Travel Ambitions with Kids

Monday, June 26, 2017

This week begins our massive summer travels! Five states, two weddings, two kids, and a very pregnant belly - it's going to an adventure! 
Here's where we're going. It's a mix of flying and driving, hotels, friends homes, and rentals. 
Tips welcome! Follow along during the trip using #UTRtravels


It's our annual trip to North Texas for family reunion on the lake with lots of aunts and grandparent time! This will be our first year with both kids out of diapers and physically able to do most activities. It will be a blast!


We have a wedding in Denver but we are also going to be exploring Rocky Mountain National Park and staying part of the time in a mountain cabin.


We are driving from the Denver area to Idaho Falls, ID. Any tips for that 10 hour drive are more than welcome!
We get to see our very good friends and start adventures next door in Wyoming.


It's Yellowstone time! John wants to see Bison badly. He told me, rather mornfully the other day, "I WISH I could play on the prairie." His Little House loving heart will be happy.

We're going to try and explore Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole too.


Another wedding! And this one we're all in! John is ringbearer and Therese is flower girl. They are both taking their duties *very* seriously. 
John acts like he's going to be entrusted with the crown jewels. 
Therese just likes her pretty dress. 
This describes their personalities quite well.

We will have almost two days to explore around Atlanta. I have my eye on the Atlanta History Museum, but any other fun ideas (including must do food places for my foodie husband) are wonderful!


And now a belated My Sunday Best with A Blog for My Mom!

Dress: JC Penny's
Cardigan: Target
Necklace: Family heirloom
Bump: 27 weeks
It would appear that we attended mass at the Basilica from this picture. But no! We went to a picnic for young families held at the Basilica before making our way over to St. Thomas More in St. Paul for the Mass of Thanksgiving for a friend who is a newly ordained priest!

It is also a beautiful church.

We passed Maronite and Ukrainian Catholic churches on the drive down. So many cool places to explore in the Twin Cities!

Answering for My Catholicism

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When I was in college and traveling I would often get into conversations with my airplane seatmate about my college thesis. It was a good follow up since my major is in the wide and vague field of Anthropology. Somehow I always managed to be talking to a former Catholic about my thesis on Catholic women and veiling. Their first response always included that one liner that you just know has gotten a lot of use since they left the Church.

"Oh, I'm a recovering Catholic." Like there's an AA for that.

"I used to be Catholic but now I'm a free thinker."

That one always galled me a bit. The implied idea that anyone who is truly intellectually curious cannot exist in the Catholic Church came up quite a bit. I would have to calm my internal ruffled feathers and ask more questions about their experience in the Church. I tried to keep in mind one of my favorite quotes from Archbishop Fulton Sheen: "There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing."

The top of my list of why I love being Catholic is that no matter how hard I investigate and seek to understand Church teachings, there are still more depths to plumb. It makes me so sad to meet so many people who came against an obstacle to faith and chose to turn away. For many it happened as a young kid. Young enough that the initial turning away came from being failed by the teachers and leaders they trusted and asked to help them understand.

It is true that the teachings do not have all modern sensibilities in mind. Thank God! I want a Church able to articulate who she is and not a chameleon one can never be quite sure about.

I find it amazing that I can read the desert fathers and hear someone speak to the heart of my struggles. A hermit man who lived thousands of miles away and over a thousand years ago can speak truth to my heart because that truth is still truth. That is the amazing beauty of the Catholic Church.

Understanding the teachings does not take faith to move mountains, it just takes a heart willing to listen. I love that the teachings are very logical - the reasoning of a position has been followed to it's logical conclusion and made sure that conclusion is still where we should want to go.

One of my guilty pleasures is reading about all of the heresies that have occurred through the ages.
(I know it sounds weird, bear with me!)
Heresies almost always start with a subtle, but important, misunderstanding of a theological principle. From there the heresy spreads, and what plays out is the full impact of following error to it's logical conclusion. It is not a place I would want to go. Getting intellectual concepts down has a huge impact on avoiding error, and when one reads about just a smattering of the many heresies that have led to great loss of life and terrible practices one starts to understand how important a role intellectuals can play in the Church.

I think we should all be intellectuals of a sort in the Church. Understanding theology is not just the arena, or responsibility, of a select few. Regular Catholics in the pew need to understand why we believe what we believe. Every Catholic, at some point, will be asked to answer for those beliefs. Best be ready!

This post is part of the monthly CWBN Blog Hop. Hop over to read more responses on this month's theme "why I love my Catholic faith".

Why do you love your Catholic faith?

Choosing Mother of Divine Grace

Friday, June 16, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

It is homeschool planning time for us! This year I will have a Kindergartner and a preschooler, with a newborn making an appearance early on in the year. I will be using 26 Letters to Heaven with my preschooler this year, but with some added adaptions to help it better fit into our year and my daughter's specific needs (more on that later!)

For my Kindergartner we have decided to enroll in Mother of Divine Grace (MODG). There are a lot of pluses to the curriculum in the early years that I thought I would write down - partially for myself to read when the "February Dull-drums" hit and I need a reminder!

Rigor not busywork

Somehow education discussions have come to view being busy as equivalent to rigorous in a curriculum. I think what one truly means when one says "I am looking for a rigorous curriculum" is, "I am looking for a curriculum that asks enough of the student that they must keep striving ever further, even in areas they may not personally enjoy." I believe busy work always comes back to bite you. It does not foster sustainable learning in the child, and is a recipe for burnout for the teaching parent.

Just like any other healthy plan, having reasonable and achievable goals is the sweet spot.


MODG is beautiful. I would be remiss if these early years did not involve learning to see and appreciate beauty. Because this window for true awe and appreciation just does not open again in the same way.
All the art, and music, and poetry are not just beautiful extras but important in their own right. Learning how to notice detail in art, pick up tone and audible difference,  memorization and performance - these are all skills that might be fudgable for a while, but their lack does become painfully obvious further along in life.

I love that MODG teaches kids these skills early, while simultaneously familiarizing them with a cultural heritage that could seem far away and unreachable.


There is a lot of wiggle room in MODG in terms of which books you end up using for each kid. It's flexible and allows for adaption from kid to kid and family to family. I love that I can tailor the curriculum but I don't feel like I have to right off the bat. There is nothing that I greatly dislike or feel the need to avoid in the curriculum as it stands.

It forces me to have limits

MODG is very simple in the early grades. It's all about building a solid foundation. A newborn is expected to make an appearance in the early part of our school year, and the reality is I need to know what is important and focus on THAT.
Because I am type A and would totally try to do all the things if the curriculum did not reel me in a bit.

Solidly Catholic

I do not need to pay money for materials that undermine the Catholic base I am trying to instill in my kids. That being said, the curriculum does not feel the need to make anything and everything about specifically Catholic things. MODG utilizes books that are not from Catholic specific publishers but produce solid materials with nothing anti-Catholic in that specific book. I like the attitude that secular or Protestant materials do not automatically need to be excluded. We are still meant to live in this world after all.

Enrollment and Accreditation

While enrollment is certainly not strictly necessary when I only have a Kindergartner and a Preschooler, it is comforting to be able to enroll in the school and have a consultant on call in the event that an issue does arise. If we feel like we need to change a book, if something is just not working, or specific learning issues come up, I can email, call, or text my consultant and know that she is familiar with our materials.

Accreditation is something I don't worry about until the middle/high school grades, but it does not hurt to have it - especially when talking to people who are unfamiliar with homeschooling.

It's Familiar

The big reason MODG initially stuck out to me is it uses the materials I largely know and would have chosen anyway. Many of you know I was homeschooled up until high school so I've made the transition from homeschooled kid to homeschooling mom. Living through the experimentation of the 90s Catholic homeschool world left me with big opinions about what does and does not work for me.
Starting out with what I know helps my confidence that we will arrive at important destinations without (too many) tears.

We are adding in a few things to the curriculum, such as: Little Lambs Family Formation, Ballet, science and history plans, etc. A post on our specific curriculum adaptations will be in the works soon!

What do you love about your curriculum? How do you envision next year in your house? 

Small Children and the Perpetual Questions - #bctgp

Friday, June 2, 2017

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes.

A little while ago my friend Anni from A Beautiful, Camouflaged, Mess of a Life started The Gratitude Project that challenges us to post about the small blessings in our lives. I tried to think beyond the obvious and came to a funny discovery. One of the things I am grateful for are the questions I get asked by my kids every day.

As any parent of little kids will tell you, once kids learn to talk the stream of questions is not far behind. The perpetual questions can be annoying, and I am not claiming to always answer them with sweetness, but there is a beauty to the repetition. Here are the top seven questions my kids ask me everyday.



It's in caps because it's nearly always yelled as though I was far far away on top of a mountain. 
John asks this question every morning. He asks so he can pick clothing that is appropriate for the weather, and I love his persistence in accepting that each day might be very different from yesterday.

"How many weeks until snow?"

John has asked this question every morning since we moved to Minnesota. Part of me wants to write this down just to remind him once we're well into February that there was a time when he wanted this. The less pessimistic side knows that he could very well love the snow every day as though it was the first day. It's one of his gifts.


The universal kid question, "why?"
Both John and Therese ask why at least a dozen times a day. It can be hard as a parent not to get exasperated with the question sometimes, but I'm so grateful they ask why. Kids do not take the world for granted, and they have caught on that things do not just happen. There is a reason and method underlying the world. It's a everyday reminder to me that I, and other adults, could do with remembering to ask why more often. 

"You wanna snuggle me?"

Hands down this is Therese's most frequent question. 
When she gives a hug, she melts into the person like her whole body has suddenly become more liquid than solid. She can use physical touch as a way to show deep trust and love. I am grateful that she is able to trust so reliably. Her requests for snuggles are a reminder to me to slow down and enjoy the presence of their sweet littleness for a bit.

"How does that work?"

John has an insatiable need to understand how things work in minute detail. Tell him about how you accomplish a task and he will give you full attention. He wants to know the ingredients in the dishes served at dinner, if you used pegs or screws to put together a table, and how the construction workers know what machine to use when.
That appreciation of detail, and the work and skill of others, is something I want to foster in myself. I wish it came as instinctively to adults as it does to little kids. 

"Can I do jobs?"

I noticed the other day that my kids rarely ask to help, they ask to "do jobs". I asked them about the difference and they said jobs were "kids working on their own." They are asking to independently contribute to the work that needs to be done everyday. They don't want busy work, they want to do meaningful work.

The question is a challenge for me to allow them to explore their own capabilities and practice working together to accomplish what needs doing that day. I am grateful for the chance to try again every day.

"What time is it?"

Therese is obsessed with time and numbers right now. She asks "what time is it?" a few dozen times a day. 
She does not ask the question the way an adult would - trying to see how long they have until they can move on to the next thing. Therese just wants to know what time it is for the sake of knowing. How often as adults do we take a moment to learn something just for the sake of learning?

What little things are you grateful for? What are the most frequent questions from your kids?

The Real Reasons I Homebirth

Monday, May 29, 2017

I see a lot of misconceptions out there about homebirth and the people who choose to plan a homebirth. We're not all anti-modern medicine, anti-science, or anti-vax. At least I'm not.

I've had a natural-ish hospital birth and a homebirth. We're planning for our second homebirth with this next baby.

My homebirthing is more proactive than reactive. Less about avoiding interventions and more about choosing what has proven to be more effective for me. Here are the real reasons I homebirth.

It's the best way for me to get good postpartum care

I wish this was not true but it has been for me. I was absolutely shocked with the lack of postpartum care, medical or otherwise, to be found using the traditional hospital system. You cannot drop kick moms from a tiny stay in the hospital to a six week check up and expect there to be a smooth transition. With home births I'm guaranteed in home visits by my midwife at 1 day, 3 days, and one week postpartum with a 2 week visit if needed. That's in addition to phone contact, doula visits, and other help.

It's respectful

Through so much of my hospital experience I did not feel heard - even though I had a CNM. My homebirth midwives have been very clear that we have a midwife/client relationship not a midwife/patient relationship. What that means is that I am legally and factually much more in control of my own birth and pregnancy experience. The difference is subtle but the shift in attitude is huge!

I am encouraged, and allowed, to take responsibility for my own birth

Part of agreeing to a planned homebirth is signing a form that states that I will take responsibility for my own education about birth choices, do my part to stay low risk, and prepare as well as I can for the birth and postpartum period. Planning is not an afterthought with a homebirth, and I have experienced much better support prenatally for making those plans with homebirth midwives than I was ever allowed with hospital midwives and OBs. In fact my visits with hospital based practitioners were more focused on breaking attempts at planning than support in planning.

I know who will be at my birth

Even if you have the best OB or midwife ever, you will still be at the mercy of the hospital on-call list when it comes down to who will actually be there when your child is born. I hated that I had to look up my son's birth certificate to see who actually attended his birth since I was never even introduced to the woman - before or after the birth. Giving birth is an intimate event and it is important to me that I at least know the names of the people who are there!

I am allowed to rest

I have absolutely no idea how anyone gets any rest in hospitals after having a baby. Getting woken up every 4 hours for vitals checks, no help caring for the baby, constant lights and noise, and uncomfortable beds are just not my idea of restful. Getting to sleep in my own bed, being left alone to sleep when I can, and to have a room be fully dark has done wonders for my postpartum health!

These are my biggest reasons for continuing to choose homebirth. 
No, I don't think hospitals are evil, they are just not a good choice as a birthing place for me. 
We still see regular Family Medicine doctors for check ups and illness. We get all our shots on schedule, and believe in evidence-based medical decisions. 

Having a planned homebirth is no guarantee of having the bestest-most-amazing-birth-experience-ever! It is important to be honest and realistic about when the plan needs to change or if homebirth is not a good option. 

In the coming weeks I can do more posts about things like preparing for a homebirth and tips for picking a midwife. I do think postpartum preparation, homebirthing or not, is one of the most overlooked aspects of preparing for baby. Here are my best tips for preparing for avoiding postpartum depression. I'll have to write one about preparing for postpartum more generally!

What questions do you have about homebirth? Is it something you would consider doing or have done?

The Hidden Scars - Dealing with Miscarriage and Secondary Infertility

Monday, May 22, 2017

I am told I am lucky.
I got my boy and my girl right off the bat.
"You're so lucky!," say strangers on the street. "Now you're done!"

Ummmm, why? I always wanted to finally turn around and ask, "What makes you say that?"

Because I didn't feel lucky.

When we had an early miscarriage after our second child was born, it was much more heart wrenching than it had to be due to social pressure to fall within certain reproductive expectations.

The following are real quotes real people have really said to me.
Like to my face.
And meant them.

Once you have a boy and a girl it's "so nice you're done!" It's a statement, not a question.

Any pregnancy less than two years after the last child was born must have been an accident. Because "why would you even want that?"

DEFINITELY never tell anyone about a pregnancy before 12 weeks. Because "what if something happens?!"

Well something did happen, and, ya know, it was not helped by keeping my child some deep secret.

Following our miscarriage it took a lot longer to get pregnant with our next baby than expected.
It's impossible to convey, without living through it, just what it's like to hope so hard every month.... and then see that tell-tale temperature drop on the chart and know that it wouldn't be this month.

Or the next.

Or the next.

But from the outside looking in everything looked perfect!
We're very healthy and active people. We have two cool kids who fill our days with antics and adventures.
But people are not Legos. You can't just swap out one kid for another, and my heart longed for the baby we lost and the ones I was no longer sure would ever be coming.

Sometimes it seemed like no one else even remembered that baby happened.

I entered a weird twilight zone where I would hope against hope that friends would make their pregnancy announcements on Facebook instead of insisting on telling me face to face. IKEA and Target on the weekends was like walking into a maternity catalog. It felt like every other woman in a 50 miles radius could get pregnant but me.

I faced the possibility that we might end up as a two child family.
With our boy and our girl. Socially approved.

I recoiled from the social approval. It felt backhanded. "Good job meeting the Orwellian ideal!" No room for difference. No room for growth. No room for humanity or empathy in there.

I am currently pregnant with our "rainbow baby" who is due to arrive at the end of September. This was a pregnancy announced right away. This child will not be hidden, her birth order will not be excused, and I sincerely hope she's not the last.

I hope for a society that is less focused on a reproductive ideal, and solely focused on the gift of humanity present in each child. I hope for there to be love and understanding for mothers like me who are suddenly staring at a battle with infertility. I hope for a first child and an eleventh child to be equally welcomed. I hope for the silent struggles and wounds of our hearts to speak.

Emotional and spiritual healing from my miscarriage is an ongoing process, so I was thrilled to see Peanut Butter & Grace was publishing a book focused on miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss - Blessed Is The Fruit of Thy Womb by Heidi Indahl

What saint better understands what it is like to lose a child than Mary? The book prays through the rosary using meditations from Scripture, reflections, and prayer intentions. What I find most valuable are the questions and journal space within the book to write down the emotions and thoughts that arise from our prayer. 

The book does a great job of grounding the reader in the guidance of Mary and Scripture while consciously allowing the reader to process her own grief and experience. That processing is always followed up with a prayer intention for the larger world. 

Our grief is not unique. So many mother's hearts all over the world and throughout history bear the scars of child loss. Own your story, write it down, talk about it, don't forget your children, but also remember that others are with you bearing the same grief. Bearing the same wounds. Reaching out to each other, beginning through prayer, can be the first fruit that reconnects us back to each other.

Blessed Is The Fruit of Thy Womb is available on Amazon. You can follow more from the author, Heidi Indahl, on her blog Work and Play, Day by Day and on Facebook and Instagram. I received access to a free digital preview copy of the book for review, but all opinions and commentary is my own.

A Tactile Prayer Life - Making Your Family Altar

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I am a very tactile person when it comes to prayer. I like to have physical Bibles, prayer books, and rosary beads. This works out well when trying to teach little kids about prayer since they are very tactile too!

My greatest struggle with prayer is just starting! I have found having a family altar, or oratory, very helpful as a reminder that we should have prayer in our homes. Here's the typical things we have on our family altar.

Note: Apologies this will not have many pictures. Many of my liturgical items, kid faith art, and statues got crushed/beheaded in the move. A new opportunity for improvement awaits!


Nothing makes you think of Jesus more than seeing the guy himself in the moment of his crucifixion. Even young kids really get what the cross is all about when they see at least one crucifix on a regular basis.

Family rosary is never gonna happen if it's always proceeded by a scramble to find rosaries scattered all over the house. It also helps the kids to understand that rosaries are not toys when they are kept in a special place in the house.

Holy Family Statue

I really love statues of the Holy Family since they often show Jesus as a small child, and it seems to blow kid's minds that once upon a time Jesus was a little kid like them. It presents Joseph and Mary in their context as Jesus' mom and foster father which has helped my kids understand what the big deal is about them.


Fire is one of those magical elements that signal to kids "this is a big deal".
Having a candle stash by your altar is nice when you want to light a candle as a reminder to pray during a particular period of time during a day. Maybe someone is having surgery, is in labor, or doing a job interview. One more way to stay prayerful even when we have to attend to daily concerns.

I have three stashes of candles around my house: candles for prayer, candles for emergencies, and candles for ambiance/make the house smell pretty. I strongly suggest getting unscented candles for your family altar since it's sad to have to blow out a prayer candle that is making you nauseous.

Liturgical Year Items

These rotate depending on the time of year. I stash my blessed palms in a vase on the altar during the Easter season. We fill a red construction paper heart with the names of our loved ones who have died and place it on the altar for the month of November. There's a huge range of what you could do, but changing the look of the altar with the seasons has really helped my kids see where the differences are in the liturgical seasons.

Holy Water/Other Blessed Items

It's amazing how many blessed items a family can accumulate! In order to keep them together (and not forget they are blessed and should be treated differently) I like to keep them near our altar. Not necessarily on the altar since they are not all needed on a regular basis. A great example for this is the blessed chalk we use for the Epiphany house blessing. We only do the blessing once a year, but the rest of the year I need to manage not to use the chalk that is blessed as regular sidewalk chalk for the kids (because we did have father bless Crayola sidewalk chalk. It was on sale.)

Kid Faith Creations

The kids both participate in our Little Lambs faith formation program which sends us lots of super cute liturgical year crafts. Some of them are things I think are clever and useful for family prayer, and the kids get a lot of pride in seeing something they made go someplace as special as the family altar.

For more ideas about family altars, I highly recommend the book The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Praying in the Home by David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler. It is very detailed so don't be afraid to take what you need and come back for more later.

This post is part of the Catholic Women Blogger's Network (CWBN) monthly Blog Hop! Make sure to click over to the hop to check out more posts on this month's theme: Different ways to pray - holiness in our daily lives.

Do you have a family altar? How to you like to physically live the liturgical year in your home?
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