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Oh, the irony! Is it ironic? Nell is super excited about her new blog design (thank you, Jamie!) and yet her own kids have zero access to screens. 

Wellll they get to watch the occasional movie, but we don’t own a TV, gaming system, or devices. We have one battered old laptop, one newer one, and one very almost dead desktop I’m hoping to get data recovered from. And two iPhones. Everything is password protected and the kids don’t know those open sesames.

Why? Why deprive our kids of what ostensibly seems to be cutting edge, skills they’ll need, and also, what everyone else is doing socially?

Because increasingly science and researchers tell us what we kinda knew but hoped wasn’t true as a society of exhausted parents looking for something for their kiddo to do that’s enriching and not fighting us/each other. Screen time is damaging to their developing minds. Social media is damaging to their emotional development. We are performing an experiment on this generation of kids and we simply don’t have enough data to know it’s safe to allow developing brains tablet, gaming, online socializing, and passive consumption of screen time in the levels we’re letting in.

SO soap box aside, maybe you’re here to shift your own strategies as a parent, and maybe you have great tips for the rest of us. Here’s how we live screen-free for the kids. (Had a great discussion on instagram right here.)

  1. REPLACE // when we’ve watched a Magic School Bus episode, they want 10 more. As with any pattern you’re trying to stop, cold turkey isn’t always successful, but replacing desired object with something else? Could be the ticket.
    1. we’ve found audio stories (Jim Weiss forever) help keep little and big minds engaged
    2. interactive books for non-readers (Usborne have a million flaps (my friend Sarah is our fav to buy from)
    3. board games like dog monopoly, catan, and NFL game day are big hits right now
    4. household chores: stick with me: people who fight clean toilets and people who complain loudly wipe out the fridge so . . . suddenly the desire to find an activity increase dramatically when I remind them of this rule
    5. outdoor play: we must get outside or they languish and want to “be” entertained
  2. REMIND// our family is going to do things different in many respects from other families we know, love, and cherish. Screens are one of those differences. Being Catholic is another. Not doing sleepovers is yet another. But I do try to remind them that we have special family traditions we’re building up so we’re not just the family of terrible-no-fun-rotten-mama-is-so-mean.
  3. BRIBES// every child needs a carrot. Okay maybe not all of them like to eat actual carrots, but we need inducements for behavior, homework completion, politeness, etc. And while screen time is an attractive option perhaps, what are a few others?
    1. staying up late for special time with one of us
    2. going out for dessert//book club
    3. suckers, literally
    4. older kids can earn money “babysitting” aka watching so the 2.5 year old doesn’t bite the 5 year old while I finish something in the other room. The going rate is . . . $.15/half hour. Steep dollah dollah bills.
  4. MODEL// My work is nearly all on a screen for writing, editing, and Blessed is She work. My husband barely uses a screen ever when he’s home and he’s a luddite about social media (I’m um the opposite). BUT we both want to model that screens aren’t as interesting as people and that human contact and engagement is far superior. That means, for me:
    1. not having my phone out in their faces all the time
    2. not having my phone in my face in front of them
    3. stepping out of a room to take a call or answer a text if they’re playing or eating in there
    4. setting time limits/constraints when I’m compulsively checking for updates (tail wagging the dog much?) on all the platforms
    5. not being on my phone when I’m engaging and interacting with them
    6. trying to remember to do all of these every day

I’m not leaving my screen anytime, but as my kids age, I will probably feature them less and even less. They have a right to privacy from the world, and their stories are their own. Part of my slowing down on blogging about parenting is that so many of my really juicy ripe stories I wanted to process with you were no longer my own to share.

Happy new site day to me! Happy launch of my summer rompers you can now buy right here! And hopefully you’ve heard some tips that can help you, and/or please share yours on limiting screens with your kiddos and yourself.

Spending summer enjoying this kids book on virtue from Blessed is She!

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How many times do you see fights about Catholic womanhood on the internet? How many tweets and replies and heated stranger-v-stranger on someone else’s facebook post about the right way to be a Catholic woman and the only way to be a saint.

It kinda turns my stomach. Look, I get it. We all love a moral higher ground! We all want to feel fully vindicated in our choices to work from home, work outside the home, stop working, practice NFP for mental health reasons, welcome all the babies in all the years, pursue adoption, not pursue adoption and face all the questions about your married vocation+.

What gets lost in all that spluttering and finger pointing, to me, is the holy women in our faith tradition. The saints, venerables, servants of God who stepped up and lived out a life of heroic virtue, saying yes to God. Saying YES to loving, feeding, clothing, instructing, visiting, caring for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Their examples show point-blank that living out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, that becoming a saint, doesn’t look the same for everybody.

So last year we started this project, Misericordia, another Blessed Conversations study.

Four women in different walks of life on the Blessed is She writing team agreed to write reflections: a mother of ten, a mother of two, a grandmother, a single woman. I dreamed and prayed about how it would read & flow before I wrote the introduction. Blessed is She’s director of ministry advancement, Beth Davis, worked her mad skills on the questions for reflection and discussion. I peppered in Scripture from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels inside each of the reflections on the works of mercy.

For you, just for your personal growth and learning about 12 different holy women with different careers, vocations, physical abilities, backgrounds, languages, countries of origin. For your small group, to discuss how to live out the works of mercy, corporal and spiritual. For your community group, to actively grow in virtue through these instructions Our Lord gives us in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew!

I hope you like it. I’m thrilled that it’s finally available for physical copy (spiral bound hard cover) or digital download. I’m nervous that you won’t like it but then I remember that it’s not about me or us, but rather about how God moves in the most imperfect of people to help convey His messages.

Also, let’s just please stop fighting about the one-right-way to live our lives as Catholic women! If we spent all that energy actually doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, man! We would really be God’s hands and feet. Remember that we are rarely called to be His mouth

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Ah! It’s nearly spring here in Minnesota and as I gaze upon my poor neglected blog I realized, yes, it’s been two months since I said anything here. Did you miss me?!

Spring means I’ve been sewing up a storm. But in a fun twist of events, so has my dear friend Cynthia. When you have seven kiddos and you’re a talented seamstress, what else do you do with your time than take pity on your friend who has more sewing projects than hours in the day? Cynthia kindly agreed to help me sew up these bibs for this spring whole parenting goods launch and guys, she’s realllllly good.

So this lovely stash will be available for YOU to purchase from tomorrow starting at 10am central. The linen tunic tops are sizes 0-3, 3-6, 6-12, 12-18, and 18-24 months. The linen dresses are 2t, 3t, 4t, 5t.

My kids want to keep them all, BUT I’m feeling like sharing the love with you guys. Good luck and happy shopping! Shop is right here.

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I sent resume after resume on the resume paper you’re supposed to send it out on. The employment market had crashed to a smoldering pile of burnt resumes (mine, all of them, probably). My credentials from law school and a federal clerkship, a work-abroad fellowship, all did not amount to the 5-8 years experience required. 

So when we moved back home, my husband and I, I was lucky enough to get a special appointment to a position that was part-time and unpaid. But it was experience with a kind and generous boss and collegial co-workers. I mean can you say you’re a co-worker if you’re a volunteer? I drove an hour each way to it. I threw up in the car, in the building, leaving court to do it, on the way home, and every other spot. Early on I was pregnant with my first.

Everyone wanted to know how my “job” was going. I couldn’t face telling them I didn’t really have a job. I had a position. So I told them that. Hoping somehow by not owning the unfortunate circumstances of all beginning lawyers I would look like I still had it together. Look like I was still gifted and talented. I was still the me I had felt like in law school. Like I hadn’t failed.

I eventually left the position to throw up more and more at home, and eventually, cradle a little babe in my healing lap and say: I didn’t get to pursue that dream but this one is nice. I had begun a small private practice and it carried over through the first year and half of this little babe’s life. When we were expecting another little one, and the throwing up began again in earnest, I closed that practice up. I never was successful at that. Failed again.

When women at a mom group heard I was an attorney staying at home, some nodded and murmured how sacrificial I was. Others furrowed their brows, confused by why I would give that up. I had no clear answers other than knowing I couldn’t be the lawyer I wanted to be and a mom at the same time. I felt like I had missed out on sharing my gifts with the world.

Blogging was born somewhere nestled in there, a need to write, think, share, reach outside of my diapers and nursing sessions to talk about … wait for it … diapers and nursing #ironic #mommyblogger

But through that world I met Jenna Guizar. And when our third child was 5 months old, I took the leap to help her with Blessed is She. It was a night here and there and the odd weekend. Texting after everyone was asleep and she was off-work or at-work. My kids knew her voice on speaker. My mind filled with editing, managing, planning, dreaming. Only this time, it worked with my family life. This time, it worked because of my family life.

In these years of having babies, I had my own faith journey to grapple with, marrying a man with a profoundly deep and active faith life, wanting my children to see me living it out instead of lecturing on it. I knew I couldn’t give what I didn’t have. And Blessed is She, working with Jenna and the mighty and inspiring writers she brought on board? They taught me how to have a relationship with God in a real, tangible, adult way. Their writing, their examples, their authentic struggles along the way let me know there was something deeper waiting for me on the other side of my cradle Catholicism. I am forever changed by the truths of the Church and a relationship with God that brought me past feeling like a failure.

This past year I’ve been writing a course. A course for women who want to understand why they’re a gift. Beyond an avocation toward helping out in certain ways, beyond a list of character traits that could help their organization. The gift that they are simply as God’s child. To own it, believe it, and give themselves back to their community, relationships, and God. To do it more fully.

The course is ready now. I’m shy about promoting it. It’s a lot of my heart and research and reading and listening to the Church’s teachings, Scripture, the lives of the Saints. I believe there’s something in it that’s worthwhile for everyone, every age & stage. It’s not the Nell show or that would be super embarrassing.

The link is here to buy it. It’s 5 videos on gift and 2 bonus ones on specifically leadership of a group. Each is about 30 minutes and a combo of me on camera & slides with my voice over them. You start with an assessment for your personality traits, then go deeper in prayer and the challenges you may face given your traits. Authentic sisterhood is addressed & identified as to how to build based on those traits. We dive deep into living a life in the presence of God to fully know His love and your gift. We wrap up with looking at your gifts in the light of the Gifts & Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Join over 150 women!

(For any who wants to apply to come to the Lodge on a private small group retreat with Jenna and me, that’s available, too. Organic food and I’ll bounce your baby!)

If you’re not sure, watch the free workshop where you hear my back story and some of the content. I trust you can find something there for you, too. Over 1000 women signed up for it!

All this to say, if you want to know the gift that you are, the Church can show you. If you are floundering at where you are in life, the Traditions and Sacraments will anchor you. If you’re unsure about His path for you, He will show you. You don’t need my course for any of this, but my course can help you get your bearings to discover these things for yourself.

Love love love,

Nell

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Oh friends! I have so many new yearsie things to share. The lessons I learned when everyone was sick most of Christmas. The lessons I repeatedly learn about the gift of suffering and the past few months with health issues. The joys of a new brownie recipe (SMITTEN KITCHEN FOR THE EVERY WIN).

But I’ll save all that til I can sit down and properly bang it out. Today at 8 central I’m hosting a free workshop online with my best boss, Jenna Guizar, for Blessed is She about a new course I’ve been making for you guys for the past YEAR. Yeah, I’m slow. So if you pop over tonight, you’ll hear about “Discovering the Gift of You” and what it means, why I want you to join me, etc. I even wrote an entire personality assessment test. Some of the questions are . . . ironic funny silly sooo real!!!

Click here to sign up. It’s free. If you want to purchase the course afterwards, awesome, but just come and here about it first. I’ll post the link for the actual course offering later this week along with a more in-depth explanation of it all.

LOVE LOVE LOVE,

N

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Hi friends!! So I didn’t get anything out before now but I’ve been sewing my tail off to get a sweet bundle ready for you FRIDAY!

Or Thursday. If you’re a subscriber to my list, you get first dibs (huzzah!) Thursday night. The rest of y’all get it Friday!

On Instagram, I’ll list these little bundles of bibs & leggings Friday at 10:30 cst. On my shoppe, the quilts, caps, and skirts! There are too many variations and quantities of the latter to do it easily on insta so off to the web we go!

The caps are lined with organic cotton flannel, the skirts have wide-elastic and some lace!, there are only two colors of quilts left!

The bundles of organic knit leggings are in twos and the organic cotton flannel backed bibs are too.

Everything is ready to ship, priority mail!

Thanks for all your support, friends. It’s such a joy to make for you and your lil loved ones. Thanks for letting me be part of your holiday celebrations.

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I never shared these wonderful family photos our dear friend Emily Rumsey took over the summer. I mean, it’s only NOVEMBER 30! I also just ordered some Christmas cards so hopefully they’ll arrive before Christmas so I can get them mailed out before Valentines? Sheesh.

With all the bustle and hustle of my sister’s Thanksgiving weekend wedding (YAY! SHE MARRIED THE BEST GUY and we are so HAPPY) and ensuing disease: all 10 little nieces and nephews threw up over the course of the week they were visiting, I actually had some quiet time to think. Maybe it’s because I was up a few nights changing sheets and rubbing backs while people threw up and that doesn’t lend to much talking which is my preferred way of processing.

I’m so behind on everything. I didn’t get anything ready for a Small Biz Saturday or Cyber Monday sale for my shop. I haven’t blogged in a long time. I haven’t planned out anything for Christmas yet. I feel so BEHIND.

And yet in those semi-still hours of realizing all my time and creative energy had gone toward the thing that really mattered: my sister’s wedding! prepping food for a few meals of 40 people for the festivities after it (freezer friendly meals)! rearranging my third floor and basement to accommodate the highly anticipated cousin crew! Blessed is She work that needed to be done before I took a week or so off! Paying attention to my children and their homework assignments and projects and recitals and booboos and teething and desires to potty train!

Once again, it hit me: if I do what I should and ought so that I’m not behind on what actually matters, the time will somehow manifest itself to do the extra stuff. And, if somehow that time doesn’t manifest itself, I must be aging and maturing enough to let them go. My little special me-time things are nourishing and soothing and joyful, but they’re not the meat and potatoes of my heart. And when they have been, I’m not balanced nor actually satisfied.

So if you are also scurrying and feel so behind, whether that’s literally like no way Christmas cards are happening or more like everyone else has these happy full lives that are perfect and I’m not there, please know you’re not alone. And that the best antidote I’m finding for this ache of “behindedness” is to do what is in front of me, and then ask God ever so patiently for extra time or grace to be filled up in the little cracks and crevices of the day.

Happy Adventing, sisters! I’m hosting a Wednesday night group at my house to do the Blessed is She book (sold out! 10,000! but a download is available) together so hit me up if you have the book and want to join us. However you’re celebrating this liturgical new season, may it be one that gives you lasting peace and satisfaction in the little mundanities and delights of your day.
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I’m not well-acquainted with grief.

My parents are still alive and in good health. I’ve got all four siblings still alive and kicking. My four children have no lost siblings waiting for them in the afterlife. My family of origin has only two deceased aunts & uncles out of 12.

So while I don’t wear grief comfortably, increasingly it’s journeying alongside me. My cousin whom I grew up with’s little daughter, a year older than our oldest, is on hospice at home from brain cancer. Another close friend passed from cancer earlier this year, a loss so large it’s hard to mourn. And other adults in my life lost to cancer.

But the grief Laura and Franco Fanucci have walked through, and AA and I have walked alongside them at times, is an entirely different burden. Miscarriage. Babies lost as premies from a terrible tragedy. Babies longed for and waited for with heavy empty wombs.

These griefs these write about in their book, “Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage.” And it’s a book like nothing I’ve ever seen! It addresses loss for both the parents, not just discounting the dad like so many others out there. It gathers many stories from other couples, too. The resources for parishes and couples is astounding. There’s a whole chapter on understanding the Catholic Church’s intricate teaching on loss in the womb.

And if you’re still sorting through your own suffering, it’s a book you can piece through, not one you have to read cover-to-cover if that would be too much. The language and tone are loving and kind, compassionate and comforting. It’s just the perfect book for this tender topic. It also has a long list of incredible endorsements!

AND I want to give a copy to one of you.

It’s easy. Visit Laura’s new website and peruse through her other (many) books. Comment back here with the one you would also like to read. Maybe it will show up on your Christmas list!

Winner will be picked randomly Friday evening. Entries close 8pm Central.  

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My sister and I were talking about books her daughter (2nd grade) and my son (3rd) are really loving and then I thought, I should just do a blog post about them because then I’ll remember them myself! So please tune in at the bottom and tell me what you guys are loving reading in your household at these ages.

I’m using my amazon links so that means if you click through and buy anything I get a sliver. Just so you know.

F A M I L Y

Mercy Watson. This pig is a family favorite and her adventures are ha-larious.

Anything by Kevin Henkes. Especially the Lilly books. Especially this one.

Great Pie Robbery and other mysteries. A HUGE family favorite.

Millie-Molly-Mandy. Girl adventure power tales from the 1920’s.

C H A P T E R

Pony Scouts. This early reader (level 2) is kinda a chapter series but it’s also just a really fun one for any horse lovers out there. I can’t find a boxed set so I just am contented to buy them one-off used via ‘zon.

Magic Treehouse, of course.

Freddy the Pig. It’s hilarious and my son wolfed it down. There are tons of them so also grabbing them used.

Narnia. Got a used box set and it’s so sweet.

The Penderwicks. Adventure, kids, all good stuff.

American Adventures. He got the whole set as a gift from my family and every single one was riveting and he loved these. He’s a historical fiction guy.

The Borrowers. These little people are fabulous.

Boxcar Children. We keep getting more and more from our local used bookstore. They’re a fast read and not too scary for the little kids to hear aloud, too. Sweet sibling love and mystery and morals to the story.

Doctor DoLittle. FUNNNYYY like my kid keeps giggling aloud.

Encyclopedia Brown series. HE LOVES THESE.

Redwall/Mossflower Series. Mice, battle, epic.

Tales from Deckawoo Drive. A higher reading level with the Mercy Watson characters–just so so great!!

F A I R Y // F O L K  T A L E S

Six Swans. It’s gorgeous and heartbreaking and redemptive all at once.

The Woodcutter’s Coat. Hilarious and fast moving with a great story and illustrations.

Okay I ran outta steam. Your turn!

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She IS the mini boss around here.

I’m finding that letting my kids learn and grow means a lot of me observing. Of course I step in and stop the fighting. Like, you know, every other minute or so.

But when no one’s life is imperiled, and I can actually keep my hands to myself, I try to just observe. Observe them laughing and saying funny dramatic off-key things. Observe them negotiating and haggling with a honed craft to make any street vendor proud. Observe them making dire proclamations about whomever they’re hating on that moment (Mama side bar: “we only hate the Devil”).

And when I observe and I take meager mental notes and I pat myself on the back or, just as quickly, kick my own shins as to where they learned THAT, I remember. They are not mine. They are their own. They aren’t accomplishments of mine. They are their own masterpieces unfolding. They aren’t just an inverse of the mirror in Snow White (showing me my worst). They are their own struggling, gasping, reaching spirited person. Prone to virtue and vice. Made in the image of their Creator.

I still have many years of big parenting work ahead. Guiding and teaching, disciplining and snuggling. But today, and maybe for you, too, today I am content to letting them grow with a little water and a little sun and a whole lot of air.

If you haven’t seen that the Blessed is She Advent reflection book is out, you may be living under a social media firewall

My dear friend Shannon Evans crafted this incredible journey for us to take with her, walking along the path of the Magnificat prayer, studying how we are being called to bear God’s image into this world. My amazingly talented friend Erica Tighe designed it. And the cover is as stunning as the words within! A beautiful collaboration. It’s available here

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