Lessons Learned on the Road

Friday, July 13, 2018



We have officially (mostly) survived a round-trip 28 hour road trip between Minnesota and Texas. We've done long road trips with kids before, but never with a baby and never quite this long. We learned some things...

I might not be alright, even while the kids are fine


Y'all, I hate to drive. I went almost a decade without driving while we lived in California, and that was good for me.  I don't mind different states having different rules, but I can't emotionally handle the collective refusal to follow those rules. I learned in Oklahoma that older men in giant white pickups will sit in the left hand lane, going below the speed limit, next to a big rig in the right hand lane for 80 MILES!

The driving was the worst bit. But the kids didn't mind the drive much. Even though Felicity did not sleep AT ALL the first 7.5 hour driving day. She was happy, but extremely sleep deprived.

Heat is terrible


This is one of the hottest Texas summers on record, and I forgot how miserable it can be to have a baby in extreme heat. Especially a winter baby.
One day it was 107 and the next it was 95. Matt described it as the difference between feeling like you're to die and feeling like you might make it after all.

There is a time and place for screens


We try not to do much screen time at home, but I really believe screens have a time and a place. One of them, for sure, is in the backseat of a car on a 14 hour road trip.
Moana, Frozen, and the Jungle Book were our soundtrack.

Truck stops and rest areas are treats!


Every 2-4 hours we would stop at a rest area or truck stop (depending on if we needed gas). I brought some soccer balls in the truck that would get thrown out and kicked around if there was space. I got the app USA Rest Stops before we left, and that was sooooo helpful for locating the nearest rest stops, and it has icons for what amenities are available, and reviews from other travelers.

At a truck stop in Oklahoma I had taken the kids in to use the rest room, and stopped to look at a taxidermy bison inside. When I came out again Matt asked if I saw the bison.
"Yeah of course. It's right next to the rest room."
"No, the real ones."

Apparently across the parking lot from the truck stop was a bison farm! With baby bison! The kids were thrilled.



My baby is full of surprises


First there was the formerly mentioned lack of sleep despite 7.5 hours of driving (yet she sleeps in the 15 minutes it takes to get to church?!) She got over it after the first day though. Slightly.
Then baby girl broke through two top teeth after working on those for months.
She seems to have an insatiable appetite in the heat. She could easily put away 2 eggs worth of scrambled eggs, a cup of Cherrios, plus whatever other random fruit we had to give her, and that was just breakfast!
Felicity also appears to be part mermaid. I think she would have just lived in the water if I could let her.

After all the pool and lake time, this is apparently the only picture I manage to get of the water baby.

I have the most steady-headed husband on the face of the Earth


Matt talked me down when the road was stressing me out.
Handled the lack of functioning AC at an Air BnB in Kansas City.
Managed to track down foodie, kid friendly, dinner locations even when everyone else was burnt out and done.
He's basically the best road trip companion ever. I married well.

Books are still the greatest brain break

After a full day of traveling, the most relaxing thing was to read my physical in-my-hands book! I cannot handle anymore stimulation after that much car time, and even scrolling Facebook would make me tired. 
I've written before about why I think it's so important that adults find time to read real books, but I find such comfort and relief in the act of reading from a physical book.
I did have an audio-book for the car from the library (Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve) but I brought along my current history book (Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II) and I'm re-reading the last two Harry Potter books (re-reading Harry is a summer tradition for me.)

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

How have your summer travels/adventures been going? Any other road-trippers? What are you reading?

Summer is Rocking and Rolling!

Friday, June 22, 2018


It's officially summer, and things are moving fast here! So here's an update on the week, and what to look forward to coming up.

1

First off, wow, thanks for the love on "That's Beautiful, But It's Not for Me" post!



I did not anticipate that piece resonating with so many people, and it's been beautiful to see your responses!

2

I did manage to write a short follow up post to give some examples of where this phrase has made space in my own life. I've had some requests for deeper follow up posts, and I would love to but....

3

...We're about to leave on a 14 hour road trip! With three kids, including a baby!

So I'm going to be a little tied up for a bit.

I'll still be checking social media and email during our trip, and documenting it when I can (because *I* need to look back on these posts to remember!)

We're going to Texas, so if you're in the Dallas area, say hi!

4

Thanks to everyone who shared their road trip with kids/babies tips and tricks with me on Facebook and Instagram! I'll try them out over this two day trip (and the two days back), and let you know what the winners were for our family.

The kids and I are working on making busy bags out of things we already have around the house, and organizing the car, today. We cleaned out the car the other day and I think it's the travel equivalent of clean sheets.

So pretty!
And it's about to get so filled and messy!
But that's the point.

5

While I'm not going to be posting here while we're traveling (I think), I will be guest posting over on Not So Formulaic, and I have a piece on Everyday Ediths this week.



So if you ever wanted to read about my take on femininity for Catholic women, or why homeschooling is a gift to our family (goes live on Tuesday) , check those out!

6

This past week included Father's Day AND my husband's birthday.
That always means fun fancy cooking!
For his birthday I created a dinner out of what I had in the kitchen or from the farm box. The result was cheese grits topped with poached egg and prosciutto wrapped asparagus.



The kid's reactions:

John (6) - *takes a little bite* "Hmm, this is actually quite good."
Therese (3) - *mouth stuffed* "Um, it's DE-WISH-OUS!"

This encapsulates their eating styles well.

7

This week began a 54 week rosary novena! If you have any prayer intentions, the first 27 days is in petition and the remaining 27 are in thanksgiving, send them my way! I love to remember your intentions, I write them all down in my bullet journal, and it makes me so happy to hear about the fruits of prayer in your lives!



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

This is a "catch up" kind of post for me, so what is new in your life? What are your plans in the upcoming weeks? Is there something you are particularly proud of from the last few weeks? 

Beautiful Things I Have Said No To Doing

Friday, June 15, 2018



Earlier this week I wrote about a powerful phrase "That's beautiful, but it's not for me". I explained why I think it's awesome, but I wanted to give you some real world examples of this phrase in action. Here are seven beautiful things, that are good things, but they are not right for me.

1. Being "just a mom"


I tried to do this one. I spent about a year with my first attempting to feel fulfilled wholly within in my newborn and my husband. It just about ruined my mental health.

God did not give me talents and gifts that allow me to feel fulfilled solely by motherhood. Since I'm not going to claim to know better than God, I'm going to follow his lead on this one.

2. Catholic school


We happen to have a wonderful Catholic school attached to our parish. I love the people who go there, the principal, the curriculum, the healthy culture they have fostered.
But I'm still homeschooling.
Homeschooling happens to be what works for our family dynamics, our time needs, and my children's needs. I don't know how long we'll homeschool, if we might someday use the awesome Catholic school, or public school, but this is what rocks in our family right now.

3. Homeschool Co-ops


Even though I love my homeschooling, homeschool co-ops have not worked for me. Partially this is because I have all little kids, and we're not beyond my areas of knowledge yet. Part of it is personality based. I really enjoy getting to knock out our school at home, and then when we leave the house we are off. We might still be going on a field trip, but the kids (and me) are having a break from sitting and doing school. I really don't want to pack up all our stuff, haul all the little people into the car, and go somewhere else just to do what we could have done at the kitchen table.

But come later elementary/middle school, I can almost guarantee this is going to be a different answer.

4. Breastfeeding


I have lots of thoughts about breastfeeding, and most of them still come down to what I said back in this post.

No, I don't breastfeed. God gave me a body that can make babies, but doesn't make mature milk. But God had the mercy to do it in a time and place with access to safe water and formula, and I'm forever grateful.

5. Having all the babies


It is absolutely a beautiful thing to welcome babies as they come, but my husband and I have discerned that's not what we're called to do. NFP is no fun walk in the park, but it does allow us to have some spacing on babies so we can get to that physical, mental, and emotional place in our family to say yes with joy.

6. Latin mass


Yes I wear a veil, and dress up for church, but I love me my Novus Ordo English mass. I just like it done well.
I think the Latin mass, and Extraordinary Form, are beautiful, but I enjoy my reverent Novus Ordo.

7. Having that one best friend


I've written before, over on Everyday Ediths, about how I've missed the best friend boat. I don't have that one best friend. I still sometimes feel a little sad about that, but I have seen the fruit of being continuously open to saying yes to new friendships and new connections.

Did you notice that most of these things I have said no to are often "not right now"? I have no idea what God is going to call my little family, or I, toward next. We might enter a time when Catholic school makes sense. I can almost promise that some version of a co-op will make sense some day.
All the more reason not to limit my friend circle to people who are making the same choices as me right now!

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

What things in your life have you have to say no to? Or maybe "not right now"?

That's Beautiful, But It's Not For Me

Tuesday, June 12, 2018



Once I was talking with an RCIA class alongside a Dominican brother and a Jesuit scholastic.

It sounds like a bad joke, but bear with me.

Dominicans and Jesuits both have a very developed spirituality and modes of prayer that are distinctive to their orders. The RCIA participants wanted to know what each thought of the other - dangerous question.
The Dominican brother glanced at the Jesuit, took a breath, and said the Jesuit spirituality is beautiful "but it's not for me."

"That's beautiful, but it's not for me."

I think this phrase is key.
To ending the mommy wars.
To lessening our anxiety.
To passing on the comparison game.

It acknowledges the Good


So often we try to defend why we don't do something by tearing down the choices of others. Saying things about why homeschooling, breastfeeding, day care, gluten-free, etc. is THE WAY and anything else is lesser. Or at least not ideal.

However, no one makes the choices they do just for kicks. There are reasons and purpose behind them. There is a beauty whenever something fits a person. Acknowledging that what someone is doing has that beauty is powerful for a very simple reason.

It releases us from the grip of Envy


Envy cannot live with beauty. Envy wants to be ugly. Envy wants to rip beauty from others and gobble it down to never see the light of day.

Envy is what causes you to avoid that one friend you keep comparing yourself against.
Envy is what tells you that someone's pretty pictures on Instagram are the real reason you are unhappy.
Envy says you are never enough.

Beauty says you are each doing your best.
Beauty says you are enough.
Beauty says you can be so much more yourself when you turn toward the light.

It respects our own gifts, choices, and needs


Saying "That's beautiful, but it's not for me" respects that you have made different choices because you have your own set of gifts, choices, and needs. That those aspects of you and your life are valid. That you don't need to run after every bright, shiny, thing that might just be the "best thing ever" for your friend.

This saying notices that preferences are ok. That God gave you the taste he did for a reason.
It allows the reality that some things are easier for some people than others. That some things might rank high on another person's "need" list, but not even make an appearance on yours.

You're off the hook! You both are!

"That's beautiful, but it's not for me" is how friends can be friends without being clones.

What do you think of this phrase? Have you used something similar? 

Feeling Productive AND Restful

Friday, June 8, 2018


I have two concurrent needs. I need to feel productive, like I am making progress and accomplishing what I need to get done. I also need to feel restful and rested.
I want work without the stress.
Rest without losing momentum.
I think it is possible! Here's what I'm doing to feel productive AND restful.

Don't Sit Down


Any marathon runner can tell you that taking advantage of momentum is key making it to the finish line. So I just don't sit down while I'm in a work mode! I put the baby on my back, type or write standing up at the kitchen island, keep my shoes on if I'm planning on hanging laundry or working in the garden.
Avoiding the start and stop of activity simplifies your entire to-do list.

Keep It Moving


It's not the big tasks that fill up your day, it's all the tiny little things. The laundry basket waiting to be brought upstairs, the books meant to go back to the bookshelf, food prep for multiple meals. I can't always do all my tasks in one big batch, so for those daily tasks I keep it moving!
I rarely go upstairs or downstairs with empty hands. I do things as close to when I notice them/think of them as possible. It's all part of keeping the momentum going.

Write It Down


How many times have you come out of the store and forgotten the two things you went in there to get? Or tried to remember all the appointments, pick up times, tasks, and things you wanted to talk to your spouse about in your head, only to forget most of them?
Stop avoiding your tools, and write things down! Get yourself a planner, make a bullet journal, utilize Google calendar. Spill out all the things you want to do, need to do, have to remember into whatever system you want to use. Lessen your own mental load!

Decide What Matters


Now look at your list and decide what matters. What areas need attention the most urgently? What things must be done every day? What are your long term projects?
If all of it is important, than none of it is important. Pick your things!

Break It Down


Breaking down tasks is the difference in achieving goals, and spinning your wheels. Every task, or goal, is something that can be broken down into clear steps.
I like to break things down by goal area. I have home, education, artistic, blog, marriage, family, and spiritual categories. Each month I pick two things in each category that I want to accomplish to feel like I'm moving forward in that category. Some things stay the same each month (regular confession is still a habit I am working on), some things change regularly. Be as specific as you can or need.

Build In Rest


Production is not possible without rest! A good farmer knows you cannot grow good crops if you exhaust the soil, a fallow time is needed. Define what is restful to you - with the understanding that this is a DAILY activity. Rest is not a once in a while thing.
I take the first hour of nap time as my rest time. I do not check email or social media. If any kids are not napping, they may play quietly or read books by themselves. That's my time to pray, read, sew, dream. We have worked hard to make this time for rest as part of our family culture. It was not a smooth thing to attain, but I cannot sing it's praises enough!

Enjoy


Find the time and distance to enjoy what you are working on! Sometimes I deliberately do something visually pleasing, like declutter a section of a room or make progress on a craft, just so I can see it over and over and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Not all, or even most, of our work gives us warm fuzzy feelings or grateful feedback. It's nice to give yourself a gift of pleasing work that doesn't disappear within hours.

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Here's some other posts you might enjoy.



ACHIEVING QUIET WHEN YOU HAVE A BUSY LIFE



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

How do you combine rest and productivity? What does rest mean to you? What does it take for you to feel productive?


Maybe Our 20s Should Look More Like Our 30s

Tuesday, June 5, 2018



I turned 28 this week. I’m still “so young!” (and I can still pass for a college student), but my 20s are factually inching toward their end. And I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to 30 because I think our society has a much healthier idea of “your 30s” than it does of “your 20s”.

30-somethings have permission to know their deal. It’s cool to say “this is what works for me and I’m ok if you do something different.”
20-somethings are expected to look alike. See every article with “millennial” in the title. Not only is anxiety and comparison normal, it’s socially encouraged and expected. 20-something’s are supposed to be always questioning, and struggling, and never enough.

But WHY?! Why is anxiety the hallmark of our age? 

I’m a confident person, and I’m used to being a little different. But I still feel awkward telling people that I don’t do the same thing(s) they do, and that I’m completely comfortable with my way of doing things. Coming from a 20-something, it sounds obnoxiously pretentious.

It sounds pretentious because I think our society has learned to treat 20-somethings as the new teens.

Teens are supposed to be impulsive, lack an adult level of responsibility, be focused on their peer group, angst riddled, and unsure of their future. That sounds suspiciously like what I've read in article after article about what is supposed to be up with 20-somethings. The glaring problem is that that is nothing like the real life 20-somethings I know.

Real life 20-somethings ARE holding immense responsibility, planning ahead, saving what they can, thinking of the future, and are concerned with all the people in their sphere and beyond.

It's awfully Catholic of us.

When Jesus called the disciples, he didn't say "answer my call once you've gained enough life experience" or "follow me if you have the ideal season of life". He said "come and follow me".

But sometimes...often...all the time... I long to follow Jesus with the approval of the world.
It feels nice when our friends approve of us and what we do. It's so much easier to say yes to Jesus when we're also saying yes to fulfilling exactly what our society expects of us.

I don't think 30-somethings have an easier time saying yes to Jesus, or owning their yes, but I do think 30-somethings are afforded more social leeway in their yes.

I see your 30s as a time you are expected to be coming into your own. To be doing good, valuable, work. To have an opinion and now the social backing for people to take that opinion seriously.
In short, in your 30s there is a greater likelihood of being treated as a full adult.

Wouldn't it be fabulous if your 20s were the same way? How beautiful of a world would there be if more people felt respected, valid, and encouraged in their work? What if the social focus of your 20s could be more on truth and goodness and others instead of eat-pray-love "finding yourself"?
Many 20-somethings are already living that reality. It makes sense that the rest of us should treat them accordingly.

What are your thoughts on being a 20-something vs. a 30-something?  

How Postpartum is Different the Third Time Around

Friday, June 1, 2018



My oldest turned six years old yesterday. His birth is what brought me into this parenting gig and it turned my world, and assumptions, upside down. This year we had our third baby, and I went through my third postpartum. It was DRASTICALLY different from the first time around.

1
Rest is a Requirement

I know what I need to heal now. 
With our first my husband was back to work shortly after we got home from the hospital. Now we know two weeks off is the minimum we all need to heal and get to know this little newborn. Especially if they keep pulling this 12+ labor, being born in the wee hours, after weeks of prodromal labor thing.

2
I have helpful kids

Having newborn with older kids in the house is ground breaking.
My oldest just turned 6, so he can’t babysit or anything, but he can grab my water bottle I forgot to grab off the counter. They can get diapers out of the dryer and put them away or entertain the baby is I have a minute to eat something. Small helps in the postpartum period are so meaningful  to me.

3
I know what I need to feel normal

There are particular things for each of us that make us feel normal. Those small make or break things that make a huge difference for mental and physical health.
For me it’s: getting outside, wearing real clothes, showering, getting at least 4 hour blocks of sleep, and having real conversations.
Once I acknowledged these were things I needed, I could take the steps to make them happen.

4
I’m not the only mom I know now

One of the reasons my postpartum with my first baby was so tough was because we were the first among our friends to start this parenthood adventure. There wasn’t anyone around to calibrate my expectations or to let me know what was normal.
It makes a big difference to now have other mothers I can commiserate with who are encountering and grounded.

5
I’m not afraid to say “not for me”

When it comes to parenting there is a huge range of “perfectly fine and normal”, but there is a lot of, frankly, propaganda out there meant to convince moms that there is one ideal way for x. The only way worth your while to feed your baby, hold your baby, rest, NFP method, rate of healing, etc.
With my first I bought the propaganda, and it just about crushed me. 

This doesn’t mean that whatever is being touted as “the way” doesn’t work for some people! But I not doing something wrong by deviating from that vision.

6
My marriage remains primarily important 

If there is one thing I wish I could impress on past me is that a healthy marriage can make a big difference in having a healthy postpartum. My husband is my biggest advocate. He’s the one who is with me the most, the one who will first notice when something isn’t going well.

We’ve learned how we can get our couple time with a newborn. In the early weeks, baby typically wants to continue to be part of mom so my husband and I hang out together on the couch while baby gets first sleep in my arms. When baby gets ok with transferring, we get an early evening just the two of us before baby wakes up for the late night feed.
We DO have time for each other postpartum, but we did have to decide to claim and own that time.


7
Postpartum NFP is hard

For a while there I thought I must have just selected the wrong method. But after talking with a lot of instructors and medical professionals I've decided postpartum NFP is rough for me. NFP is heavily weighted to those who are breastfeeding - which just isn't in the physical cards for me. While there are lots of methods, all of which have their own postpartum protocols, there is no one perfect postpartum method that will make everything easier automatically.

I thought surely this would be another area that got easier after the first time around, but it's not. Postpartum is a long, frustrating, and often lonely portion of NFP. I can't make it easier to practice, but I can do something about the lonely!
I think it is so important to share stories and speak to a wide variety of experiences, so this year for NFP Awareness Week I would like to focus on the postpartum NFP experience!

If you've been following this blog for a while, you might have noticed that I share real NFP users stories for NFP Awareness Week. I loved the discussion and encouragement that came out last year from sharing the stories of single women who use NFP, and it would be such a gift to see that for postpartum.

If you want to be a part of this project, or have some questions for me, shoot me an email (underthyroof at gmail dot com) or connect on social media (Facebook and Instagram because that's all the social media-ing I've got in me!)


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

What are your thoughts on postpartum? Do these things resonate with you? For those who have been through it before, what have you learned the subsequent time(s) around?
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