Retrospective Pondering


I wrote this Daybook on Saturday, offline, leaving just a few things to fill in once I had Internet. I pretty much didn't have Internet until now, back at home. So, bear with my cobbled together chronology of comments, please:-). Also, Katie used my big camera and took pictures all week, but they're very stuck somewhere between camera and here, so, you get iPhone shots...

Outside my window:  Crepe myrtle and hydrangeas in yards and around big porches, all on the way to the seashore. It’s mighty beautiful outside my window this week.

Listening to: Silence. Absolute silence, except for the occasional street noises and the whir of the ceiling fan. It is Saturday as I begin journaling here and we are in Bethany Beach. My girls have gone to the convention center in Ocean City with my friend Nicole, to watch her daughter dance. Since none of mine are dancing today, I opted to stay behind: to walk, to read, to write, to rest, and to have dinner ready when they get home. The quality and white space in my planner are both so strange to me right now....


Clothing myself in: Capris t-shirt, running shoes. I desperately need a shower. The heat index is around 100. I’ve already taken three walks for a total of 8 miles today. If I shower, I won’t walk again until we walk to church. If I don’t, I might squeeze one more in before everyone gets home…


He said, “There’s a sermon of John Donne’s I have often had cause to remember during my lifetime. He says, Other men’s crosses are not my crosses. We all have our own cross to carry and one is all most of us are able to bear. How much do you owe him, Vicky?

I replied slowly, “I don’t think of it in terms of owing, like paying a debt. The thing is—he needs me.

 “Grandfather looked away from me and out to sea, and when he spoke, it was as though he spoke to himself. “The obligations of normal human kindness – chesed, as the Hebrew has it – that we all owe. But there’s a kind of vanity in thinking you can nurse the world. There’s a kind of vanity in goodness.”

I could hardly believe my ears. “But aren’t we supposed to be good?”

“I’m not sure.” Grandfather’s voice was heavy. “I do know that we’re not good, and there’s a lot of truth to the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 

--Madeleine L’Engle, Ring of Endless Light


Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: We sat yesterday evening--Nicole and I and our five girls, with planners and highlighted pages all spread out--and we worked together to understand where we needed to be this week for this competition and how we’d manage time, meals, housekeeping duties, and the myriad of costumes. I feel like we have really good rhythm. We’ve done these competitions together so many times now that the familiarity is our friend. Also, we are staying in the home of a mutual friend, and we are surrounded by gracious loveliness that makes this all so much better.

Creating By Hand:  This week, sewing will be limited to costume repair. Cooking is a little creative, but I’m not making anything that isn’t well-tested and already favorited. So, true creativity, if it happens, will happen with words, I think.

I might be finding my words again. I’d like that. I’ve missed them. 

[Real time edit: I do have words. Turns out, though, that I didn't even have time, place, or utilities to upload these words, so all the others are still stuck in my head. Next week. Maybe...]

Three books going

On my kindle: Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Since I feel like I could write a book on this topic and I’m exhausted by the mere idea of it, I’m really glad that Shauna Niequist did. I love her work and I’m looking forward to her new book. This is the only one I have not read, so I snatched it up when I saw the good Kindle deal.  

In my earbuds: I actually have two going in my earbuds right now. Emily suggested A Ring of Endless Light and it was the perfect length for our trip to and from the beach. Despite the fact that I knew it was the story of a family awaiting their grandfather’s death, I took a chance. Turns out, that wasn’t really a good idea. The subject matter of the book is handled in a way that is too mature for my girls to listen to collectively. I persevered through over an hour until a young man confided that he’d attempted suicide.  Then I clicked out before we went any further. Definitely not a good idea for the gathered audience right now.

However, it’s a really, really powerful book. I returned to it privately the next morning for the first of my morning walks. I’m immersed in a big way and it’s hard not to binge. I haven’t finished yet, but I think it might rank above A Grief Observed in ranking of books to read when grieving. Perhaps more accessible, certainly very useful with teenagers…

[Real time edit: I listened to the whole book while walking at the beach (and in the convention center, actually mostly in the convention center) and this book vaulted to my top five forever favorite books. I ordered the paperback version on Sunday and had it shipped to the beach house for Mary Beth, who dislike audiobooks.]

When I finish, I still have The House at Riverton going. Love that. [Finished that one, too, and started listening to Simply Tuesday again because it was already in my phone and I was walking. I like it even better the second time around.]

In my hands: I’m re-reading Colleen’s new book (reviewed in detail, here) I read it the first time using a digital advanced copy. It’s nice to hold it in my hands and meander through and mark it up. This one will be a classic in our household, which means I will require the reading of it…

Learning lessons in: Ah. I’m not quite sure really. But I think the Madeleine L’Engle quote above is the short form of the lesson I most need to learn. Last year, I think I picked up some crosses that aren’t mine to carry. I’ve grown so accustomed to the weight of them on my shoulders, and I’ve so adjusted my gait to compensate for their heaviness, that I’m finding it tricky to put them down. But I really need to learn how to do it.

Encouraging learning in: reading. Just reading. My girls are reading so much this summer. I feel sorry for Karoline, whose cast is making it hard for her to go or do anything with her sisters and friends, but I also see the silver lining. This will be the summer she learned how to find a friend in a book. That will serve her well forever.

She left her non-digital books at home this week and I didn't want her to take a Kindle to the convention center. Since she can't dance, she's got loads of down time alone. So, I walked to a bookstore on the beach and spent a pretty enchanted hour finding books for her. Kristin's mom is an elementary school teacher and she recommended a couple authors last week. I found them there in that sweet bookstore and brought them back for Kari. So she's got Walk Two Moons and Because of Winn-Dixie for the week. And that hour in that beautiful bookstore? I loved that hour so much!

Keeping house:  It’s always easier to keep house at the beach, isn’t it?

Crafting in the kitchen: I did some cooking ahead of time and did a whole lot of grocery shopping, so meals will come together easily. Last night, we had farm stand corn on the cob and tomato fresh from a nearby vine and potatoes crisped with olive oil. (Oh, and they had hamburgers, too, I guess, but I didn’t miss them;-)

To be fit and happy:  I’m walking and walking and walking and walking. Sometimes I run, but not often. The convention center is big and sprawling and I'm taking every opportunity to walk, both inside and out. [Real time edit: My fitbit tells me I've taken 128,768 steps in the last seven days. That's about 51 miles. Good week.]


Giving thanks: for Nicole. I know what a rare gift it is to have a friend who can live through the worst of weeks with you and then, the next year, agree without hesitation to enter into whatever might come, in the exact same place at the same time of year, even knowing that anniversary reaction is a very real thing and I’m just the one to have it…  

In the company of a friend, good memories are being made in a place where once the bad ones dominated my mind.

Living the Liturgy: Sarah Annie celebrates her name day this week. The church here at the beach is called St. Ann’s and they do make a fuss. Last year, we were here as the novena began. This year, we’ll be here when it ends. And there will be ice cream.

Planning for the week ahead:  Sometime next week, I think I'll see my husband again. Mike and I are in a stage of big family parenting that is very intense and very hands on. I'm betting that the preceding sentence will cause eyebrows to rise on foreheads of folks with five under ten. Yes, dear friends, you, too are also in an intense, hands-on period. Parenting teenagers is a different kind of hands-on and a different kind of intense. We've had to divide and conquer because they need us, but they are no longer gathered most of the time under our roof--all together. So, between his work travel and our kid travel, we keep missing each other. And our morning conversations look a little like this.

Gathering my thoughts and trying to hold it together

Outside my window:  The roses are taking a little breather. Daylilies have faded. Lavender is in bloom. And my brand new hydrangeas are hanging on—we’ve been diligent at watering.


Listening to: Waiting room noises. Mary Beth is getting a couple of cortisone shots under Xray guidance this afternoon.


Clothing myself in: Capris, a t-shirt, and these fabulous shoes for the third or fourth season.


Thinking and thinking: The upside of stress and how to get good at it. I watched the Ted talk  and now I’m reading the book. Very, very interesting. Maybe even lifechanging.



“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing.... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.” 

--Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts


Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: It’s summer! Wheee! I’m truly committed to making this a slow summer.  Eileen's Slow Summer Series has some fun inspiration in that regard. 


Creating By Hand:  Making plans to create a quilt for Paddy’s Range Room in the fall. Blue and Orange without being tacky…


Photo credit: Kristin Foss

Photo credit: Kristin Foss


Learning lessons in: Resilience. Almost from the moment they left, we have been preparing for Michael’s and Kristin’s visit home. It was to be the first time most of us met baby Lilly. My husband and I recognized that as our kids have gotten older, our house is being asked to be used differently. Christian came home to live after graduation while he works on a documentary project. Patrick comes and goes and almost always brings someone with him. And now, Michael brings his wife and babies from across the country to spend a week or two at a time.


To make space for this kind of living, we gutted our basement. Longtime readers will remember that the basement has long been a black hole dumping ground. Not any more. We invested time, treasure, and thought into making the basement a soft place to land and a welcome retreat for little ones and big ones alike.


I loved the project, loved thinking about this touch or that, this detail and that, all to make it work for them.


They arrived in the middle of the night, after flying from California. Even though it was after 1:00, we were up and ready to show them the surprise. I’ll admit, it felt a little like HGTV.


Then, less than 48 hours into the trip, the first child fell ill—wicked, wicked gastrointestinal virus. From that day until they pulled away 10 days later, at least two people would be sick at a time. Really sick.

We didn’t go to the Farmer’s Market

We didn’t go to the pool.

We didn’t go to see Finding Dory.

Dance recitals were missed.

We didn't sew a stitch.

We only played in the sprinkler once.

I held the baby exactly 3 times and two of those she was crying inconsolably.

We did 32 loads of laundry in 5 days.

We didn’t garden together.

We didn’t collaborate creatively on some Internet projects we’ve been dreaming.

My father couldn't come to celebrate Father's Day and meet the baby because we were worried he'd get sick.

We didn’t have a baptism.

My family has learned a lot about disappointment, loss, and grief in the last couple of years. This trip was the carrot we held out to them. “Sure, they’re moving away, but they’ll visit. And we’ll make those visits so special. Let’s make a paper chain to count down the days. Let’s make a list of all the things we’ll do. All the things that matter to you.”

Someone burned that list.

The takeaway? Life is hard. When my bigger kids were little, I did everything in my power to shield them from the hard. I wanted a happy, idyllic childhood for them. Mostly, we succeeded. When there were just a few and when they were young, we could retain enough control that—with a little luck—we mostly kept things happy.

But that’s not very realistic. In hindsight, it’s probably not the best training for real life, either. It’s not such a bad thing to learn when you’re little that all is not going to go your way and some things will be very, very disappointing. I’m trying to see the blessing of the teachable moment we’ve been presented with these later children.

I’m trying really hard to model resilience.

And then, I get in the car, away from where anyone can hear, and call a friend or two and wail a little. I’m so grateful for those two women who have cradled my sad heart and sifted all the chaff and still love me.

Because sometimes, I just get super tired of trying…

Encouraging learning in: The value of long, lazy, unplanned summer days, especially where reading very thick books is concerned. More on that tomorrow.

Keeping house:  Kristin pointed out to me that if we wanted to create a place where a tired young family could rest and retreat, we did well. As miserable as it was, it happened in a beautiful, comfortable place. That’s a blessing

Crafting in the kitchen: As a family, we’ve been working really hard at improved nutrition lately. I’ve made good use of Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen app to remind me where I want to emphasize. Dr. Greger’s strategy is altogether vegan. I read his entire book, How Not to Die, in an effort to address some health concerns that have crept up here recently. It’s a super interesting, incredibly well-researched book.

I’m not holding anyone to strict veganism, but I am working towards it for myself. I’m making breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone, including my husband, every day. I’m seeing meat as more of a condiment—an afterthought, really—in veggie-centric world.  Mike has the app, too, and he’s teaching me a thing or too about how to sneak those bean servings in and how it’s possible to be consistent, even while traveling. Packing lunches for him has taken on a life of its own as I play with different “bowl” combinations and do lots and lots of research on some favorite apps and in favorite cookbooks.

To be fit and happy:  Mary Beth says she’s going to run a half marathon at the end of September. So is my friend Nicole. Please let me remind you that I’m sitting in a waiting room while Mary Beth gets the same old foot injury treated again. I’m dubious about her half marathon plans. I thought about registering, too. I really do want to run that far, just to know I did it. But I also wrestle almost daily with the tension that comes with the unpredictability of having this many people under my care and trying to fit into an outside schedule. So, if I registered for that half marathon, I’d worry every time someone got sick and I missed my training day and through the schedule off. Further, I’d worry about what unpredictable thing would happen on race day. Also, I’m not really interested in racing. I want the challenge of the goal for personal reasons, not for the competition. And I want the Tshirt and the sticker for my car. It seems stupid for me to pay $100 and take on all the stress of the unknown just so I can run in a crowd (I dislike running in crowds) and get the shirt and sticker rights.  So, I’m telling you all right now: sometime this fall, I will be fit enough to run 13 miles. When I do that, I plan to buy myself a shirt and magnet for my car to celebrate;-).

Giving thanks: for a beautiful hour at the park with Sarah and Lucy and Kristin and Lilly.

Loving the moments: when everyone is feeling better at last and all the laundry has been washed, dried and put away.

Living the Liturgy: Yeah. It was a whole lot of “Lord, make haste to help me” recently.

Planning for the week ahead: We’re cleaning up around here. I have two boys taking driving tests this week. Nick has a lowkey tournament in Leesburg on Saturday that will likely take me past the Trinity House Café. And maybe I’ll hit the Leesburg Famer’s Market, too. Maybe. I’m kind of hesitant to make a single plan…


Gathering my Thoughts on the Eve of Lent.


Outside my window:  It's snowing--a soft, sweet, sort of wimpy snow.


Listening to: kitchen sounds as my children fix themselves lunch..


Clothing myself in: Yoga pants and a Mason soccer sweatshirt. I've worn a variation of this almost every day since the beginning of January. And I've gone almost nowhere since the beginning of January:-)


Talking with my children about these books:  Christian is taking an intensive class on the Civil War. He's reached out for some help, so Stephen and Nick are jumping in to provide community. We're all talking about Uncle Tom's Cabin this week.

And, of course, we're stocking the book baskets with these perennial favorites for the Lent and Easter season.

In my own reading: I've just cracked open The Awakening of Miss Prim. Looking very forward to it. One thing on the my list of things I will cherish this Lent (CHERISH is the word for 2016) is reading from books chosen for me. I spend a whole lot of time reading with my kids, even my adult kids. I know I need to not neglect the dimension that is fed by personal reading. I'll keep you posted.

The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need From Grownups arrived today. I was so excited about this book when I pre-ordered it last fall. I think I may wait a bit on reading it now, though. For the first time in my adult life, there are no preschoolers. It's been a long time since I taught preschoolers in a classroom.  Mine own sweet preschoolers are grown well beyond that age. And after having our favorite baby and then toddler come hang out without us several days a week for a couple of years, we are soon to settle into the new normal of watching her become a preschooler via Skype. I don't really have the heart to read this book just now.

Mary Beth has a whole school of preschoolers keeping her busy these days. Perhaps I will borrow them in time;-). 


Thinking and thinking: Oh, about things too tender to share. 


Pondering: “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”
--Anna Quindlen


Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: This has been an odd winter rhythm. It is punctuated by the gurgle of the vaporizer and broken by unexpected spasmodic coughing. It's been six weeks since the first diagnosis and antibiotic. I don't really want to settle into a rhythm of being intentional about these days because I still go to bed every night thinking the next day will be "all better" day. I believe in the sanctity of suffering and the holy ground of plans gone awry. I'm praying I understand what God desires from me in the time I spend recovering. One thing that I think about as I sit mostly silently (still laryngitis), is what God hopes I hear in this bubble made quiet by my silence. I had so many clear, well-defined goals for this year. This year has barely started and those plans have been mostly blown away. For several weeks, this unrelenting re-writing has rocked me. Now, though, I'm beginning to understand that building it all again from scratch when I have no strength for such a task, leaves God able to do what He will. I cannot think it an accident that Lent begins tomorrow and with it, Restore.  Two years ago, I wrote Restore--it is where I was (and still am) sure I heard God most clearly. Now, it sits waiting for me, ready to walk me through restoration and healing. I'd love it if you join me.


Creating By Hand:  Katie and I are giddy with excitement over beginning to share Scripture time with one another using these. She has literally been counting the days. Today was to be the day, but it looks like it's been delayed a week or so. All in God's time, right? That's the theme.


Learning lessons In: Mama guilt. I think midlife for women is marked by "What did I do?" or "What could I have done differently?" When we are open to life, to bringing these new people into the circle of our lives without reservation and pouring ourselves into them with reckless abandon, we think they'll know--always know--how precious they are and how much we want for us to always be US, across time and space and generations. We learn that they make their own decisions and their own mistakes. They choose different priorities and different paths. Again and again, I hear women saying, "Wait? This doesn't work? This intentional, life-giving mothering to which I've dedicated all my childbearing years?" They're surprised that grown children reject family values or seem not the least inclined to buy into the vision or even the faith of their parents. And women feel terribly guilty. They are sure it's something they did wrong. Not so, at least not to the degree we beat ourselves with it. When they start the conversation--begin to talk with other women--women with grown children learn they're not alone. Not at all. And they begin to understand that it's not their fault. Children grow up to be adults who make their own choices. There is peace in letting go of Mama Guilt. Mama Sorrow?  That's another story. Sorrow comes with the afternoon of mothering. It is what happens when you raise a child and live long enough to see her go wherever she chooses and do whatever she believes. So, yay for living long!

Encouraging learning in: Civil War studies. Here are my notes. We'll adapt.

Keeping house: The Jesse Tree is still up. It's coming down today, a final admission that I will not be well enough to read aloud all the stories I wanted to share. I left it up because we never finished before Christmas, so I thought I'd grant myself some grace and just finish up in January. Okay then, but I didn't have a voice at all in January. It's time to hide the Alleluia. We shall concede that the Jesse Tree didn't happen this year. Hide the Alleluia. Pack away the Jesse Tree. Move on to the next season. It's a theme:-)

Crafting in the kitchen: For tonight,we are all about Fat Tuesday. Waffles and sausage and whipped cream, oh my!

To be fit and happy: Hah! A sweet friend encouraged me at the beginning of the year with a membership at Run the Year. I haven't tracked a mile since January 7. However, that gift is a treasure. I still have every intention to run the year. It will happen. Let's see how God lets it be so.

Giving thanks: For a good weekend with my youngest boys. Patrick, Nick, Stephen, and I watched the Super Bowl together at my dad's. Then, Stephen and Nick and I went to Lynchburg on Monday. While the boys did a campus visit, Ginny and I had a lunch visit with Ann. I cannot overstate how grateful I am for my time with my boys and my time with two women who hear my heart even when my words are soft and strained.

Loving the moments: I will forever treasure Nicholas' enthusiasm yesterday afternoon. He was so excited about what the next few years could hold for him and it was such a happy thing to see hope shine in his eyes.

Living the Liturgy: Lent, my friends. We shall hide the Alleluia and talk together about what we hear God calling for us this year. My children know that sometimes, you don't really get to choose your Lent. Life brings with it suffering beyond the sacrifice of chocolate. And they know (even the littlest one) that this season will undoubtedly have some of that for them. So we talk today, about how to suffer well and how Jesus walks with us in every season, tenderly binding wounds and restoring souls. 

I intend to share the season with you in the most raw, honest way this medium allows. Please take a moment or two to read what I am offering and maybe to watch the video we made? 


Planning for the week ahead: Mike comes home today. He's been gone ten days! He has a date tomorrow morning to have breakfast with Sarah and Mary Beth at the Montessori school. I have very little on my calendar. I'm looking forward to getting to know some new friends as Restore begins tomorrow and I'm looking forward to slowly getting back into the groove of caring for my home and family. Only as He wills...

All photos are the kindness of Katie Foss

It's Not Too Late!

Outside my window:  The first Sunday of Advent, Mike and I escaped for a few hours alone to celebrate his birthday. The girls decorated the house for Christmas in our absence. when we arrived home, it had just turned dark. Through my sewing room window, I could see Nutcracker costumes piled high and in the hallway beyond, there was our Nutcracker collection. A child in our house receives a Nutcracker to mark their first performance. Since Dad has been pressed into the role of Drosselmeyer, and more than one brother has been the prince, they have Nutcrackers, too. The sight made me catch my breath. I've tried and tried to catch it adequately with my camera, but this picture doesn't quite do it justice. . 

Listening to: Traffic. I'm at Kristin's keeping the dog company while they are out of town. It's noisy outside her window.

Clothing myself in: Sweatshirt and yoga pants. That dog and I are about to go for a long walk.

Thinking and thinking: About Advent. Nutcracker really consumed much of the first week. But now, I'm ready to settle into a quieter rhythm. I'm excited about my own book! (Does that sound strange?) It's been lovely to have a clickable Table of Contents and have a map for each day come alive on the screen. It's not too late for our family to live everything this season has to offer. It's not too late for you either. 

Here's what some people are saying about the book:

So. I've been reading the daily advent quotes, prayers and reflections in the Ebook bundle that [Elizabeth] and [Kristin] put together this year and I've felt such a sense of calm and peace over the last few days. Nothing has changed except my attitude and perspective, but isn't that usually the most important stuff to change? That strangest part is that each day I've done one small thing to prepare for His coming rather than try to "GET IT ALL DONE RIGHT NOW" the way my results-oriented self usually wants to do it. Yesterday, we baked salt dough ornaments and I brought up our main nativity. Today, I got some extra greenery while we were out and beautified the mantel (I am love with how it looks! Simple but elegant.) The kids painted their ornaments. I'm moving from one required  task to the next, but trying to leave room in my mind and heart to say "yes" to the little extras that I normally think I don't have the time or energy to do. "Lord, give me the grace to be the mom and wife I can't be on my own." Anyway! This is too long! You can get the Ebook yourself...I do recommend it. "

--Dwija, House Unseen

And it's not just for Catholics. Here's a review from a Protestant perspective: 

Elizabeth Foss is a good friend of mine and has mentored me over the years in mothering and intentional traditions. As a mama of nine, she has much wisdom, experience, humility and perspective to share. She has put together a beautiful Advent ebook this year that I spent hours last night reading and pondering. Written from a Catholic perspective, her gentle voice will reorient your heart towards the Infant Jesus through teaching you to pray, to trust, to wait and also very practical suggestions for celebrations, feast days, recipes and crafts. I have read and looked at many Advent resources over the years, and this is the first one that really seems to understand the strain that mothers are under during this season and encourages and guides and gives lots and lots of grace. It's on sale through tomorrow for $9 which is the price of a fast food combo meal these days. This will be slow food for your soul. Well worth it. --Aimee Kollmansberger

Talking with my children about these books:  We are using a bit of a hodgepodge approach to our Advent unit studies this year. A little from the great, good Tomie de Paola unit. A little from the evergreen botany, with some Nutcracker thrown in. And a little more from Christmas Around the World, and then all the old favorites. Plenty to read! I talked with Sarah recently about reading aloud during this time of year. Such a fun podcast:-)


In my own reading: I'm still listening to Brene Brown's Rising Strong. I loved The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. I like this one even more. It's uncanny how she's so definitely inside my head. It feels like she's cleaning things up and de-cluttering it, rearranging it a little to make it much more functional. Highly recommended.

Learning lessons In: Letting go. Michael begins his new job today. In California. I've felt this feeling in the pit of my stomach before. I felt it when I left my baby with my mother-in-law to go back to work after my first child was born. It was all I could do to hang on by my fingernails until we could work out another solution. I felt it again when Patrick left home at 15 to live for a year in Florida with the US National Team U-17s. I felt it when Michael left for college. And then when the others left. I felt it when I left my baby in the NICU and drove away without her. 

They were all temporary. It is entirely possible that this separation is not. We carry them and bear them and raise them and then they leave. That is the natural order, I'm told. Every stage of life has its challenges. Saying goodbye is the challenge of this one. Temporary goodbyes as children leave. Longer goodbyes as parents die. I am in the season of goodbye. Learning lessons here...

Encouraging learning in: Self care. Whoa, Nelly! Katie, my 13-year-old, danced 6 performance between Friday night and Sunday afternoon. She literally staggered into bed last night. I'm grateful she's homeschooled this  morning and I'm doing my darndest to help her understand how to care for herself during intense seasons.

Keeping house: Nutcracker costumes finished and ebook launched, it's time to thoroughly clean the house and get ready for the people who will fill it next week and into the Christmas season.

Crafting in the kitchen: A friend gifted me with the Whole Food Freezer Cooking Workshop and so far I'm loving it!

To be fit and happy: My friend Rachel is trying to make me run from afar. I'm grateful for the shove out the door.

Giving thanks: For your kind words about the ebook. It's always a little scary to send one's heart into the world on printed pages. Thank you for your kind responses. I'm especially grateful for the Facebook group of readers. Your enthusiasm and your ideas inspire me!

All Nutcracker pictures are the kindness of Kristin Foss.

Gathering my Thoughts

Outside my window:  It's officially freezing. 32 degrees when I checked first thing this morning. I'm so glad I got the bulbs in when I did. 

Listening to: quiet. I need to rouse the troops, but I'm relishing silence. Yesterday, for about an hour, it was only Sarah and me at home. She said, "Mama, it's so quiet here! It's only the two introverts at home. We finally got rid of of all the outtraverts. Ah!" She had a point there. It's going to get full-to-the-brim crowded here in just a few hours.

Clothing myself in: Pjs for now, but I do plan to get dressed.

Thinking and thinking: About how grateful I am for the collaborative (though extremely intense) creative effort that has been the last two weeks. In a few hours, Kristin and I will launch an Advent ebook. I thought it couldn't be done. She thought otherwise. It's a beautiful, meaningful collection of family memories and traditions. I have long said that I keep this blog for my daughters and daughters-in-love, so that they have it and the can pick and choose from the collective memory. Kristin was determined to gather Advent up into a book. And yesterday, just as we were nearly finished, we learned that she and Michael and Lucy and the baby-to-be-born are moving three thousand miles away. We might have struggled a bit together yesterday, side by side with our computers, our memories, and the revised edition of how we thought things were going to be...


Talking with my children about these books:  On election day, Karoline announced that she plans to write a book about the Civil Rights Movement. She wanted to know if such a project could count as "school." I gathered a few resources for her research and told her she could devote the month to the project. I'm sure it will be awesome. Her books always are...

In my own reading: I'm currently reading Miracles, by C. S. Lewis. And I'm listening to Brene Brown's Rising Strong. I loved The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. I like this one even more. It's uncanny how she's so definitely inside me head. It feels like she's cleaning things up and de-cluttering it, rearranging it a little to make it much more functional. Highly recommended.

 Pondering: "You're imperfect and you're wired for struggle, but you're worth of love and belonging." Brene Brown.

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Maybe I'm too protective of rhythm. Maybe if I were more willing to let schooling and laundry and driving kids all over slide and just throw myself into web projects, they would work. But I'd feel like a hypocrite, so I'm not going to do that. The older my kids get and the more I see the way each of them ticks, the more I believe that they all thrive when there's rhythm, when they know that the sands aren't going to shift dramatically beneath their feet at home. That way, when real life outside our home rocks them--and it does, all the time--they know I'm here and some things can be counted upon to be steady. I'm burning the candle at both ends here lately, trying to be the steady mom.

Creating By Hand: It's Nutcracker time. There is tulle and lace, lots of tulle and lace.

Learning lessons In: Praying for people and situations without telling God what to do. 

Encouraging learning in: Time management. My big kids keep getting smacked in the face by deadlines. We're all taking a hard look at what the time suckers are and trying to work on that. But, we're also looking at reasonableness. It's not reasonable to make a body work 24/7. Increasingly, our society seems to expect exactly that. Professors update on Blackboard and add to assignments on weekends. Work emails chime in inboxes at all hours of the day and night. Someone said last weekend (she might have wailed), "Why am I still sitting in this chair on a Sunday? Can't I reasonably expect at least a day off?" Yes. She can and she should. But how much of it is a problem of not using time wisely and how much is that the paradigm for work in America today assumes there should be no leisure time? Learning time management skills does mean being diligent and buckling down and avoiding distractions, but I think it also means being able to walk away from the work and recognize the value of both leisure and rest. 

Also, I sat down and talked with Ana Hahn a couple weeks ago. I very much enjoyed the conversation and it has me thinking about how much I used to love sharing more from our "schooling" here in this space. I think it might be time to revive that a bit, especially now that I'll be writing for Kristin and Lucy... You can read the conversation with Ana here. Go visit her!

Keeping house: Yesterday, I scrubbed down my wooden kitchen cabinets. They were gross. it was time. I actually like to wash woodwork because it's so rewarding to see the grime go. That room feels much cleaner now. We painted our house three years ago. I need to haul a bucket of soapy water from room to room and rub away fingerprints and smudges. And I need to put the finishing touches on an Advent ebook. And cook for Thanksgiving. And finish Nutcracker costumes. What to do? what to do?

Crafting in the kitchen: Kristin and I have been talking Thanksgiving. Mike's mother is gravely ill and she is living with his sister. They host Thanksgiving every year. While it will definitely be celebrated at his sister's house, Kristin and I are going to be the cooks this year. I haven't cooked for Thanksgiving in 24 years. (But I've wanted to for all that time.) This holiday season has the markings for being very bittersweet in several ways. There is much leaving and grieving on our horizon and we all know it. Aprons and rolling pins are good therapy.

To be fit and happy: Someone make me run. I'm better when I run. I just really need to find that particular rhythm again.

Giving thanks: For a chance to talk about Advent and prayer life two weeks ago at a local conference. It was so nice to get out and see people and hug old friends! Kristin came with me and we really enjoyed ourselves. Yesterday, I recorded that talk to offer to readers of our Advent ebook.


Loving the moments: When I get to watch him play, or when a friend in a faraway place watches him and sends me video and pictures and Facebook updates. Patrick played at Notre Dame last week and Theresa Thomas went to see him. Made me so happy! 

Patrick has had a remarkable and notable season. It kind of caught us by surprise. At the end of the summer, it looked like this was to be the season for hip surgery and a very long eight month recovery. Instead, he opted to play through the pain and delay the surgery. And he sure seized every opportunity to play really well! As the season begins to draw down, I'm seeing an inkling that his pain has probably been more than I thought. I know he'll finish strong. I also know that this semester will end at the UVa hospital, waiting for Paddy to come out of the operating room, just like last semester and the semester before. Those aren't the moments I love, but they are moments that come with the the l moments I love. He is strong and gifted and able and the pain comes with the territory.

I love the moments when hours of PT mean she can finally go up en pointe again (even if it's just for minute in the clinic). I love when my third seriously injured "child" texts from the Detroit airport and tells me her foot held up while she sprinted from one end to the other in order to catch her flight. But she, too, is looking at surgery when the semester ends. 


We take the bitter with sweet these days.

Living the Liturgy: Advent begins on Sunday. UPDATE: THE EBOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE. Click here for all the details and the limited-time low price.