Life is Worth Living

Travelogue: 9 Hours in the Van with 7 Kids

We did it. We drove 9 straight hours with 7 screaming* kids all the way to North Dakota for a few nights and then back again yesterday.

Now, how does one accomplish this Herculean Feat without losing one’s mind? I can think of 5 things that helped:

  1. Snacks. Lots of snacks, including all the food groups: apples, Hot Tamales, brownies, chips, and suckers.
  2. No Chugging of Water. Only tiny sips allowed until within 15 minutes of destination. This prevents multiple bathroom breaks. We don’t like to stop on the road; it’s too demoralizing. In fact, on the way there, we only stopped once.
  3. Podcasts. We listened to Dr. Taylor Marshall, Timothy Flanders at The Meaning of Catholic, and Mass of the Ages by Cameron O’Hearn. These great talks effectually bored the little children to sleep, which was best, and instructed the older ones, which was even better. My husband and I? We were just plain entertained, especially by O’Hearn’s interview with Eric Sammons.
  4. Audio Books. The little children begged for Winnie the Pooh. The older children wanted The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi. We took turns, going back and forth. Don Camillo, by the way, is hysterical, if you need a good laugh.
  5. Texting Parties. I had great fun texting a picture of my friend in her Trump dress that she wore to a gala in North Dakota. Apparently she was very popular, as everyone wanted to take a photo with her.
She made this dress. What talent!

You know, on our drive, all the way across Minnesota and North Dakota, we saw countless Trump signs. Apparently it doesn’t even matter that the election is over. I guess rural USA is still pro-Trump. Since a few signs had “Trump 2024,” though, perhaps that’s the reason?

What Did We Do in North Dakota?

Besides visiting family and friends, we did the following:

  1. We held our baby Godson while he was baptized according to the Traditional Rite.
  2. We enjoyed my mother-in-law’s fabulous meatballs. (I look forward to them every time.)
  3. My husband and I went on a double-date with friends at our favorite restaurant in Bismarck–Anima Cucina.
  4. We paused for a minute and took this family photo:

It’s impossible to get everyone to smile at the same time…

5. I greatly enjoyed looking at the vast, beautiful, blue skies. (There is nothing like it, and I’m serious.)
6. We went on lovely bike rides through tall, cottonwood trees.
7. We attended a TLM out in the middle of nowhere with many other young families. The place was crawling, literally, with babies and toddlers.

St. Vincent Catholic Church on the top of a hill, in the middle of nowhere, with the best of families in attendance.


7. I drank coffee and chatted with some wonderful friends.
8. And lastly, I didn’t sleep! I never do anyway.

And that’s why this post is ending. I’m hoping to get a nap in.

Until next time, blessings!

*Actually, the children were pretty good on that loooong drive. Nobody screamed. At least, nobody over the age of 5.

Life is Worth Living

Travelogue: Sconnie Edition. One Night of Freedom!

Last weekend, my husband and I enjoyed a night away from home. My inlaws–bless their souls!–drove 600 miles to watch, feed, bathe, and drive around 7 obnoxious, giggling children. What’s more, they willingly lent us their clean 2019 Ford Edge to cruise around in while they endured our messy, sticky 15-passenger van.

Anyway, after stuffing an extra skirt and a few books into a bag, we were off. The children didn’t even say goodbye to us. They were too busy playing Rummikub and Sequence with Grandma and Grandpa.

Naturally, the first thing we did on our Tour De Force was to buy cappuccinos. Then we were off into the countryside of beautiful Wisconsin. Or rather, perhaps I ought to say, the forests of Wisconsin? This was exciting because we live on the Mississippi River, which is on the western border, and I had never been past the town of Sparta, which is only 30 miles away.

Our destination? Wausau, which sits bang in the middle of the state. Why Wausau?

  1. It’s past Sparta, hence new territory for us.
  2. It’s only 2 and half hours away.
  3. The route drives by two ancestral cemeteries of my husband’s family.
  4. Wausau boasts a lovely restaurant, Tine & Cellar.
  5. And it has a GORGEOUS TLM church, St. Mary’s.

The Drive

Now, I’ve lived most of my life in the Dakotas where we know how to do long, straight highways. We do highways so well, in fact, that we can legally drive 80 mph on them because they’re nice and straight. But Wisconsin? Oh, no. They do not do long, straight highways. They would much prefer to curve all over the place and go up and down and up and down. Why level this hill? That would require too much work. Let’s just go up! What about this little stream? Should we build a bridge across it? Nope. Too much work. Let’s follow it and swerve about everywhere. Bah!

Ah, well. Sconnies are just different, I guess. I will say, however, that it is beautiful, even in -20 degree weather.

And did you know, if we passed one Trump flag, we passed a million? These people are passionate about Trump. They don’t even care that Biden was sworn into office. It was Trump everywhere–Trump signs, Trump flags, Trump billboards. I actually saw one woman pause in her shoveling, lean over her Trump sign affectionately, and adjust it carefully so as to afford optimal viewing pleasure to her Trump-loving neighbors. Truly, I was wishing we had some Trump flags streaming out our car windows so that we could fit in.

Example of a typical Sconnie house in the country.

The Cemeteries

As I said earlier, we chose Wausau because the route put us in the path of two ancestral cemeteries of my husband’s family. The first cemetery was in Arkdale, which is no longer a town, I don’t think anyway. It’s just in the middle of a forest on some gravel roads. At least I think they’re gravel roads. You see, it was snowing and nobody bothered to plow those roads, so I don’t know.

Anyway, we found the tiny cemetery, and as it was -20 degrees outside, I sat in the warm car while my husband ran about in two feet of snow looking for the Lecy family. He looked awfully cold out there, so I rolled the window down and yelled, “Shall I put your seat warmer on, Dearest?” (Seat warmers are a luxury that we only get to experience when driving our parents’ vehicles; they make us giddy with delight.)

My husband did find some tall Lecy headstones, but unfortunately, he wasn’t able to dig down to the actual graves of Christopher Lecy and his wife, Helga. (We don’t know when Christopher died, but we do know from family records that Helga died in 1865.) Sigh. All that work.

It is rather stupid to go grave finding in February.

On to the next cemetery!

Before driving to the New Miner cemetery, however, we discovered that we were hungry from our grave finding efforts and needed a restaurant first. Since the nearest, sizable town to Arkdale was Necedah, to Necedah we went.

Necedah has a population of 916 people, so naturally it has a Main Street Cafe. It’s one of those local cafes that serves like five breakfast dishes and five lunch entrees, all accompanied by french fries. I picked a chicken sandwich; my husband had a burger. The floor sloped and the table was greasy. The ceiling fan above us had inches of dust perilously drooping off of it. The bathroom was down a creepy flight of stairs that have never been cleaned. The toilet, however, was new and spotless. What a surprise! It felt like an adventure.

I met the owner of Main Street Cafe. He was a spry, old man who had come into the restaurant a few minutes after us. He squinted and mused, “Well, I have to eat here, or I won’t get anything to eat.”

New Miner Cemetery

After we paid our bill, which was hand-written on those old green tickets (you waitresses of some years will know what I’m talking about), we drove to the New Miner Cemetery. Like Arkdale, there is no town here, but there is a church–St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran. There are also no woods here because “New Miner” is in Cranberry Country. Cranberry Country means lots of little sunken fields, much like what I would imagine rice fields to look like.

But I digress, New Miner Cemetery. Once again, my husband ran around the graveyard, as respectfully as possible, and attempted to locate his great, great, great grandfather, Jakob Jakobs Norsby, who died in 1910. His wife, Merit Olsd, was also buried here in 1899. But he couldn’t find the graves due to the extreme cold and deep snow.

Husband, looking for graves in two feet of snow and windchills nearing -30 below.

And that was that. We’ll go back in the spring, like sensible people.

The rest of the drive to Wausau was uneventful. We twisted and turned onto many different roads. (Alas, one must remember that Sconnies prefer roundabout ways.) We listened to Tim Flanders and Kennedy Hall discuss fasting. (Excellent podcast HERE.) We arrived in Wausau and checked into our hotel.

Later this week I’ll post Part 2 for those of you who are interested.

Life is Worth Living

Voting in Minnesota 2020

This morning, at 7am, I drove to our local voting precinct only to discover a line trailing out the door and wrapping around the building. So, I drove right on by, came home, fed the children breakfast, and tried again at about 8:45am.

Thankfully there was no line the second time, and I walked right in without a mask. I was greeted by a kind, elderly lady who in a muffled, mask-voice asked, “Would you like a mask?”

I smiled and declined, “No, thank you.”

Muffled Mask Lady then pointed to the Huge-Mondo Hand Sanitizer Pump and enquired hesitatingly, “Would you like to sanitize your hands?”

I again smiled sweetly and said, “No, thank you.”

After I checked in and signed for my name and address, I received my ballot in a manilla envelope and a pen. I was told to keep the pen. I guess in Minnesota our taxes are so high that we earn Voting Pens.

I then walked to a table, sat down, and voted as conservatively as possible. The only distraction to my voting was the incredible reek of cleaning materials. The room was in a haze. I hope I didn’t contract cancer from all that hazardous chemical being sprayed and wiped all over the place.

In any case, I submitted my ballot to a machine and was told to add my manilla envelope to the pile on a chair. I wonder if they will dare reuse those manilla envelopes? My germs are on it.

How was your voting experience? Did you get a sticker?

Can you see my sticker?