Lots and Lots of Books for the Feast of St. Francis


In honor of her birthday, which happens to fall on the Feast of St. Francis, I invited Karoline to read and review a new book Amy Welborn sent to our house. We have an extensive St. Francis library, linked below Karoline's review. This new book is a breath of fresh air. I think you might want to add it to your book basket before the feast on October 4th. But don't just take my word for it; Karoline (who will turn 9 on the big day), chimes in with some persuasive enthusiasm.

This book just is AMAZING!
It just so happens that the feast of St. Francis is my birthday: October 4th ! Since St. Francis’ feast is my birthday, reading this book when it came in the mail this week was very interesting to me. But it doesn’t have to be your birthday to be interesting for you. Now I’m going to tell you a little bit about the book, but the rest you’ll have to find out on your own.

It’s about two cousins who are named Gianna and Lorenzo and their great uncle , Brother Antonio. Lorenzo and Gianna are not happy because their parents dropped them off early that morning so that they could go visit a winery. This book feels like a true story, because I’ve been left home before so my parents can visit a winery. Brother Antonio tells them about a game where they walk in Assissi and they go where St.Francis did stuff. He asks them what Francis did there. They earn points for getting the answer right. It’s a trivia game, but they walked around. I can’t give away the ending and tell you who wins the contest.

The cousins learn lessons in the book about St. Francis and his kindness and they become friends and learn about kindness and forgiveness. You have to read the book to find out any more.

I like the way my mom’s friend, Amy Welborn, wrote a biography of St. Francis at the end, so that we could get the rest of the story that we didn’t find out in the trivia game.

The illustrations are very nice. They show a lot of details and that’s good because a lot of books leave the corners of pages white and waste space that could have art. I like all the colors that the artist used to show the countryside in Italy.

That’s all I can say without telling you too much. You should buy this book.
— Karoline Rose Foss

What follows is a kindness of longtime reader, Chris Scarlett, who generously shares her annotated list of picture books just in time to prepare for the Feast of St. Francis. A few of these are out of print, but please don't be discouraged. They are readily available at the library (St. Francis seems more welcome there than other saints) or used for purchase on Amazon for as little as a penny! Our family has read most of these (though I admit to adding a few new-to-us ones to our library this week), and I heartily concur with Chris' notes.

Many, many thanks to Chris:-)

The feast of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4th, will be here soon. We happen to own and have used about a week's worth of resources, but we have also borrowed some gems from the library in the past. So, I decided to check them out again, and in the process went down a rabbit trail of obtaining and reading a whole bunch of others. Many non-Catholics and other people of good will seem to relate to this holy and creation-loving saint. I am only listing the ones that seem to me to be worth your time; I returned some that just didn't seem serious enough, while retaining a selection that will work across an age span of children.

Each category is arranged from simplest to more complex. 

I strongly recommend reading any authors' notes first to see where they are coming from before sharing these with your family.

* means it is in Chris' personal library


Emphasis on Life of St. Francis:

++ The Good Man of Assisi by Mary Joslin, illustrations by Alison Wisenfeld* (a good place to start)

++  Brother Francis and the Friendly Beasts by Margaret Hodges, pictures by Ted Lewin* (two important people in children's lit)

++  Saint Francis by Brian Wildsmith* (stunning art style)

++  Song of St. Francis by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Valenti Angelo (retro with very few pictures, more of an early reader)

++  Francis, The Poor Man of Assisi by Tomie dePaola (well-researched, of course)

++  Saint Francis of Assisi by Joyce Denham, illustrated by Elena Temporin (whimsical style, includes a good sampling of episodes)

++  Brother Sun, Sister Moon, The Life and Stories of St. Francis by Margaret Mayoh, illustrated by Peter Malone (lovely biography plus legendary tales)


++  Saint Francis of Assisi, A Life of Joy by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (RFK's adult son), illustrated by Dennis Nolan (contemporary art style)

++  St. Francis by Pelagie Doane* (1960 vintage Catholic, will be harder to locate)

++ Saint Francis Sings To Brother Sun, A Celebration of His Kinship With Nature selected and retold by Karen Pandell, illustrated by Bijou Le Tord ( a lot of material, quirky artwork)


Emphasis on St. Francis' Relationship With Animals (in which you will find a blend of history and legend):

++  Brother Wolf of Gubbio, A Legend of Saint Francis by Colony Elliott Santangelo (inks and colored pencils on bass wood)

++  Saint Francis and the Wolf by Jane Langton, illustrated by Ilse Plume (simple, sweet)

++  Saint Francis and the Animals by Leo Politi (1959 classic)

++  Francis Woke Up Early by Josephine Nobisso, illuminations by Maureen Hyde (fairy tale qualities, but by a beloved Catholic author, numerous awards)

Emphasis on the First Live Nativity Scene (great for Advent)

++  Saint Francis Celebrates Christmas retold by Mary Caswell Walsh, illustrated by Helen Caswell (brief)

++  A Gift From St. Francis, The First Creche by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Michele Lemieux* (our family's favorite in this category, we say, "pazzo, pazzo" when someone is doing something crazy)

++  The Living Nativity, The Story of Saint Francis and the Christmas Manger by David and Helen Haidle (more fictional, includes lesson-extending ideas in the back)


Three Inspired by St. Francis' "Canticle of the Sun":

(your youngest will love these, all are GORGEOUS, would make great gift books)

++ The Circle of Days by Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Cathie Felsted* (collage)

++  Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Creatures reimagined by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton (amazing scissor cuttings)

++ Be Blest, A Celebration of Seasons by Mary Beth Owens* (12 months, 12 wreaths, 12 poems)

Two That Include His Friend, St. Clare of Assisi:

++ . Clare and Francis by Guido Visconti, illustrated by Bimba Landmann

++  Francis and Clare, Saints of Assisi by Helen Walker Homan, illustrations by John Lawn (190 page Vision chapter book for a read aloud, or for older readers) 

Could it be a Storybook Year?

Late last summer, as I was gathering my thoughts on curriculum and trying to plan the year, I hit a wall. Actually, I was probably already flat up against the wall, but the time of year compelled me to do what I'd always done, so I pressed on. But I didn't want to plan. And I wasn't enthused about all the things that had previously sparked so much creative energy. It wasn't exactly burnout. It was more like beaten out. I hadn't wanted to share learning ideas for over a year, but by last summer, I didn't even want to write them for myself. It just wasn't fun anymore.

I thought about just sending off for several boxes of pre-planned curriculum. And then I consulted the budget. I looked around my house at all the resources we own. I didn't order anything. Nothing. That became the plan. Use what we have and just get the job done. 

We have an abundance of picture  books. I love picture books. When I was in college, I'd forego the coffee shop in the Student Union Building and head instead to the tiny corner of the adjacent bookstore that was home to the children's books. I saved my latte pennies for a hardbound copy of The Complete Tales of Peter Rabbit. Way better. I loved the small room in the Ed School library that was lined with shelves of children's literature. When we were assigned a semester-long project to compile an index card file of children's books, I filled three boxes. Every card was color-coded and annotated and illustrated. I still have those cards. I loved that project.


For over twenty years, I have been inspired by the art and the literature of picture books. I've thrown my whole heart into creating with books, whether it was bulletin boards in a classroom or fullblown unit studies for many ages. Literature-based learning was where I invested most of my creative energy. Some people love their cameras, some their paints, others their yarn or fabric. For me, it was always those beautiful books and the endless possiblities of things we could do with them.


I recalled a conversation with an old friend. Several years ago, we wondered if everything in an elementary curriculum could probably be taught with a good picture book. This year became my year to test the theory. Sort of.

We read widely from the lists in Real Learning (and more), both as read-alouds and read alones. Sustaining attention for long stories is a cornerstone of how we learn in our home.

The Montessori maps come out for geography review a couple times a week. 

Nature notebook

For my fifth-grader, I have a good math text, Rosetta Stone, some art history, nature notebooks, and, at his request, Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. All the rest? Picture books.

For my third grader, math, Rosetta Stone, nature notebooks, drawing instruction, and picture books. 

For my little ones, lots of mama time. And picture books.

I take the week's copywork from the picture books. I take the poem to memorize that week from a picture book. Every night, each of the three youngest girls chooses two picture books for me to read before going to sleep.

What unfolded is not a curriculum. It's a "freedom within limits" plan that works for us. I share it here to tell you what we've been up to, not so much as to suggest you adopt it. It's entirely real learning in the heart of our home. I thought about all the categories of books, all the subjects typical programs of studies will cover. Also, I was sure to leave some grids for me to add in books I love and just don't want them to miss.  I gridded all the different categories in a weekly planning sheet. The sheet has changed several times this year as I add and delete as necessary. I've thoughtfully included the things that are important us, the components of a Charlotte Mason curriculum that I hold dear. 


We read the books together or the children read them to themselves. Sometimes, they have books in common on their charts. Sometimes, they have their own particular books. I sit down the weekend before and plan out the week. I key the saints' picture books to the liturgical year. Usually, I'll ask if there is a book they want to read and let them choose within each discipline. Occasionally, I'll gather up the stack myself. It's important for me to gather all the books before the week begins so I don't spend hours looking under couch cushions or behind beds for the books I am certain I just saw.

Sometimes, there is a theme across disciplines. Nicky might read  A Swim Through the Sea, Man Fish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau, and mom's choice of Night of the Moonjellies. Katie might ask about Manassas Battlefield Park as we drive by it daily, back and forth to ballet. The following week, I'll write in books like Follow the Drinking GourdHenry's Freedom BoxCivil War ArtistSweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt and If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War.

More often, though, this is not about unit studies, but about a wide banquet of varied topics. If a child is super-interested in something, it's simple enough to scuttle the written plan and dig deeply with more on-topic books. Two important things about scuttling the plan:  

  • There must be a plan to scuttle; this isn't freewheeling and hoping that books thrown everywhere will catch someone's attention.
  • If you ditch the plan, it's only to do something better. It's never to do nothing. And we need a written plan for the "something better."

Every day, the children respond in writing to at least one book. They can choose a writing project from a long list of projects or they can propose another. Not every book requires a formal response. Some books, we read, we talk about just a little, and then we close it and put it on the shelf. But every day requires some kind of writing. Every day. They might dictate a simple narration. They might peck out their own narrations. They might take off and create an elaborate screenplay. Whatever they choose, they must write something.


With the time that's left in the day, they can choose from other ways to respond to books and get as creative as they like with any book they've read that day or previously. We're busy. We're productive. We're surrounded by good language and great art. And the creative energy has returned to our educational adventures.

It's all good.


Tell me about your book: 

  • Write and tell a friend about the story. 
  • Make a detailed map of the setting of the book.
  • Is it a circle story? Can you draw it?
  • Did something really catch your attention? Want to research it further?
  • If historical, add it to your Book of Centuries. (we do this with every historical book)
  • Write a letter from the main character to you.
  • Choose a character you’d like to have as a friend.  Write him or her a letter. 
  • Plan & cook something to go with the book
  • Tell why it would (or wouldn’t) make a great movie. 
  • Describe an incident from it as though you were an on-the-scene TV reporter.
  • Create a collage.
  • Make up a rhyming poem about it
  • Illustrate w/drawings or photos
  • Explain its funniest (or saddest or most exciting) incident.
  • Make a new book jacket for the book
  • Do a puppet show.
  • Read the book aloud as radio theatre and record it.
  • Write 3 paragraphs in a diary as if you were your favorite character. 
  • Design and draw costumes for some of the characters.
  • Design quilt squares to go with the book
  • Tell what your home would look like if you were one of the main characters. 
  • Write a biography of one of the characters.
  • Write a human interest story about one of the characters in the book.
  • Write a letter to the editor about an issue in the book.
  • Create magazine ad for the book.
  • Create a television ad for the book
  • Draw it into newspaper cartooning squares.
  • Play charades w/themes from the book
  • Pretend a character had made an important decision differently. Write a new ending.
  • Make a list of facts you learned in the book
  • Write an Amazon review.
  • Plan a field trip inspired by the book
  • Compare versions of the same story.
  • Compare the book to the movie version
  • Make peg dolls to go with the book.
  • Compare it to another book the author/illustrator has written. This might be a comparison of art or of the story.
  • Use its title to write your own story. 
  • Write a letter to the author
  • Pretend you are the author. Write a publisher, pictching your book.

 Picture books make me happy. This blog is for sharing what makes me happy. I can't promise you a book a day. There's no way I'm going to post big plans for every book. I do hope to share a little of our picture book love on a regular basis here. A quick review, a picture or two, some ideas on where the book took us--little snapshots of books we all love. I know that not all my readers are homeschoolers. I'm certain, though, that these books can enrich the lives of all the children we love.

On Candlelight...

On February 2, the Church traditionally celebrates Candlemas. In honor of that lovely feast, I've posted here some gathered thoughts on candlelight throughout our day. There's still time to make some candles and they're certainly time to purchase them. Actually, it's never too late to light a little fire and I've never met a priest who is unwilling to bless them, no matter when you ask.

Candlelight in the Morning

 I set the box aside, even before the Christmas season ended. The Candlemas box. On February 2, when the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, we will go to Mass and have our candles blessed*. I have been placing in that box the candles I will use in my home this year. There are some large jar candles, some smaller votive candles, two boxes of brand new advent candles, some beeswax tapers. These are the lights, the flames, that mark the hours of our days.

In the atrium, we teach the children that the flame is the light of Christ and the smoke is our prayers going up to heaven. My children love this concept! Each day, a candle illuminates the hour, warms the moment, brings us into the presence of Him who is Light. In our home, the first candle of the day is the one on the prayer table. There, next to the icons, is a large glass candle, safely up away from little hands. This is a candle that might burn all day.

I light it in the morning for my personal time with my Bible and a cup of tea. I love the way the light dances off the icons. If there are specific and pressing prayers for which I have been asked to pray, I leave it lit. These candles burn for a long time and they fill the air with scent. Both the light and the scent call to mind prayer intentions throughout my day. I've been slowly gathering these, one at a time, as I am able. I'm sure I don't have enough for the whole year, but I do have several to be blessed. I've also poured some beeswax candles of my own, to supplement the stock. I'm hopeful these will burn well, but it is certainly still experimental. 

This candle's light is central in our home. We see it as we go up and down the stairs. We see it when we come and go through the front door. And it is the first thing my children see when they come downstairs to find me in the morning. The day begins in the glow of golden light.

A good beginning, I think.

Candlelight at the Table

In addition to the prayer table candles, my basket of candles to be blessed holds lots of small pillar candles that fit in plain glass votive candle holders.

Let me back up a bit.

As Advent began this year, I was determined that even if I did nothing else, I would ensure that we sat at the table for dinner and lit those candles often enough that the first two candles burned all the way down. If the first one needed to be replaced, all the better. December can be tricky. Ball practices, Nutcracker rehearsals and holiday busy-ness converge to make the time absurdly busy. I was determined to ensure that we gathered at the table to pray and to break bread together every single day. And I did it! The candles were lit. The song was sung. The prayers were said. We sat together around the table every night. We ate and we talked and we connected.


For Christmas, the girls and I got a little giddy with tablescapes--lots of color and light the whole length of the tables. It was so pretty I wished it could be that way always. But tablescapes are really impractical. My tablecloths are washed almost daily and all those little pieces were cumbersome. Still, I wanted to bring the light of Christmas to our dinner tables throughout the year.


A couple years ago, I was talking to a group of soccer moms and dads on the sidelines before the match began. The talk turned to dinnertime and every single person in the group was slackjawed when I said (in answer to a direct question) that I cook dinner every night. This was a group of doctors, lawyers, corporate executives, and accountants. They told me how hard they found the whole concept of putting a meal on the table. The refrigerator was empty. The kids were coming and going. No one really knew how to cook. I admit to stammering a bit as I shared about menu planning, grocery lists, and regular dinner times. It's not brain surgery or international law. Making family dinners happen does require sound management with a generous dash of creativity. And it benefits greatly from the resolve that comes from recognizing the value. We make sure our children take showers and brush their teeth. All those parents make sure their children get to soccer practice. I choose to make sure that my family eats a real dinner every night. I think it's important. It's worth the effort.

The nitty gritty is that I make a plan every week and I more-or-less stick with it. The grocery list is keyed to the menu plan. Usually, I rotate three different weekly meal plans, changing them out seasonally or when we get bored. I cook. Most days, I start cooking dinner very early in the day, pulling several children into the process, cutting, stirring and measuring. Often, it all ends up in a Dutch oven to slowly bake or stew while we go about our day.


I shoot for the middle when scheduling dinner. It's not that often that everyone is home around the table at the same time, but usually most of us have a window when we can eat together. For those who can't be home at dinner time, I set aside individual plates, so that whenever they get home there is something nourishing waiting--something that let's them know they were remembered and they are loved. I call Mike late in the day and check his schedule. If he'll be home before 7:30, I make it work to wait for him (whatever it takes--snacks, a walk to the playground, bribery). Over the years, I've learned that my husband looks very forward to sitting at the head of that table and eating with his family. And they hang in there and wait for him; they want him there. If he absolutely cannot be home by 7:30, I feed the children and then set aside some kind of dessert from them to eat with him while he eats dinner. If he's not going to be home in time, I also set his dinner plate aside first, taking an extra moment to make it pretty. My children notice this attention to detail and I think it makes them smile. Overall, when it comes to dinner, there is a plan, a daily plan, and we work the plan.

Our dining room table is set with a tablecloth, real dishes, and --now-- candles.


The candles soften the mood, take the edge off the busy buzz of the people who gather. Lending this glow to our evening meal requires very little of me. I saved a few votive candles from our Christmas table and put them atop our cake plate. We light plain, unscented candles that don't compete with the smells of dinner. It's definitely not perfect. I'm on the hunt for a different cake plate when the budget permits. The one we have doesn't really go with either the decor or the season. It works well enough, though. The "centerpiece" is easily removed to change the tablecloth. And the effect is really quite civilized.

Candlelight invites us to sit a little longer. Candlelight casts us all in kinder glow. Candlelight makes every evening meal a little feast.


Candlelight at the End of the Day


As light fades and blinds are drawn, as books are read and prayers are said, the home cries out for candlelight. Those moments when we are reading bedtime stories and saying bedtime prayers and tucking children in tight might seem like the perfect time to light a candle and rest in the soft glow. But not in my house.

I have fallen asleep myself while putting little ones to sleep far too many times to risk leaving a candle burning when I am in any bed at the end of the day.

Still, I like the idea of ending the day the way we began it: in the soft light of a candle. Bathtime is a big deal in my house. It's another one of those things, like dinner time, that I always assumed other families did, but I was surprised to find it sort of exceptional. Nearly every night, the routine includes a bath for little ones--often bubbles, bath toys, a good scrubbing, hair washing, and time to play and pour. I'm in there the whole time; it's definite focused attention. And we light a candle as the routine begins.

The candle quiets things a bit and it slows the pace a the end of the day. I put the candle on the bathroom counter; the happy coincidence of this placement is that the counter stays clean. It just seems odd to me to bother to light a pretty candle in the middle of a counter littered with toothpaste tubes, lipgloss, and contact lens solution. For now, our candles are of the beeswax variety and our soap comes from Whole Foods, gathered from the table with locally made soap. Someday, when little people aren't around, I might give soapmaking a try. But for now, I'll leaving handling lye to someone else. We usually add some Epsom salts to the bath water (that is an outrageously high price; Target sells it for $4)  and I almost always add DoTerra Serenity oil. I love those scents so much and I am sure that one day when I am a very old lady, if I am fortunate enough to smell a lovely mix of lavendar and eucalyptus and vanilla, it will bring back the happiest memories of freshly bathed babies, nursing to sleep, and sweet little people who still insist on my presence as they drift off.

After the bath, little girls are bundled up into a towel, patted dry and gently laid on a warm towel on the bathroom rug for a good rubbing. Ever since Christian was a little boy in desperate need of quiet evening rituals, we have given our children evening massages. We rub them with lavender oil or homemade healing salve and we sing a song we made up all those many years ago

i rub, rub, rub you

'cause i love, love, love you

yes i do

oh, i do,

i really do!

Silly, goofy, and not at all polished, it works for us. And if we even think about skipping it, Sarah reminds us, "Need my rub, rub." She sings along. I am all too aware that our days of bubbles and rubbing are nearly at end, as most of my children have graduated to utilitarian showers all by themselves. But this ritual is so well loved, so very much a part of the rhythm of our days, I like the chances of candles, lavender oil,  and the "rub-rub song" surviving into the next generation.

 *Candlemas falls on a Sunday this year. Be sure to check with your local parish to learn when your priest will bless candles.

I Love You Tree!


Sweet Mama! You, with the baby in your arms and the husband working long hours and the Christmas tree still standing forlorn in the corner. I dug this up from the archives  for you, because I know that feeling and, well, I love you!


The "Honey-Do List" in this house is quite long. In the interest of preserving marital bliss, I won't share it with you here. Let's just say that "Honey" started a new job just before the baby arrived and he's been working and traveling enough for two men ever since. That is the segue to revealing that (drumroll, please): The Foss Family Christmas Tree still stands proudly in my family room on this seventh day of February!

There was a time in the life of my marriage when I would have actually written that "Honey Do" list and I would have oh-so-carelessly left it lying around. Or, I would have invited his mother to dinner, knowing that he wouldn't want her to see the tree in the corner. Or, I would have pouted and moped and complained about (1)the fact that he was gone and/or (2)the fact that the tree is annoying my sense of order. Neither #1 or #2 does me or anybody else much good.  It's wasted energy and does nothing to contribute to the atmosphere around here. His mother isn't coming to dinner any time soon. And the last thing the poor, overworked man needs is another list of things to do.

There was later time in my life when I would have taken it down myself. But I have since learned that some jobs are better left to big, strong men (and I have the scars to prove it).  Now, I have a couple of big strong, young men in my house.And both of them offered to take down the tree. But I know my Honey--he wants the tree in the box just so (and rightfully, I might add--trees last longer when they are handled with care and they are far easier to assemble when put away properly). And I know my young men--better not to let them touch the tree. Family harmony next advent is worth far more than freeing up space in that corner of the family room.

So, it stands in my family room, ornaments long since put away. And it reminds me every day of just how hard my husband is working to feed and clothe and shelter and educate this very large family.  It stands there and very early in the morning when it's still dark and no one is looking, I turn on the lights and I say prayer for the man who wishes he were home more.  I ask God to show us how He'd have us live, which choices He'd have us make. And I thank God for the Honey who chose that tree and who provided for it and for the house where it stands.

So, it only seemed natural on one very cold winter evening, when Honey was still at work long after dinner was done, to turn to those beautiful children and ask them to help me make that tree everything it was meant to be.

We took the pink paper hearts on which we'd written all the things and people we love and rested them firmly on the "God" doily and we hung them on the Daddy Valentine Tree! Martha Stewart, you can have your efficiency calendar that tells us all when to take down the Christmas tree. Mine just became the Tree of Love in this house full of life!

Gathering my Thoughts


























{{I got a new camera the day before Easter. I haven't clicked it once, yet, but Mary Beth played with it yesterday. All pictures above are hers and are entirely unedited.}}

I find myself:

::noticing God's glory

My garden is overrun with weeds all of a sudden. I am hopeful that warm weather this week will beckon us outdoors to make it all tidy.

::listening to 

birds chirping. And chirping and chirping. I awoke to that sound. Seems appropriate for Easter Monday.

::clothing myself in 

Christmas pajamas and a UVa sweatshirt. I was cold last night. Whatever works, right?


::talking with my children about these books

I chose three of the girls' favorite books for their Easter baskets. These were books that they couldn't bear to return to the library.

For Karoline, it was Mossy. This is the first full book she's read all by herself. It's lovely. I am very fond of Jan Brett's books and this one is my favorite. Karoline told Kristin yesterday that "It's a nature story, but it's a love story. And there's drawing in it, too." What more can you ask for? And what does it say about my girls that they get all starry-eyed and romantic over a love story about turtles?

For Sarah, I chose Cinderella. This version is a 1955 Caldecott winner. The language is rich and nourishing. (For instance I had to explain that the "haughtiest woman" was not the "hottiest woman." My little girls live with five big brothers. That's all I can offer by way of explaining that confusion.) Sarah absolutely loves this book and much prefers this version to the Disney version, though she is definitely campaigning for this video. She likes the songs. Hard to argue with that.

For Katie, I got The Penderwicks. This book is Mary Beth's all-time favorite book. Her copy is the original paperback. And it's falling apart. When she saw that it had been republished in a beautiful, hardbound deckle edge version, she begged one for Katie. As I write though, I'm wondering why I didn't get two. Mary Beth has often said that this series is one she wants to keep forever. Hmmm...

::thinking and thinking

About renewal and Lent and how it all played out this year.


::pondering prayerfully

So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish. ~~ Pope Francis

::carefully cultivating rhythm

I have no rhythm. I've been trying to find it the entire school year. First, there were renovations (of home and heart) and wedding planning. Then, advent and a wedding. Then we worked the gym into the winter rhythm and didn't drop anything else. We have had two bouts of the flu. (The kind that tests positive in the doctor's office. Thank the Lord for Tamiflu.) There was college kid spring break that didn't coincide with my planned spring break. Then there was neighborhood kid spring break; again, not with my spring break. And now it's nearly Bluebell Week, which actually is my spring break. 

There is one common thread. With every wave of rhythm disruption, I've dropped more time in front of the screen. There is only one social media app on my phone and I'm flirting with the idea of dropping Instagram, too, except I do really like it. My Facebook time is nearly nil and after a brief little foray into conversation yesterday, I'm remembering why I've so drastically reduced it. Ain't nobody got time for that.

I like to blog, though. I like to have a pretty place to capture memories and think thoughts. However, with screen time super scarce, I find myself rarely reading blogs. I check in a few times a week and read blogs of good friends and that's about it. And I wonder, can one have a place in a blogging community if she rarely communes? I've never been very good at hanging out with the cool kids. I don't really like a crowd. It's taken me a long time to recognize that one can easily place herself in a crowd online, without even really recognizing it, until suddenly she's overwhelmed by the voices. I remember Amy Welborn once wondered aloud about introverts and homeschooling. She really got me thinking. At the time, I think I had eight children and they were all at home all day long. It had never occured to me that the people in my own house were ruffling my introverted feathers. But her musing raised my consciousness. Now, I wonder, is there a place online for those of us who are Quiet? And if a house full of children are zapping an introvert's energy, can she possibly allow herself to get online and expose herself to more noise?  How does that work into what is preferably a quiet rhythm?

::creating by hand

Easter dresses. More on those on Thursday. And an unfinished Tiny Tea Leaves sweater, one that would have been just perfect for Katie yesterday, but didn't get finished. More on that, too, no doubt.


::learning lessons in

Food. For real. Heather’s class has me thinking and re-thinking. I’m definitely tweaking hard.  I tend to learn by total immersion and I’ve been reading incessantly. The problem is that reading about whole foods is always about two clicks away from reading about cancer. And reading about cancer is about a click from reading about late effects of chemo and radiation. And that's a really bad rabbit trail for me to travel. One can overthink food. I just did. 

::encouraging learning 

A happy not-spring-break learning lovely: Mary Beth's friend Morgan hung out around our house during the public high school's spring break last week. She gathered everyone into an impromptu reading/production of "Midsummer Night's Dream." The boys and even the littlest girls were all into the story together.  Love it when things like that happen.

There will be a decided shift in the next few weeks. We've wrapped up our writing courses for the year. I'm going to hyperfocus on math and nature study. My kids will be thrilled about the latter. The former? Recently overheard from the "magic" corner of the sunroom, where the dollhouse and fairy treehouse live: "And then my father died and the evil stepmother made me do math!"

Prevailing sentiment not withstanding, I have a math plan.

::begging prayers

For the repose of the soul of Kristin's grandfather.  Also, of my friend Katherine's grandmother, who died yesterday. May the peace of the resurrection comfort those who grieve.

::keeping house

The Triddum found me filling prescriptions for Tamiflu, racing to get BIG buckets to put under the gaping hole in the living room ceiling, answering a frantic early morning phone call when my father-in-love hit a deer in the dark, sending my best help off on a trip to Pittsburgh to see Paddy play (Mike and his dad, Mary Beth driving!), amazing seats at the Elite Eight (not me, two lucky boys), driving back and forth to every Triduum service so that healthy boys could serve, trying to finish that sweater, and shopping and cooking for dinner for twenty. None of it was as I pictured. I fell exhausted into bed last night, but I learned that there really is a rather wide, forgiving margin for imperfection when it comes to celebrating holidays. Who knew?

::crafting in the kitchen 

Leftovers. Oh, how we have leftovers! I will reinvent Easter dinner for a week. (Oh, and there were some memorable chocolate mustaches;-)

::loving the moments

when we fill the whole pew at church, but only because the "overflow" is serving at the altar and Sarah is asleep on Mike's lap, otherwise, we'd need to spill into another row.

::giving thanks 

for sunshine.

living the liturgy

We're focusing on Divine Mercy.

Easter is a season. My intention is to live it as such. Throw open the windows; let light flood our lives. He is risen! And we, too, can run and leap and shout for joy:-). So let's get after that...

::planning for the week ahead

Ballet and soccer are in full swing. The driving demands do not all fit. They just don't. My first task today is to figure out a way to get everyone where he or she needs to be. And then, I need to find a way to be sure that I work out, too. And to find time to write. And now we're back to that rhythm thing again. My plan is to go outside and weed the garden and talk to God about it all and hope He answers loudly. 

Instagram recap: