Ask Away Friday With Sarah From Beauty School Dropout

Welcome back to my part of the world. I know that I’ve been missing in action for the last few weeks. The first week was an intentional break. Last week, we spent the week in Florida visiting with Mike’s  93 year old grandmother. Her health took a serious turn while I was on blogcation. We hopped in the car and drove 24 hours straight through with two tiny humans and my mother in law in tow. It ended up being one of the greatest weeks of our lives, even though we were there for a sad reason. Micahel’s grandmother passed away early Thursday morning and we are thankful for the wonderful week we got to spend with her.

This week, for Ask Away Friday, I was honored to swap questions with the lovely Sarah from Beauty School Dropout. Sarah and I share a mutual love of the movie Grease, documenting life, and living intentionally. We are both seeking to find time for fitness and our bible studies. We’re two peas in a pod!

Beauty School Drop Out

This link up is hosted by Amber from Bold Fab MomStacy from This Momma’s Ramblings, Tiffany from Mrs. Tee, and Penny from the Real Housewife Of Caroline Country.  The idea is simple. 2 bloggers trade 10 questions, answer those questions on their blog, and link up.

1.  By some evil twist of fate, you can never eat cookies again — what’s your next-favorite dessert?  (Share a recipe if you’re so inclined!)

I don’t have a recipe to share, but I love a nice fudgy brownie almost more than I love cookies! I also just got my first pint of Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra ice cream with the caramel core. It was amazing.

2.  What is your hobby of choice, why, and how did you get into it? 

I just recently started trying to send out a piece of snail mail to someone everyday.  There is nothing sweeter than opening the mail box and finding a handwritten card. I believe those words, on ink and paper can be so much more powerful than if they were sent via email (which certainly has it’s place too).

3.  I swear I used to keep the inside of my car so clean, but now that I have kids, I always have a strange assortment of things in my car!  What’s the oddest thing that been riding around town with you lately.

I’m too scared to even look under the seats. I’m sure there is an assortment of kid’s snack crumbs. Also, my water broke in the car on the way to the hospital to have Lola and we haven’t had a chance to get the seat steam cleaned. GROSS.

4.  How did you meet your husband?

We met on back when the internet was still a baby. We chatted over email for a few weeks and spent our first date chatting until the wee hours of the morning. After that date, he chased me pretty hard. He went out of town on a business trip and called me every night while he was gone because he wanted to chat. Knowing him the way that I know him now, I can tell how much he really loved me right away. He’s an introvert and a man of few words. It sounds cliche, but there is no one else on earth I can imagine doing life with but him.

5.  I’m currently trying to figure out to go on summer vacation with my family — what are your favorite vacation spots with little kids/babies?

When you are in the season of littles, there is no such thing as vacation. There is only relocation. Everything that you do now as a parent, you will have to do if you travel to a new destination. Plus, the kids will be wonky because they are out of their element and comfort zone. If you really want to have a relaxing time, I’d choose a staycation. Camp in the back yard, take a trip to a fun museum, go bowling, have a one on one date with each of your kids, stay up late playing goofy games with flashlights, and have ice cream for dinner.

With that being said, we are crazy fools when it comes to travel. We just got back from an unexpected road trip to FL to visit with my husband’s 93 year old grandmother. It took us a full 24 hours to drive there. We’ll also be driving to my hometown in IL this summer (that trip takes about 17 hours).

MIL lives on Cape Cod, so we spend a ton of time at her house in the summer. If you’re looking for a beach trip, I would recommend heading there. The bay side is nice and calm and perfect for little kids to explore without you having to worry about them getting swept out to sea.

Even in the winter, the Cape is beautiful!

6.  Where did you grow up and what are three great things about your hometown?

I grew up in a small town of 2500 in Northern Illinois. There are a ton of great things about my hometown. The sunsets are amazing. The landscape is mostly flat with cornfields. There is nothing more beautiful than being able to see the sunset for miles and miles.

I also really love how deeply my roots are planted there. This summer, we’re going to have Lola baptized at my family’s church. This church holds a ton of my family’s history. My grandparents were married there, my mother was baptized there, my mother and father were married there, I was baptized there, My mother’s funeral was there, Michael and I got married there, and Malone was baptized there. It is one of the cornerstones of our family.

Every June, my town puts on a four day festival. The carnival sets up shop through the main drag, different community organizations use the festival to fund raise. The cheerleaders put on a fun fair for the kids one afternoon, there is a bingo tent, youth sports hosts a dunk tank, and the Snow Rangers grill pork chops over an open flame. There is also a beer garden, but that’s not my thing.

7.  What’s a guilty pleasure of yours these days?  (Interpret as you like!)

I recently joined the From Left To Write blogger’s book club. Through them, I’m getting to read books (sent to me by the publisher) and write blog posts inspired by them. It has been so fun to get to know a new community of bloggers and find time to read the books. My first post went live this week and was inspired by the book The Divorce Papers. The author is coming to my area in a few weeks on her book tour. I’m excited to go.

I often feel a little guilty about letting my to do list go so I can read, but I am committed to reading words written on paper for at least 30 minutes everyday. Making that small change in my life has greatly improved my day to day.

8.  You seem to have such a gentle approach to parenting, which I really admire.  Is it just your natural personality, or is it something you’ve intentionally cultivated?

I would much rather fight for the character of my child than to engage in a power struggle with Malone. We’ve given Malone a lot of freedom to make choices about the things that matter in his world and in doing so, he is generally agreeable to go with the flow during the times he doesn’t have a choice.

I think that you can strong will your child into doing what you want him to or you can teach him how to make good choices so he’ll end up doing the things you want him to. There are some things that are fact, like saying please and thank you. And there are some things that we’re more flexible about.

He’s come back from our trip down south saying Yes Maam and No Sir because he spent a lot time around his cousins who did so. We’re going to keep that up, even though it is a lot of work to remind him. A polite boy will grow into a polite man. We might run into some trouble here because we live in an area with some people who identify with a gender other than the one they were born with. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

I was parented the same way that we’re parenting Malone. As a child, I was given a lot of freedom as long as I operated within the boundaries of our family rules. The boundaries were wide, but the fences were high. I had logical consequences for bad choices. I will never forget the summer before I went to high school. My mother sat down with me and said that in high school a lot of kids drink and party. She told me that I was welcome to go, but the police often busted parties and were always on the look out for drinking minors. If I was arrested, she wasn’t going to rush over to pick me up from the county jail. I would need to serve the full consequence of my actions.

I grew up in a small town and I knew she was telling the truth. I didn’t have my first drink until I was 21.

9.  Did you do any extracurricular activities in high school? What were they and what’s a favorite memory from that time?

I was a cheerleader in high school. I loved performing in front of a crowd (and still do).

10.  What lesson is life teaching you right now?

I’ve learned so much in the two weeks that I’ve been offline. The blogcation was intentional, but our emergency trip to Florida wasn’t. I’m really enjoying real life right now. For a while, I had my priorities out of balance. It took being away for two weeks to really shift my focus back. I’m excited to be back in this space writing, but I’m done trying to keep up with the pack. I am going to continue to blog, but it will be done on my terms. Instead of trying to keep pace with others who are in a different life stage and have more time, I am going to do things in my own way.

She had some great questions, didn’t she? Now, head over to Sarah at Beauty School Dropout to see how she answered my questions!


  1. says

    So nice getting to know you, NJ! I love that you send out hand written notes every day. That is pretty amazing. The only thing I do everyday is eat, heeh. And you are 100% that “vacation” with kids is just relocation. Someone should make an ecard out of that!

    • NJ says

      Maybe I’ll make that ecard!

      I don’t get one out everyday, but I am working really hard at sending correspondence. I love getting mail!

  2. says

    I respect your decision to do things on your own terms, NJ – I’m sure you will not regret that decision. My condolences on the passing of Mikes’ grandmother, but I’m glad you were able to be there to spend time with her and say goodbye.

    And reading something on paper at least 30 minutes a day is as natural to me as breathing. If I had to choose between only reading blogs and only reading books…as much as I’d miss blogs, books would win hands down.
    Dana recently posted..Come on feel the noise (of boys)My Profile

    • NJ says

      I’m not sure exactly what those terms are, but I know I’ve got to get off of the hamster wheel!

      I’m falling in love with reading again. In fact, I’m dying to get back to my book but promised myself that I’d reply to comments here first!

  3. says

    I’m glad you were able to get to Florida to spend time with your family.

    LOVE the idea of sending a piece of snailmail every day. I’m pretty sure I’ll never meet that goal, but maybe I’ll aim for once a week. You’re absolutely right. Getting something in the mail is the best feeling ever, especially if it’s a surprise!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted..Looking Back and Leaping ForwardMy Profile

    • NJ says

      I don’t meet it everyday either, but it is a goal for sure. Which reminds me, I’m out of stamps! I’m the kind of person who needs goals and items on lists that can be checked off. Adding snail mail to the mix has been an easy way to be able to check something off on my to do list. And writing a note to a friend is much more fun than laundry!

  4. says

    I’m so happy we could do this together! I loved reading your answers. I know exactly what you mean about having to blog in a way that’s right for you at this time in your life. I’ve been trying to figure out what that looks like for me, too. And I absolutely LOVE getting “real” mail in the mailbox. I think that’s awesome that you’re sending something every day.
    I think your advice on vacation is 100% right. We are going to a local state park for a family reunion this summer, and I think we might just extend our stay for a couple of extra days and enjoy some time outside, hike around a bit, and go to the pool!
    Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout recently posted..Welcome, Danny Zuko! Let’s scrapbook and eat homemade pizza. #askawayfridayMy Profile

    • NJ says

      It was super fun, Sarah. I’m sorry it took a few weeks of delay.

      I’m still working on what this all looks like for me too. I’m a dreamer and always coming up with new ideas. The problem is that I’ve got more good ideas than I’ve got time to implement them.

      Inbox me your address and I’ll send you some snail mail!

  5. says

    I loved this “I would much rather fight for the character of my child than to engage in a power struggle with Malone.” That is truly beautiful! What a gorgeous Instagram photo, too!

  6. says

    We did a staycation a couple years ago when my boys were younger. It was perfect – little day trips and doing fun things in our own town.
    I love your commitment to reading 30 minutes a day. I need to do the same. I know I am a happier person when I read for pleasure every day.
    I was also a high school cheerleader. :)
    Love your thoughts on what life is teaching you right now. I could so relate!
    Happy Ask Away Friday!
    Beth at Structure in an Unstructured Life recently posted..Ask Away Friday with SuperFreshBabyPantsMy Profile

    • NJ says

      We’ve done a few staycations here too. But both time’s we’ve been super lazy and just enjoyed a lot of downtime at home as a family. Wherever we go, we usually end up visiting family and combining lazy days with day trips in their area. It is the best of both worlds.

      Reading has really added value to my life. I’m glad that I’ve carved out some time in my life to keep up with it!

  7. Nancy says

    I’m not going to lie! Number three had me groaning!! LOL. I’m very lucky that my water broke right before crowning, BOTH TIMES, and not any sooner.
    Staycations are awesome. I plan to get a pass for the town lake and just go there every day, except for the two weeks we’ll be in Cape Cod, so maybe our trips will overlap!
    I also love that you have that church, a place where all your important life events have taken place.

    • NJ says

      At this point, I’m not even sure how we’d clean the seat. I guess I’d have to rent a hand held steam cleaner and see if that will work!

      We will be on the Cape this summer, but we don’t have any dates set in stone yet. Hopefully it will overlap with you guys!

  8. says

    So sorry about your husband’s grandmother – I know it is hard to lose grandparents. I’m so glad that y’all got there in time to have a few days with her!!!
    Love the way you and your husband met!!!
    Kim recently posted..One of Those DaysMy Profile

    • NJ says

      Thanks Kim. We were really lucky that we got to spend so much time with her the week before she passed. It really was one of the greatest weeks of our lives, she had so much wisdom and love to share with us in her final days. I will always have great memories of our sweet time!

  9. says

    Oh NJ…Fudge Brownies are the best especially if you are lucky enough to have them come out chewy and gooey! Mrs. Fields in my NY home made the BEST and I had to stop myself from eating one daily (I worked right next door). Aaaah…loved them!
    Tiffany recently posted..MrsTee’s What’s In My Bag? {Vlog}My Profile

    • NJ says

      I love a good fudge brownie. I have a few box mixes that I really like. I have yet to get brave and try making them from scratch.

      If I worked next to a bakery, I would weigh one million pounds.

    • NJ says

      From Left to Write is really fun, I’m really enjoying the community there. It is so fun to get bookmail and to read things before they are released!

      We’ve always road tripped with our kids. Malone’s first 1000 mile adventure happened when he was six months old. Now, at 4.5 he’s a seasoned car traveler!

  10. says

    A blogcation seems to be going around! I wonder what it is because I’d blame spring break, but it’s been worse than during the holidays part of winter. I’ve been giving myself lots of social media breaks in general! I blame this endless winter.
    Looking forward to lots of travel this spring/summer! And definitely to Cape Cod.
    Tamara recently posted..The Queen of Blog Commenting.My Profile

    • NJ says

      Blogcation is wonderful! It really is! I just wasn’t planning on an emergency trip to FL right after. I feel like I’m barely crawling out!

      Social media breaks are awesome! I realized the other day that I am spending way too much time on the endless Facebook scroll!

      We’ve got a few trips planned this spring and summer too! Cape Cod for us too!

    • NJ says

      I adore getting and sending snail mail! I think most people do! You should send some this week!

  11. says

    First of all, I am so sorry about Mike’s grandmother. But I am so glad you guys got to spend that week with her. What a gift. Secondly, LOVE this interview. And I am totally obsessed with her goal to send out regular mail…there is NOTHING better than opening the mailbox to find an unexpected treat! I am definitely stealing this idea! :)-Ashley
    thedoseofreality recently posted..Would You Rather: Be Veronica Mars Or Rory Gilmore?My Profile

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