trips with babies.

We had our final trip of the summer last weekend. We did our second annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse with our good friends (and Trixie's future in-laws) Ian and Jacqui, and their boys. Last year was our first trip and I was pregnant, this year Jacqui's pregnant. Maybe next year no one will be pregnant. Ha!

We've had a lot of vacations this summer, and by vacations I mean doing all the things we usually do with our kids, only in a different setting. It's been really great to have so much together time, but the introvert in me was starting to feel a little burned out. Going to the Shrine, however, is the perfect little trip to make with little kids.  It's about a two hour drive for us, we stay one night, and we keep expectations pretty low.

The main objective is walking up a hill to the church. The scenery is beautiful.

We were a parade of  double strollers.

 Once we got up there the grown ups took turns going to confession while the kiddos played in a fountain.

 There's a beautiful garden with a shrine to the unborn. Jacqui and I have both lost little ones to miscarriage, so there's something very special about seeing all our children there together.

Next on the agenda was trying to get 4 kids under 4 to all smile for a picture.  It didn't happen.  Better luck next year 

 After that we hit up the hotel pool and wore the kids out so that they would go to sleep and we could stay up and drink wine out of plastic hotel cups and talk without being interrupted.  Until 12:30. Yikes! Not smart with babies that wake up multiple times during the night!

Trixie loves chilling with dad in the hot tub.

Sunday morning we got one final dip in the pool, went to mass at the Shrine and then ate a Jimmy John's picnic down by the river. We got a tip from one of Alex's classmates about an old-timey ice cream parlor in La Crosse, so we walked there for some ice cream. By the time we finished the babies were turning into pumpkins so we loaded and made it home without any stops. Success! And next year will be even better. 

Family Vacation Photo Dump Pt. 3

From the Family Farm in Ohio we headed just a little further east to stay with Alex's sister in Pittsburgh, where Johnny got some extra time with his cousins "Bictor, Hemby, and Belo" (Leo). And Alex and I even got out for dinner one night sans la babies.

On our way home the AC went out on our car and with temps in the high 80's and two babies in the backseat, no AC was not an option. We took a long lunch break somewhere in the middle of Ohio to get it repaired, and Alex and I may or may not have gotten margaritas with our Chipotle. We spent tht night in downtown Chicago where we met up with another one of my cousins for lunch the next day.

All the driving was starting to be a little too much for our kids by the end. But I think they did pretty well considering they are 3 and not quite 1. When we finally made it home and I think we were all very happy to sleep in our own beds. But Johnny keeps asking for all his out-of-state cousins.

Family Vacation Photo Dump Pt. 2

Our second family trip this summer was a big one, so I'm going to do the photos in two posts.

Alex's grandparents retired to a farm in southeastern Ohio, and every summer since before Alex was born his entire family has gone to Grandma and Grandpa's farm. Alex's grandparents have both passed away and one of his brothers now lives at the family farm with his wife. And everyone still comes out every summer. That's Alex's parents, his 6 siblings, 5 spouses, and 14 nieces and nephews. And did I mention there's only one shower?!

Our route took us through Madison, WI, where we stayed with my oldest childhood friend, Chicago, where we stayed with my cousin and his family, and finally out to St. Clairsville, OH. We got to meet our nephew Aaron for the first time and see other family members we haven't seen since Christmas. Johnny loved being around so many other kids every single day.  He even mastered the names of many of his cousins.

The time we spend with all of Alex's family always makes us wish we all lived a little closer together. But since we don't we make the most of what togetherness we can get.

7 quick takes vol. 18


We made it through Alex's first semester of school! His last final was last week and now we are enjoying three whole weeks of no homework and lots of family time. As you can imagine, I am excited.

I also just have to say that I am so proud of Alex for all the time, energy and hard work he has put into his schooling thus far. Even though it's been really hard for both of us, I have no doubt in my mind that this is what he's supposed to be doing and am going to try my darnedest to be supportive and helpful for the next two years so that he can be successful. (stress on am going to try my darnedest.)


The week before finals Johnny and I left Alex to his solitary studying and took a last minute trip to the exotic state of Wisconsin to spend a few days with my parents and little brother at a lake. I was a little nervous to be wrangling Johnny in a non-baby proof environment without Alex, but my family was very helpful and I was even able to relax a little bit. Johnny had lots of firsts: first time in a lake, first time on a boat, first time fishing, and first time sleeping in his pack and play. All in all, a success!


A couple weeks ago I posted on Facebook about wanting one of those goofy looking, wrap around your body, pregnancy pillows. Well, when I got home from the cabin Alex had this waiting for me.

 That night I snuggled up with it in my bed (with a memory foam pillow topper that Alex got me when I was pregnant with Johnny) and I was so comfortable I could not stop smiling.  It was divine.  If you are pregnant, or hey, even your're not, I highly recommend a....snoogle.


Are you following along with Haley as she and her family take a 6 week road trip across the country? Well, if you are then you probably noticed that at the beginning of the month the Stewarts were in Minnesota. Haley said on her Facebook page that St. Paul was her favorite city so far on their travels and I had to beam with pride over my hometown. 

My friend Nell hosted a little get together for us MN bloggers (Susanna, Laura, Nancy) and friends, to meet Haley. This was not the first time I have met other bloggers at Nell's house, and every time it's always a little weird to meet someone you've been following online for a while. But it's amazing to me that the internet can bring people together in such a way that after a matter of minutes all weirdness is gone and you feel like fast friends.

By far my favorite thing about blogging is the way it brings women together and allows us to share our experiences with each other.  I don't get to walk out into my neighborhood and talk to other mothers, like women of generations past, but I do have a network of women, close to home and across the country, who are going through the same things I'm going through on the daily. And that's a very comforting thing. And then, when we do get together in the flesh, the conversation and fellowship is truly something amazing.


Last week my college orchestra conductor passed away. She battled cancer for 4 years. and on August 2nd her battle ended. It's been over 2 years since I had seen her. But after seeing a person 4 days a week for 4 years, plus traveling across the country and to Europe on orchestra tours with her, well, you just never forget someone you spent that much time with. 

Current and former students were invited to play in an orchestra at her funeral mass and I was so grateful for the opportunity pay tribute/show my respect/say goodbye in such a fitting way. It was a sad funeral, hard to watch her children (grade school aged) and her husband (looked so strong and at peace, but must be aching so) but hers was such a well lived life, and that's something to rejoice in. 

I heard some one say once that they believed people who undergo great suffering here on earth spend little to no time in purgatory. I'd like to think that's true, and that she's currently praising God face to face. 


We spent this weekend in Chicago with Alex's sister and her family. It was so nice to get out of the house, and even nicer to have Alex with us all the time. Johnny had a blast with his cousins, we saw the Museum of Science and Industry, went to Holy Name Cathedral for mass, and bummed around Navy Pier.

Alex and I even got an evening out.  We had dinner at probably the hippest restaurant I've ever been to, complete with bearded men, phonographs, and to top it off, a guy rode by on a penny-farthing, confirming it's hipness. The food was out of this world. The only bummer, of course, was not being able to imbibe a craft cocktail. Instead I had some fancy pants tonic water. 


Now we are home and settling in to the first of Alex's 3, THREE! weeks off before fall term starts. I keep pinching myself to see if I am dreaming. 

I love to make lists, and this morning I made 4. Grocery shopping list, meal plan list, to-do list for today, and a very lengthy list of all the things I would like to get done while Alex is on break. And we're off to a pretty good start. Today I did some weeding and Alex took the weed wacker to our front side walk and back patio which had become terribly overgrown. We also organized the playroom closet, which houses my yarn stash, gift wrap supplies, and random things that wouldn't otherwise have a home. I would have before and after pictures for you, but I forgot, and it would't have been that impressive looking anyway. 

Hope your week is off to a great start! 

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum


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// P I T T S B U R G H //

The second part of our vacation was spent in Pittsburgh with Alex's sister, brother-in-law, and their 3 boys, taking in the sights, eating the eats, and having lots of fun family time. We went to a Pirates game; I'm not much a sports person, but I think outdoor baseball is something that I could do. We spent time walking around the downtown area of Pittsburgh, taking in the sights and enjoying the excitement of being in a new and different city.  I got a pedicure in, Alex and I sneaked out for a date one night and Johnny had so much fun with his cousins he didn't even notice we were gone.  He's going to miss them.  So are we!

// P I R A T E S G A M E //

// P O I N T S T A T E P A R K //

// C A R N E G I E M U S E U M O F N A T U R A L H I S T O R Y //

// P H I P P S C O N S E R V A T O R Y //

// 7 Q U I C K T A K E S V O L 9 //

linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary for some more quick takes....

In case you haven't noticed, we're on vacation! This has been a really hard summer, in many ways, even harder than last summer when we were getting used to being parents of a child with a medical condition. All summer long we kept thinking about and talking about and yearning for August when Alex would be done with class and we would be on vacation.  Now it's here and it's great. So for my quick takes this week I will be sharing 7 things that I love about being on vacation.


Alex is here - All The Time! Maybe this seems a little obvious. But I'm just so thrilled to get to spend so much time with my husband firstly because I really like him and secondly because it's nice to have some extra hands to help with the baby wrangling.  It's also so nice to see him relaxing and having fun with son and all his siblings. 


Extra sleep! Alex has been so great about taking Johnny in the mornings so I can sleep in a little bit.  That extra hour (of sleeping by myself) makes a really big difference. I've also been napping more with Johnny than I usually do at home.  Sleep, it's beautiful thing.


Knitting! I love knitting. It's hands down my favorite past time. I've gotten used to working on my projects for just a few minutes at a time since Johnny has been born. But on vacation I've had way more time to knit and it has been delightful.  I even splurged and ordered some new yarn before we left in anticipation of knitting all kinds of things.  2 of my SILs are real whizzes at knitting, so it's fun to see what they're working on and nice to get input and help on my own projects. 


Nieces and Nephews! I married into many nieces and nephews - I have 10! It's been super fun to get to see them all, and it's been fun to see how much Johnny likes watching them and playing with them.  We got to meet our newest nephew EJ for the first time ever.  My SIL Shannon shared what it was like to deliver EJ 10 weeks early in my series, NICU Diaries a few months back. It's amazing and wonderful to see how huge EJ is now.  He and Johnny had fun poking each other in the face and stealing each other's toys. 


A break from diaper duty! I mentioned to Alex while he was in the thick of finals that when his term was over I'd like to have a day where I didn't have to change any poopy diapers and that would be all the vacation I needed.  I was mostly joking and didn't expect him to remember and follow through on that, but he did! He's been changing so many diapers! I think I only changed 1 all of yesterday, and it was so nice! I don't want to sound like we have forgotten the days of the colostomy bag when we just couldn't wait to start changing dirty diapers.  We are extremely grateful that Johnny's digestive system is working so well.  I mean really well.  I mean he poops all the time! It's a good thing, but it gets old too, so it's been nice to have this little bit of relief. Thanks honey!!


Blogging! Blogging is quickly becoming one of my new favorite past times, but I have a really hard time blogging with Johnny around.  I always wonder - how do other blogging mothers do it? Are you able to blog with your kids around? Do you wait til they are asleep? Do you have to leave the house? I'd love to know.  Here on vacation with Alex around all the time, as well as many cousins and aunts and uncles to play with Johnny, I have had many opportunities to blog. 


Not being in our house! I love where we live. I love St. Paul. I love our house with all it's quirks and it's long list of projects. It really feels like home.  But sometimes it's nice to get out of your home, to not see those quirks, and to not think about the list of projects. It's nice to get away from the daily routine and the daily chores. And when the daily chores can't be gotten rid of, they're always more pleasant to do in someone else's house.  It's always more pleasant to wash someone else's dishes, or fold clothes in someone else's laundry room. At least I think so.  

I know we'll be happy to be home once we get there. But for now, we're fully enjoying vacation! 

Johnny looks HUGE in this picture.  My baby is getting so big!

for more quick takes visit Conversion Diary

// C O N N E M A R A //

We spent the last few days at Connemara, that's the name of the farm Alex's grandparents retired to over 40 years ago. They have since both passed away but the farm remains in the family. I never met Alex's grandpa, his grandma I had the pleasure of knowing until she passed away just last year at the age of 97. They were always described by everyone as being so in love with each other.  I think that is how I would like to be remembered.

There on the stretch of land they chose to grow old and in love together on, their family has gathered every summer to play in sun soaked grass, and on rolling hills. Alex has told me many stories from his childhood vacations there, sliding down hay bales, off-roading in old cars, staying up late with his brothers and sisters. I first went to the farm the summer we were engaged.  And now we get to bring our own child there and carry on the tradition of going to grandpa's farm .

// N I G H T D R I V E //

Time: 6:52 am

Location: rest area 40 miles outside of Dayton, Ohio. 

We've been on the road for about 13 hours and 700 miles. 

We were apprehensive about making a long road trip with a one-year-old who's not used to being in the car for longer than 10 minutes at a time. So driving through the night when we knew he'd be more inclined to sleep seemed like the best plan. I think we were right. He slept for 7 hours straight! I wish he would do that at home!

Every summer our local radio station does an A to Z weekend. It's all their favorite songs of all time, all in alphabetical order. I love putting things in alphabetical order, so naturally this inspired me to put together my own A to Z playlist for our drive. It's over 10 hours long and is made up of favorites from mine and Alex's combined iTunes libraries. 

Some selections are pretty recent favorites from Mumford and Sons, The Civil Wars, Gotye. 

But most of the songs reach father back into closed chapters of my life. And because music is one of those things, like smell, that stir up the most vivid memories, I spent the night driving through the states of Illinois and Indiana reliving scenes from my youth. 

Five Iron Frenzy: my first favorite band. Wearing my dad's old pants cut off at the shin, and wallet chains. Memorizing and analyzing the lyrics with my best friend. Plotting to marry the lead singer. 

Mae, The Everglow: that album was the soundtrack to the summer after my senior year. Driving to camps and conferences with my youth group. Moving into my freshmen dorm.  Overflowing with ideals and anxieties. 

Shane & Shane: driving to the Passion conference with my brother and best friend in a blizzard. Seeing Shane & Shane live for the first time and weeping because the music was just so beautiful that it hurt. 

The Postal Service: my first job at Jamba Juice. 

Love Drug and Sigur Ros: my college dorm freshman and sophomore year.

Sleeping at Last: the semester I spent in India. 

Then there are the bands Alex introduced me to: Cake, Mason Jennings, Spoon, Andrew Bird, They Might Be Giants, Elliot Smith, and hearing them makes me feel all the nervousness and excitement of the summer we started dating. 

Night turns into morning as I drive on.  My husband and my baby are asleep in the car and the Ella Fitzgerald song we danced to at our wedding comes on. I'm grateful to have this quiet time to remember so many beautiful moments from my life.

Oh, the moon's not a moon for a night
and these stars will not twinkle and fade out,
 and the words in my ears
will resound for the rest of my years.
In the morning I find with delight 
not a note of our music is played out.
It will be just as sweet, 
and an air that I'll live to repeat:
I greet you 
With a song in my heart...