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

A Mouse Tale: A Tragedy and A Triumph

Look, things got pretty desperate around here the other day. I was parking my Sweet Ride, picking some children up from school, when I noticed something. Something so repulsive and grotesque that even the most manly of men sometimes tremor in disgust: Mouse Droppings.

Yes, Mouse Turds. Right in my center console, where I keep my sunglasses and extra napkins.

See??

I cannot even begin to describe my feelings and emotions when I first saw those two Offensive Poops. All I can say is, I got out of my van quickly.

But then, as I reached back into the van to grab my purse, I noticed something even more horrible. So horrible that I grabbed my phone and immediately called my sister in sheer revulsion and horror. There were numerous Mouse Craps on my chair! I SAT on mouse CRAPS*! Unbelievable!

I sat on this. I can’t believe I sat on this. (Yes, those are crumbs in the background. No wonder the mouse defecated all over my chair.)

I immediately hit Speed Dial to my sister, “Katie, you won’t believe it. I just SAT ON MOUSE TURDS IN MY VAN!”

Without pause, and as cool as a cucumber, she calmly responded with, “Burn it. Just burn it.”

I thought about her advice. It was good advice, for it would surely kill any infestation of rodents. But then, I hesitated. Buying a new van would be kind of pricey, and who has that kind of money? No, something else would have to be done and meantime, I had to get these kids home. So I grabbed a napkin and brushed The Offenders into the street, calling on my Guardian Angel to protect me, and formed a plan.

Plan to Get Rid of Mouse:

  1. Bribe the boys to deep clean the van. Obviously with 7 mostly young children, we eat in the van, and clearly the thing is a mess and desperately needs attention. “Boys, $10 to each of you to clean this thing out! There will be Candy Bonuses if done to my satisfaction and you douse the thing with Holy Water.”
  2. Relate my feelings and emotions to my husband immediately upon entering the house, where he is currently “working” from home.

And here’s how that conversation went:

Amidst slamming of van doors, banging of house doors, and children laughing and shouting, I desperately yelled up the stairs, “Dearest! We need to talk. Right now! I just sat on Mouse Turds, and this is unacceptable, and I have to go take a hot bath. I need a glass of wine. And you need to get that mouse out of the van immediately. I don’t care if you have to use Vacation Hours to go buy mouse traps. I’m not setting foot in the that thing again until there’s a dead mouse in a trap. Even then, I’m not so sure. What was that about wine? No, I don’t care if we gave up wine for Advent. This is an EMERGENCY. Now where’s my glass?”

Well, enough of this saga. Being the good husband that he is, though, he took an hour of Vacation, drove to the hardware store, and bought 8 mouse traps. (Which I thought was a bit stingy. I told him to buy fifty.) Then he dutifully set the traps, and the next morning, we had a very dead mouse.

Here are some photos to document the Tragedy and Triumph:

Loyal and Devoted Husband setting traps. Bless his soul!

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me sons to clean the van and check mouse traps.

Disgusting. Just disgusting.

In the Name of all that is Holy and Clean and Rodent-Free, may this never happen again. Amen. Alleluia.

*I am sorry for the vulgar language, but truly, this is what I thought. A stronger foul word may have entered my head too, but good Catholic that I am, I quickly rejected that word.

Monthly Picks

August Picks

As the days of summer are flitting away, our family is enjoying a little Shakespeare.  In fact, we’ve taken Fr. Z’s Sonnet A Day Challenge and are simply doing that–reading a sonnet a day.

As you may know, Shakespeare’s first twenty or so of the 154 sonnets feature the same theme: they’re all an attempt to convince a selfish, vain young man to get married and have children.  O, what perfect poetry for our culture!

August Favorites:

Favorite Collection of Poems:  Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Favorite Audible Purchase:  J.R.R. Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham.  We do also have this short story in book-form featuring other Tolkien gems, but I wanted an audio version for our trip last week.  We were not disappointed in this version read by Derek Jacobi.  It was so entertaining, our children were laughing out loud.  In fact, we all were.

Best Option For Running Gear?  You know, I like to jog a mile or two every day, and I refuse to wear just leggings.  Or shorts for that matter.  I like Capri Skirts.  I recently purchased these for running.  I love them.

Best Newspaper:  The Remnant.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again.  This newspaper is a must.  It’s so important to have sane news coming into your home that is not necessarily shouting out of a screen.  If you don’t have a subscription, you’re missing out.  It’s worth it, if only for Michael Matt’s column.  (This week’s edition featured an article outlining the dangers of mask-wearing.  Oooo, so controversial.  Love it.)

The Girls’ Favorite Coloring Book:  Late Victorian and Edwardian Fashions, naturally.  Those Dover Coloring Books are great.

And finally, for a little humor…

Best “News” Story:  15-Passenger Vans Sold Out Nationwide…HERE!

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Life is Worth Living

Coffee Troubles and Triumphs

One of the first things that must be done upon moving to a new city is locating the local coffee shops.  This post is a Tale of Woe, but with a happy ending.

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Cheers. (Found Panera the other day.)

Now, this is not as easy as it appears.  Yes, Google Maps is very helpful, but I’m telling you.  There are things that Google just doesn’t know.  Like how to cruise around in a 15-passenger van full of uproarious children and not pull your hair out or chuck shoes at them while attempting to locate the nonexistent coffee drive-thru.

Like I said, I’ve had some major coffee hardships this last week.  All of them ended in complete failure while exploring downtown La Crosse, WI.  Let’s just say that one cannot get coffee in downtown La Crosse.  Leastways not in a gigantic van.  And not with ravenous, dog-tired children.IMG_2144.jpg

This is my Sweet Ride, by the way.  Shouldn’t this monstrosity really be considered a “handicapped” vehicle.  I mean, I’ve got 7 children…

In any case, so much for those cute, chic Caffeine Sanctuaries downtown.

Well, what to do next?  I guess explore the usual…Starbucks?  Even if the line hadn’t been longer than the Continental Divide, nope.  Caribou?  Another nope.  I couldn’t even find the drive-thru.  Not kidding.  (Apparently one does exist, however.  It’s just hiding.)

There were other places I tried to drive to.  For example this place:

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But I couldn’t make the lane change quick enough in this big barge of a boat.

Then I saw this place:

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Too much construction.

You might be wondering if I was discouraged at this point?  I mean, how many coffee shops must one drive by?  The answer to this question is no, definitely not.  I am made of sterner stuff than that.  It must be all that North Dakota blast-your-face-off cold that toughened me up.  I kept driving.

Eventually the children and I found Dunkin’ Donuts.  And they had a nice, big, empty parking lot, and I was glad for two reasons:

  1. While I can parallel park this giant beast of a van, I prefer not to.  Big parking lots are heavenly harbors and balm to my soul.
  2. I remembered a gift card a friend had given me awhile back that was itching to be used, and since 5 of my 7 children are coffee drinkers, this seemed perfect.  And I wanted to treat everyone because we had just finished with Mass and confessions at St. James.  It was time to celebrate.

Dunkin’ Donuts was a success!  Guess what else we had besides lattes and cappuccinos?

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Donuts, of course.

It was glorious, even if we couldn’t fit around one table.

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This is one of my non-coffee drinkers.  The other is the toddler.  I don’t understand how these two can pass it up.  They’re crazy.

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Look at those handsome fellas.

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One, happy family.  The boy on the left, however, should never be allowed to have caffeine.  He’s always running on Turbo the way it is.  I’m likely out of my mind for allowing it.

Lastly, one of you readers requested an outside photo near my house.  I’m most happy to oblige.  Here a shot towards the east, standing in my driveway.  The park is at the end of the road.

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There are hiking trails in those woods yonder.  These hills extend all around the valley, with a small opening, which you can see on the right side of the photo.  If there were to be any kind of breeze, it must come from that opening, which faces the southeast.

Any other questions?  Be sure to ask!

 

 

 

Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday

I know that today is not Friday, but that is just how things are going right now.

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More snow.  This child loves it!

So what happened in my household this week?

  1. The toddler was thirsty, and as nobody was filling her cup with water, she took matters into her own hands.  She toddled to the bathroom and filled her cup to the brim with toilet water and enjoyed a nice, long draft.  No matter that someone’s bowel movement was still floating around in there.
  2. During this week’s snow storm, Child #4 wandered around in the garage because he was bored.  He decided to test his jumping skills by climbing onto my husband’s car and then mustering all his strength, leapt from there to the doorway landing.  But he miscalculated, overestimating his strength and missed.  Instead, he landed half in a recyclable bin and half out.  Evidently, this was painful for him.
  3. I almost got stuck in our driveway with our Sweet Ride – our 15-passenger van – because last week some snow melted and left a muddy mess and then this week, it snowed again.
  4. I have a son that thinks this muddy snow is awesome.  Every day he throws his boots on and rides his bike up and down the driveway in the mud.  He loves watching the mud fly everywhere – all over his bike, all over him.  And I get to do extra laundry.
  5. It’s the end of March, and it’s still snowing here, by the way.  I’ve decided that we live in Narnia – prior to the arrival of the four children and the great thaw – and I am the White Witch.  Yikes.  Hence the previous post!
Life is Worth Living

Items Banned From My House!

As a homeschooling mother of seven little children, there are are just some things that I don’t need to buy anymore.  In fact, I don’t even allow these things in my house, for one reason or another, and it’s not because I’m a Fun-Hater.  It’s just because something has to give when one lives in a small house with a lot of children!

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List of Banned Items

1. Markers.  At the risk of offending Marker-Lovers…here I go.  Now markers top this list because they are very destructive and bothersome.  Not only do they generally make for bad art, but they ruin any coloring book that my toddler wishes to scribble in.  And I’ve got some sweet coloring books.  You know, the Dover ones.  (Click HERE for the Eldest’s favorite.)  And not only are markers destructive, but they are also the least economic form of color, as one must continually buy them because they’re forever losing their lids and going dry.  No, I do not buy these anymore.  And if any should happen to find their way into my house, I promptly donate them to a second-hand store.

2.  Paper Napkins.  I got rid of these years ago.  I was tired of the extra garbage, so we went with cloth napkins.  Color-coordinated too.  Every person gets one napkin a day, and they must be color-coordinated because nobody wants to use the boys’ napkins.  And lest you think I’m a bit off my rocker, please know that I do keep paper napkins on hand for certain events, like say the birth of a new baby, when I’m dreadfully behind on laundry.

3.  Nice  Vehicles.  We gave up on this one long ago.  In fact, we have never had a nice vehicle.  But with the birth of Baby #6, we went all out and purchased a used 15-passenger van.  We figure, why buy something nice when the children will only spit-up on, wet their pants in, and barf all over it?  Well, and who wants a car payment anyway.  Besides, we can really haul some stuff around with this big, bad machine.  When I cruise around town with my posse in tow and a Catholic radio bumpersticker slapped on my rear, people better slide on over.  Watch out Caribou drive-thru.  No, this is not daycare.  This is a family.  (By the way, click HERE for a post on my sweet ride.)

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My Sweet Ride

4.  Watercolor Paints.  Now this one closely resembles Number One.  For watercolors are just messy and annoying.  Should I have a child that shows true artistic talent, then I will gladly purchase real watercolors, or other paints for that matter.  Until then, nope.  The children can “watercolor” away at Grandma’s House.

5.  Bap Soap.  Who wants to scrub soap scum off of anything?  Not me.

6.  Orange Juice.  (Or any other juice.)  I just don’t have room in my refrigerator for this one because I have to buy five gallons of milk a week.  (Click HERE for a post on my refrigerator problem.)  And lest you think we’re milk hogs, I only allow one small glass of milk at breakfast and another at supper, and that’s it.  Well, once a week, on Sundays, the children do get cold cereal, and that does drain away a good gallon or more at one sitting.  Furthermore, orange juice is expensive, and I’ve got a grocery budget that doesn’t allow for it, because I prefer to have other important things on hand, like Asiago cheese.  And wine.

Life is Worth Living

My Sweet Ride: Top 7 Reasons Why My 15-Passenger Van is Awesome

Anyone need a bit of joy on this cold, cold day?  If so, check out My Sweet Ride, which should be enough to cheer any dreary heart.

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Here she is, This Beautiful Thing!

Top 7 Reasons Why My Van is Awesome

1.The Hail Damage.

We purchased our van very cheaply because there was hail damage on one side, which is awesome.  I recommend seeking out vehicles with hail damage.  They still run perfectly well and are easier on your pocketbooks.  Of course this is also educational because it teaches your children about How to Save Money.  When we were looking at this Great, Wondrous Van, I just asked myself, “Kim, would you rather have a respectable, good-looking van and drink no lattes for the rest of your life, or could you be satisfied with This Thing and feel free to cruise the Caribou Drive-Thru every now and then?”  Hmmm…not a difficult decision.

2.  The Seam Rip.

The seat on the driver’s side had a huge, 4-inch rip along it’s edge.  This was also awesome and educational because I had to dust off my sewing box to find a heavy-duty needle and thread, and then I had to actually sew it shut.  This was heroic and virtuous behavior on my part too because I hate sewing.  And it was great for my children to see their mother sacrificially laboring away.

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This is Child #5 pointing to my sewing job.

3.  No Interior Carpet Whatsoever.

Yep, there is no carpet to be found in our van.  This is great because then the children can spill all they want, on the floor anyway.  And what about vomiting?  No problem!  Easy, fast clean-up.

4.  The Extra Cup Holders.

When I cruise around town with my posse in tow, I have three cup holders all to myself up front.  One coffee for me.  One for my husband, to drop off to him at work.  And one for my Coffee-Loving Friend.  (Nothing for the children of course.  They can drink water.)  It’s good to teach your children to sacrifice and to share.

5.  The Cigarette Burn Hole.

No, I do not smoke, but yes, there is a gigantic cigarette burn hole on the passenger-side seat.  Come to think of it, it might be a cigar burn hole because it’s so big.  In any case, this is educational because I can point to it and tell the children about the hazards of smoking.  “Look, children, see this hole?  This is what happens when you try to flick a cigarette out the window, but the window is still up.  Always make sure your window is down before throwing things out of it.  Or you’ll wreck your interior.”

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Cig Burn.  Note also the staining on the seat…let’s hope that’s not urine.

6.  No GPS.

Of course this van does not have GPS.  You had better know where you’re going or how to read an Old-Fashioned Map, which we keep in the cubbyhole.  We are terribly behind the times, but this way the children can more easily relate to and understand what it was like for Charles and Caroline Ingalls, as they drove all over the prairie looking for a place to live because they didn’t have GPS.  Or cell phones.

7.  It’s Like a Public School Bus.

This van is so big that I can haul around all the neighborhood kids in addition to my own.  We are like a Party Bus, even though I’m convinced that most people think that my van is a Public School Bus, as I’m forever answering such questions as, “Are all those children yours?”  Yes, ma’am.  All of ’em.  And, “Don’t you have a TV?”  Uh, no, actually we don’t…why do you ask?

Conclusion

If any of you are out in the cold, cold dark, I hope that cheers you up a bit!  Please feel free to ask any other burning questions that you may have about our van.

Oh yes, and my husband’s favorite thing about The Van?  It’s hitch.  He uses it to drag stuff around, like huge telephone poles to make ice skating rinks in our backyard.

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The Hitch.