

4. For the record, there are seven kids napping in this house right now. There are 2 ten month old babies, 1 eighteen month old, 1 two and a half year old, 1 three year old, and 2 four year olds. S has a magic touch with her kids and niece, and I just got lucky with mine…

5. Old friends are great for getting perspective on life, especially the ones who totally understand everything about my life…

6. My kids both claim to like dogs after living with a fairly tame one for 48 hours. I wonder how the acceptance will pass from dog to dog.

7. These are so short because I am tired and my kids have been going to sleep on their central time zone bedtime and waking up with the eastern time zone sun.

Linking up with Jen.

Seven Quick Takes-Friday, Sept. 6

1. It’s been a few weeks since I wrote Quick Takes. Last Friday (the normal day for Quick Takes) we were in the middle of our summer visit with my parents in St. Louis. It was a wonderful visit. We did all the normal St. Louis things: St. Louis style pizza, Cardinal’s baseball, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, Toasted Ravioli, etc.

Picture from St. Louis Business Journal

2. It was typical hot St. Louis summer weather, so we threw in a trip to Grant’s Farm to make sure we really appreciated the 97°F day. My favorite thing about Grant’s Farm was the hospitality of the employees. They did things like take our strollers for us when we got to the tram and gave free samples to the adults of the Bud Light Lime-a-rita.
I promise I do not ever drink Bud Light, but the Lime-a-rita served over ice was pretty good on a hot day with three little girls in tow. I appreciate the offer of a drink to parents out with kids…

3. The baby has reached the age in which car naps last 30 minutes and no longer. This means our 9 hours on the road was with her mostly awake and often not happy about it. Oh well. This, too, shall pass. All of the children are able to content themselves with books and toys in the car. They don’t even know that we have a DVD player in the car. I think we will keep it that way, since screens in the car for kids who never use any screens would probably be a recipe for disaster.

4. G (4.5) is finally at the point where she can follow audiobooks. Last trip we did Farmer Boy by Laura Ingals Wilder and this trip we did Little House in the Big Woods. We all enjoyed listening to the stories, and it made me very happy that I do not live in a little house in the big woods of Wisconsin with bears for neighbors. Also, I have time to do things like blog and read novels in the evening instead of constantly working to keep my family fed and clothed. I suppose I should think about that when I feel annoyed about having to shop for clothing… at least I don’t have to make it!

5. Saga of the Leaky Pipe Update:  Things are progressing slowly. The did not do much while we were out of town. I think we are still at least a month out from things being completed.

6. We started a scheduled life this week with our pre-school. I am trying to take the advice of every home schooling mom I have heard on the subject of pre-school and to not try to do too much. I am sticking with about an hour a day during the baby’s morning nap. I am finding that it might be easier to just include L (2.5) in everything G and I are doing. She likes to be included and if she is doing something different than G, G is completely distracted. I would not be surprised if we combine subjects with them in the future and if L is one of those really early readers.

7. Because of my scheduling, we are done with school around 10 am. This means I have a full two hours before lunch to get things done everyday! I need to get more disciplined with myself and get things done! Such as, taking the baby monitor out to the garage and starting a furniture painting project before it gets too cold around here. I am waiting on the basement to do any sewing things I have in mind.

That’s all folks. Head over to Jen for more quick takes!