It was happening night after night; my husband or I would decide after the children were in bed to “do a quick email check.” The other would join in and before we knew it half an hour had passed and all we had done was give into the temptation to idle curiosity and lose ourselves in distraction.
We have fought this vice our whole lives—distraction, the bane of a recollected life. It pulls one from one thing to the next, never allowing a task to be completed well, never giving one time just to think. The philosopher Dietrich Von Hildebrand in his book Transformation in Christ described distraction as the “exact antithesis to recollection” and “a state of being dragged along from one object to another, never touching any of them by superficially” (Ch. 6). The time sap of social media and the gossip-ridden sites of the internet are just another symptom of this fallen human state, one that we came into when we first gave into the vice of curiosity.
What is Von Hildebrand’s solution to being distracted? Learn how to become recollected.
“La La Land” is the only recent movie I have seen to which I can relate to so completely. My husband and I finally got around to it the other night on our anniversary. We had gone out for a nice Italian dinner, perused a used bookstore, came home to kids ready for bed (thank you, babysitter), put them to bed, and streamed the movie on my husband’s laptop—the strange mix of modern times and traditional ways did not strike us as funny at all. Of course we would stream a movie on our date night since we do not have a television. Of course we would first take time to Instagram a picture of the gorgeous 90-year-old 31-volume set of Robert Louis Stevenson we had found at the bookstore lamenting, yet thankful, that the books had been passed over so many times to have been marked down three times. We felt that we had to liberate them from the dusty top shelf and bring them to a place where they would be truly appreciated.
I wondered as we drove home what our society had come to that it did not see the value in so brilliant a writer as Stevenson or even the set of Charles Dickens that we left waiting for another sympathetic buyer. And then we turned on “La La Land”—a film about people of my generation seeking their dreams and discovering that they cannot perhaps have it all after all, a film indicative of our generation discovering that all the liberation that happened in the sixties and seventies did not give us anything solid to stand on. In fact the film downright promotes all that my adult life has been focused on—discovering the beauty of our past traditions and bringing them back as fully as possible into our modern lives. I am fully aware that we cannot have the fifties again—nor do I want the fifties again. We can’t go back, but we can recover the beauty that was lost, because the artifacts of it are still there to be found…
I married him nine years ago on a hot, sunny, June day in St. Louis. We were surrounded by our family and friends who traveled from across the country to witness our Sacrament together. I did this walk down memory lane two years ago in which I highlighted our first seven years of marriage. So, I am going to go ahead and just cover the last two years.
On the way to Idaho.
Year Eight: Our eighth year of marriage began shortly after the birth of T, who turned out to be the most difficult infant of our marriage in that he is still a light sleeper and cut eight teeth between the age of 3 and 8 months. There were so many sleepless nights. During the day though, he was pretty happy. We took a trip to Idaho with newborn T for a philosophy conference–I read Dr. Thorne by Anthony Trollope and the professor discussed the interim state. In the school year, I still managed to teach first grade to G and keep the other kids happy. I think that we started to find a good rhythm. The professor still thrived as a young professor. In the Spring I was asked to start blogging at the National Catholic Register, which has been a blessing and honor to be able to do. The Spring also brought my most tragical (I spelled that this way on purpose) fall down the basement stairs and a three month concussion recovery. G made her first Reconciliation and First Communion.
Photo by G–the other girls were not impressed with Steubenville’s campus.
Year Nine: This last year has been wonderful. Perhaps it has been because our oldest has reached the magic age of seven. We are only 6 months from having another child older than seven. It also could be because T finally reached the age of one–that second year is one of my favorite for babies. We set a goal of no ER visits this year, and we have made it. Hopefully we can go another year sans the ER (though we almost went a couple of weeks ago when I had two kids with fevers at 104°F). We had a fun trip in the summer with our closest college friends and all of our children, including a brief stop at Steubenville. The professor and I explored a variety of new cocktails together, and started a new project of watching all of Shakespeare’s plays (we are doing this mostly in one hour segments with BBC Television Shakespeare which is available streaming through the professor’s university library). This has been quite fun. The professor is getting geared up for his tenure review, gave his first key-note talk at a conference, and is planning a book. I have been reading the Summa Theologiae, writing, theological editing for Blessed is She, and hope to throw together a written Bible study in my spare time. The rest of my time has been spent home schooling second grade, kindergarten, and pre-K, and discovering the joys of having a toddler boy. Our lives our full, and I think we are growing in love and devotion to God daily.
I am learning daily about how raising children and living in marriage is a vocation because it is leading to my sanctification, that of my husband’s, and for the sake of my children to become holy as well. That is what this life is about; that is the end for which we are created. This sacrament of matrimony is about being called to holiness and loving God through our sacrifices and acts of love for each other. That is what we are striving to do, calling each other out in, and falling on God’s mercy and grace time after time, because try as we might, we cannot do this without Him. I can’t believe we are just one year shy of a decade… but here we are living on a prayer under the mercy.
One of my best friends from college has been living in New York City for about as long as we have been living in Minnesota. She had a stint in the Midwest and another in the South during our years in Buffalo, New York–which is not anywhere near NYC for those of you unsure of your New York geography. Buffalo is on Lake Erie over eight hours driving from NYC (which takes another eight hours to get across by bus, but the train is faster, and if traffic is good, take an Uber… right?). Well, my friend Claire grew up in Jersey, so NYC is much more her native environment than it could ever be for me.
A few weekends ago, Claire welcomed our mutual friend Tina and myself to her tiny flat in Queens for a Moms’ get away weekend. We lived like we were single, but mostly talked about our kids and Claire, being the awesome single lady and friend that she is, enjoyed every single story. And we being on break from our home lives, ate out more times (without kids) in three days than we have in the past several years. I used to say that I did not really feel like an adult yet, but since I had my fourth child and we bought a house, I have been feeling more and more of adulthood. This solo trip to NY showed me even more how I am a grown up… (oh the plight of us Millenials…)
The weekend was quite memorable, full of more stories than you might care to hear. My visit started with an early 4:30am wake up, and somehow no coffee until I was through security and walking to my gate. It was a direct flight, and somehow I ended up talking to my seatmate–a single bearded man a year younger than me–the whole flight. We started on something about the flight, snow driving in Minnesota, Iowa cops (his home state) and speed traps, my kids, home schooling, Catholicism, sacramental theology, science and the Bible, why he stopped going to church, how he wants to raise kids Catholic if he ever gets married, Kant, Shakespeare, my parish’s Sunday orchestral Mass, photons, where we were on 9-11 (as we flew by the Freedom tower), and ended on craft beer. It was quite fun; and I hope that he goes to the orchestral Mass someday.
Yes, that is a stained glass window with Aristotle…his halo is blue as opposed to yellow. From St. Vincent Ferrars,
After I landed in NY, I am quite proud of myself for making my way to the bus stop and managing to acquire and load a metro card, getting on the right bus, and getting off at the right stop. It helped that Queens has numbered streets, so I could count down as we went along. My awkwardness of riding a bus pressed into strangers all ignoring me completely dissipated by the end of the weekend.
Claire brought us into Manhattan for all sorts of interesting things every day of the visit. We went to a giant spice store, ate amazing mac and cheese (mine was provolone and Gruyere with bacon, spinach, and roasted tomatoes…I need to recreate it…), went to a secret play (where you had to have your name on the list) at St. Michael’s church at a back entrance, laughed way too loud on the train, hailed a taxi, slept in to go to a noon Sunday Mass at St. Vincent Ferrars, spent the afternoon at the MET, bought art from a street vendor, walked through central park, bought a new dress and hat, went to the NY Frassati dinner and praise and worship holy hour, went out for fancy cocktails at Seamstress, Ubered our way home, stayed up until 2am, woke up at 10am, walked around in the pouring rain, sent Tina off to her flight, only bought three books at Strand books, prayed at the old St. Patrick’s, went down to Chinatown, ate soup dumplings and funny ice cream, and talked and talked and talked and talked. Then I woke up bright and early to fly home…coming home to everyone who missed me.
And, yes, the weekend was a fun as it sounded, but the whole time, I was thinking, NYC is fun and all, but boy do I love living in the Midwest. The beauty out here in flyover country is incredible. Upstate New York is pretty gorgeous itself, but there is nothing quite like the middle of America. I also realized how people have so much time to spend online. When you commute for an hour on a train, of course you have time to check the internet a billion times, have twitter battles, Instagram random things, read blogs, send emails and so on. Being a stay at home mom means that my sitting down alone time consists of the snatched minutes I have in the bathroom with an iPad.
Yet, the whole point of the weekend, which is what I said from the planning stages was to catch up with old friends. We opted on one morning to skip all the plans and just hang out together. How many times in my life will I get to do another ladies weekend like this, with friends who have known me for so long, who knew me in my most vulnerable times in college? These are the ladies who helped me learn a deeper love of God, who prayed over me countless times, who still know me so well. And that was the reason for the weekend of fun and rest and friendship.
(And if you are wondering the professor fared quite well alone with the kids… he even beer battered and fried his own cheese curds…)
I was recently given another theological explanation of the action of receiving Holy Communion at the altar rail while studying the New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism with my daughter. And it blew my mind for about a week. We were in Lesson 28 on Holy Communion, directly following the lesson on the Sacrifice of the Mass, when I paused at this sentence: “At Holy Communion, when we go up to the Banquet Table (the altar rail), Our Lord comes to us.” I had always thought of the Banquet Table as the main altar where the priest makes present Christ’s sacrifice. It had never occurred to me that the altar rail was something more than a divider from the sanctuary, but that it is actually an extension of the altar—the people’s altar.. Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…
While my husband labors today at his trade of sharing the love of wisdom, I have been doing my normal work of home schooling the kids and doing some writing. Well this morning, on this feast of St. Joseph the Worker, I was flipping through this sweet little book, We Sing and Listen (affliate link alert…thanks for using it!) from Seton Books that I picked up in our home school co-op’s book sale last week. It has sweet pious little songs about the liturgical year, and I found this gem to sing with the kids for today:
Dear St. Joseph, kind and true, I have lessons I must do. They are for your Foster Son. Help me till the work is done.
You who taught our Lord a trade, Showed Him how a chair is made, Do not fail to answer me, Dearest saint, my helper be.
Ever since I went on my silent retreat during Lent, I have been trying to be intentional about fostering a deeper love in myself and in the children for God and the saints, and it occurred to me that these pious simple songs, sung well are so helpful in doing that.
I want the children to know how to love God and to know how to help themselves love God. Charity (God’s own love), while an infused theological virtue that He gives us for others, also requires effort on our part. We must want to love Him, and ask Him to help us love others. And here on this feast of St. Joseph the Worker, we can ask just that of St. Joseph.
I have a good friend who goes on what it seems like four outings a day with her kids ranging from play dates, to grocery shopping, to a museum, and finishing it off with the arboretum or zoo. We have her over for a morning play date and she has been somewhere already. She heads out for a big grocery shopping trip when she leaves our house. And she seems to draw energy from this–it is fun for her!
I think I must be her opposite. One outing, about 90 minutes long is fun for me, any longer than that, and things start to fall apart. But as it happens the outing are always longer than 90 minutes. Most place we go to it takes a full 30 minutes to get from the driveway, park the car, and get into the door of whatever place (unless it is the grocery store…). Yet, I have learned over the years, if I am going to take four kids on a long outing parenting solo, be it a friend’s house, museum, zoo, home school co-op, orchestra, well-visit with the pediatrician, OB visit (when I am pregnant) etc. I have to do several things to keep myself sane.
1. The outing is the only special thing we do that day. The rest of the day is normal life. We get up at the same time, eat breakfast at the same time, do our outing, come home fed or before lunch, I coerce the people into their naps and quiet times, and then just savor the afternoon quiet…and then start dinner too late because I am wiped.
2. Bring the right stroller or baby carrier. The doctor’s office requires an umbrella stroller for strapping the toddler into when necessary. The zoo requires the double stroller so that the toddler can’t get away and for a tired kid to ride when necessary. The art museum does best with a single jogger because they won’t let us wear backpack diaper bags on our backs and it is easy to maneuver. The wrong stroller ruins the outing. Orchestra is no stroller, just baby in a carrier as there is no room for strollers.
3. Make them eat a snack in the car on the way and bring water bottles. Full bellies=happy kids. Having kids fed before going out solves about 90% of mood problems (I may have just made up that stat). Plus, the other day we went to the zoo, and it was a lot easier to breeze by the refreshment stand with kids who had just had snacks and had full water bottles that way. Not that we ever buy concession food anyway, but they always want to ask. 4. Pack a lunch that they can eat in the car or before we go home. If I know we are going to get home after 12pm, a packed lunch is a necessity. I was not sure if the lunch on our zoo outing was going to be eaten at the zoo or in the care on the way home, but I knew that when we got home, there would be no need to feed anyone. We ended up eating at the zoo. We ate it walking from one exhibit to another, and the four year old and toddler ate in the stroller. You know that a stroller is basically meant to be a high chair with wheels, right?
5. Plan ahead and meet a friend there. My real pleasure in outings, besides going places with my perfectly mannered children (ha!), is hanging out with another mom and family that we love. That way the kids get to see friends (home school problems) and I get to see one as well. It is also helpful if the little people need help in the bathroom. We can tag-team guarding strollers or help reign in a wandering child. The other day at the zoo, I lost a child and my friend stayed with the other ones while I found my lost, sobbing child. It is all about the solidarity.
6. Do not push myself or the kids by staying too long and get home by quiet time. When I was leaving my weekend long silent retreat a last month, I called the professor to let him know I was on my way home. He mentioned that the toddler had only been napping about an hour; it was five o’clock. Then he explained that their outing had gone from about 11am-3:30pm, and I was like, “Are you insane?!” My day revolves around my 2-4pm quiet time, and I do not miss it except for very few reasons. He, however, seemed to enjoy breaking all of my rules while I was away. I, on the other hand, need the afternoon quiet to recharge for the rest of the day. I often get home later than I plan too, but we always make sure there is some time for rest.
The other factor here is the kids. People at certain ages and with certain introverted personalities tend to completely lose it after a certain amount of time out of the house, whether or not his or her stomach is full. We call it “turning into a pumpkin.” Pumpkins tend to lose the ability to control emotions as they have no reason, and they don’t listen to anything you say as they have no ears. I try to avoid my kids turning into pumpkins. The other day it happened because a pumpkin fell while running. It was all chaos with her after that…
7. Plan an easy dinner for that night. Who wants to cook an elaborate meal after being out and about all morning? Dinner has to be quick, and I will probably not start cooking it until 4:30pm, which is the time my conscience really makes me get off the computer or stop reading and get going on feeding people…
Note: The library is an automatic free outing for which I break all of these rules for. 1) It is like 5 minutes away. 2) We do it in like 30 minutes, and the toddler always comes home soaked because someone thought it would be a good idea to put a toddler height water fountain in the kids section of the library… why??!?!?
A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege to help organize the Midwest conference of the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network. Nearly 40 women from across the Midwest gathered at a beautiful mansion in St. Paul, Minnesota to talk about blogging, network with each other, and support each other as Catholic bloggers. I also discovered that my mostly introverted self needed over a week to recover from the non-stop fun of the weekend.
When Anna and Jacqui asked me last summer to help them plan the conference, I was not really sure what it would all entail except that it would be fun. The work was definitely worth it, even if I was just on the back end of the planning. My co-planners had a vision for this conference, and I was happy to support that vision and help them plan. Which was probably a good choice since I have a lot of things on my plate these days. We managed to pull things together fairly smoothly, even with our last-minute location change. I had the pleasure of cooking way too much cabbage, chick pea, and wild rice soup for our Saturday lunch, and sending jars of it home with several people.
The conference began with breakfast and short introductions. Then my sweet friend Nell gave a talk on networking, branding, social media use, and things along those lines. She was awesome as always. And her blog really shows her ability to do the things necessary to be authentic and network on her blog. Laura followed her up with a talk about writing–how and when to write. She gave great tips on how to plan writing, and how to actually do it.
After lunch we had technical and writing workshops where our bloggers were ask questions about their own blogs and writing. Then Haley gave a talk about her own blogging journey through the forming of a mastermind group and how she manages and runs her blog. Last on the blogging agenda was a question and answer time with our three speakers.
Then everyone went to Mass, but I stayed back to rest… plus, we always go as a family early Sunday morning and the professor had been parenting solo for nearly 36 hours by the time I got home Saturday night…
Dinner from Gardens of Solanica was amazing; really I was just thrilled to be eating delicious meat…
Thanks to all of our sponsors for making this day so wonderful!
Also, thank you to our awesome ladies who helped in the kitchen all day: Amy, Kelly, and Cara!
Photo Credit: Katize Truso Katzie took beautiful headshots of all of us bloggers. Check out her other work at her website.
My personal take away from this day is that I am doing the right thing for me in terms of the blogging and writing. After T was born (nearly two years ago?!??! what???!?!), it dawned on me that being a writer is not just something I do on the side, but it is important for me to do as part of my vocation. I am a wife and mother, teacher to my home-schoolers, and also a free lance writer. It is weird to say that “out-loud,” but I have found writing to be part of my calling, something that God wants me to do. And when I do it well, on top of all the other parts of my vocation, I find a fulfillment in serving God.
My main goal for myself after this conference is to make sure I am writing something everyday–not necessarily something I publish–but putting words on the screen or on paper. Practice makes perfect, right? The other goal is to post more of #theprofessorsdinner on Instagram, and prove that I do not make extensive, complex meals every night…sometimes I make things out of a can…
I am over at Blessed is She today with today’s devotion:
I have a time-wasting problem. One that I have confessed again and again for years, and I know that to remedy the problem I simply have to use my time well. I use a planner, allocating time for each thing. It goes well in the morning, but then I get to the afternoon.
My children are napping or resting, and I waste that time. I scroll through the social media, justifying it to myself. Then I see the late hour, and I scramble to do the things I meant to do. I usually end up irritable with my children, and take out my impatience with myself on them. I start dinner late, we eat late, the kids are in bed late, and then my husband and I still have to clean the kitchen instead of having a nice evening. What seems like a simple moment to relax actually has an ill effect on my whole family…
6 week old G napping in the jogger at Delaware Park in Buffalo, NY.
Yesterday, for the first time since something like 2011, I ran 3 miles straight. The last time was between babies number 2 and 3. I had trained for a 5k mud-run, and it was quite fun. I have been running regularly whenever my childbearing has allowed me to, but I have never extended my mileage up to three miles again until now. So, I had to blog about it. Because it is very exciting for me to hit a “mile”stone like that. I would have gotten here sooner had it not been for my concussion last February which set me back to zero miles.
I am what I call an extremely casual runner. I am not fast (11 minute miles give or take), and I run about three times a week on a limited amount of time. I have to fit my exercise and shower into about 90 minutes, so I only have so long to run for. Actually, I am a little obsessive about running at least three times a week (and showering three times a week accordingly).
I became a runner in college after three things happened: my asthma was properly diagnosed, I had good orthotics for my flat feet, and my sister who was in physical therapy school at the time trained me how to run “correctly”. All of the factors explained why I hated sports like soccer when I was in elementary school or “the mile” we ran each school year. It was torture on my feet and ankles. Yet, I persisted to learn how to run, mostly for the sake of being healthy.
I like running as exercise because it requires very little equipment, I can do it alone, I don’t have to go to a gym, I can fit it into my daily life, and it helps my postpartum body discover its former shape (in as much as it is able).
I also dislike running. It is a struggle to get through my runs, one could say it is a mortification. I count down the minutes and count up the miles throughout it. I find it pleasurable during the first four minutes or so, and awful after that. Though sometimes I get to the end of my planned running time and feel good enough to go an extra minute or two, so I do. And that is how I increase my miles. But I always feel good after I have done it, so I continue to push myself to do it.
I started to fit regular exercise into my life at the end of high school and during the beginning of college. I decided on how many times a week I was going to do it, planned when I was going to do it and stuck to it. In college I often would wake up for 6:30am Mass, exercise, shower, and then go to breakfast. That routine worked really well for sticking with it. Once I became a mother, I had to adjust things.
After G (my first) was born, since I already had a habit of regular exercise, I got back into it at about 6 weeks postpartum. I had a jogging stroller and that was one of regular activities together. Having two babies through a wrench in my system. I did not want to jog with two, so the professor and I created a system of me going out for runs during the kids afternoon nap time. And we have had they system ever since. Nap times for all but the baby are nonexistent, but the older ones take a quiet time during the baby’s nap. So, with the professor available, on days he does not work on campus, for all of the children’s urgent needs, I can take 90 minutes in the afternoon to run and shower. They play and he works. That has been our system for 6 years now, and a very good one I might add.
The main thing that has kept me exercising has been to make a plan and stick with it, and not checking the internet when I am supposed to be exercising. Every semester, the professor and I talk over his schedule. He tells me what days that he will be on campus, and then we plan when I am going to exercise. Some semesters I run on Mon, Wed, Fri. In others it is Tues, Thurs, and Sat. With my three times a week schedule, I also have plenty of physical energy for whatever outings, walks, and games the kids want to play as well.
And now for my confession: two things that keep me motivated to run are 1) my treadmill and 2) audiobooks. I used to run outside all types of weather, but I hated planning my routes and running in public. I am more introverted than extroverted, so I like to just go and run and be alone. The treadmill solves that problem. I will run outside in a pinch, and I do enjoy it when I do, but it is often easier for us, for me just to run at home… plus, hot Minnesota summers and cold Minnesota winters make it easier to stay inside. I love our local library’s subscription to an audiobook app. I can borrow audiobooks through the free app and listen to novel after novel while I run. I “read” Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles last year, and am currently on a George Elliot kick. It is a great break for me to run and read at the same time. My mother used to demand I stop reading to play outside in the summer, and now I read and get my exercise at the same time!