Picking up the Pieces of their Passions

Last week, my second son arrived at my house with a movie crew. He did this the morning after a three day dance competition in Baltimore, which was a couple days after Patrick had surgery, which was a couple days after another dance competition. And there was soccer thrown in. And funerals. And crazy ridiculous professional challenges. But back to that movie crew. They arrived just as I was leaving to take Katie to the ER. And in the six hours I was gone, they transformed my house.

I think there were about 18 kids. They arrived early in the morning of our first 90 degree Virginia day. Christian wrote a screenplay that begins and ends with a little girl going to bed–he wrote it with his 8-year-old sister in mind.  So, the movie crew needed her bedroom. Except that her bedroom didn’t work for lighting. So they needed to turn Stephen’s bedroom into her bedroom. And then they needed another room up there for a Green Room. And another for costuming. The dining room was for feeding hungry college kids all night long. (Oh, did I mention that this shoot required darkness outside? Yep, it did.)  And the living room was for spreading equipment all over the place. One scene was shot in the family room. The kitchen was a command center for laptops and video playback and whatever else.

And by the way, we discovered the air conditioning upstairs wasn’t working. In the heat, under the lights, all night long, they went after the right shot, the right tone, the right nuance to make the vision come to life.


It was a kind of a crazy night.  Crazy wonderful.

Karoline worked with the crew beautifully. Stephen and Nick helped with whatever they could. Kristin scooped up Katie (she’s fine) and Sarah for a sleepover. Mary Beth made a quick exit for a friend’s house. And Christian--my boy who spent his childhood creating sets out of cardboard and duct tape and watching each movie more critically than the next—was the director he’s always known he was born to be.

I waved off the last of the crew around 4:30 AM.  I rose at 6:30 to claim my bit of quiet time.

All things considered, they’d done a wonderful job cleaning up. Still, there were little remnants of creativity everywhere I turned. Intermingled with Christian’s movie things were the creative pursuits of the littlest girls. And in every corner, reminders that we never really finished unpacking and putting away after the dance shows.

My sewing machine still sat on a center island, paying homage to frantic, last minute sewing before leaving for dance and a little midnight adjustment of a flannel nightgown on a summer-hot night under movie lights.

As I picked up pieces and restored order, I thought about an article someone had recently shared, where my words in this post were quoted as the author celebrated my eldest son’s 30 Under 30 award.

I have educated all these children at home, all these years. Four of them are high school graduates. One is a college graduate. Two more are on the brink of graduating university. And one is 3 credits shy of finishing her first year of college (before her peers finish their senior year of high school). We wedged senior prom in with semester finals. That alone took considerable creativity.

It occurs to me that this home education thing doesn’t really look much like the ones so carefully outlined in the classical education books I devoured when these big kids were little and I was super idealistic. It doesn’t look much like those well-organized plans I loved to make. It’s always looked more or less like a bit of a mess. The education is real and it's purposeful and it's always been more about their passions than my plans.

This is who we are. We are a sunroom store to sell “Quotes and Cliches,” embellished in glitter glue. We are cardboard sets and YouTube videos.  We are painting a favorite saint. We are writing a screenplay. We are creating websites. We are Bibles and paper everywhere. We are dancing, choreographing dance, teaching dance, and costuming dances.

Some of us write.

Another calls some pretty cool TV shows his work.  There is an Emmy on the shelf in the living room.

We are creative.

As an aside, we are also very serious about soccer –which actually requires a hefty dose of creativity if one is to succeed on the field. There is an NCAA Championship trophy beneath the Emmy. But that’s likely an essay for another day.

After they left us, the movie crew went to shoot in an old church. My father and stepmother showed up on set to deliver boxes of donuts to sleepy, hungry, still enthusiastic moviemakers. The creative support system runs deep in this family. From there, they went to film in a cave. They ran into some trouble logistically and Friday found me more than a little worried about the success of the project.

Kristin was over with Lucy. She had a pattern in her hands and some thoughts about baby dresses and hats and as I fell apart a little worrying about the Director, I took out fabric and made suggestions and envisioned sweet baby outfits. Kristin set to work at the dining room table and I –in the midst of so many more pressing things to do—pulled out every bit of fabric I owned and refolded and stacked. And prayed.

By the time those shelves were back in order and I’d promised myself to attend to some of my own creative impulses very soon, Christian texted to tell me he’d solved his problem.


I know my house won’t always be full of the ideas of my children. But I have a hunch that this will be a haven for artists for years to come—whether to bounce a script idea, or find a willing editor, or raid the fabric stash and then let little aunties teach the toddler to pirouette while someone sews on my machine, the heart of my home nourishes the heart of the artist. It’s likely I will spend many more years picking up the pieces left behind by children who know they were created in the image of the Creator.

And I’m glad.


The First Day Never Goes as Planned

Good morning! Did you notice the proliferation of back-to-school ads popping up all over the place last weekend? Are you like me? You take comfort in the fact that you're homeschooling, so you don't have to join the crush to acquire necessary wardrobe and supplies, while simultaneously shaking in your shoes as you pull book after book off the shelves in the quest to finally get the plans just right?

Whatever ;-). 

I'm at my friend Sally's this morning, sharing about how the first day won't go as planned, anyway. 

Preparing for Lent

Here's the quick tutorial to answer some questions and then some links to help you plan and give you some time to actually do this before next week. 

 Remember those wooden mantel letters?  During Lent, they say "Repent" (take the "Prepare" purple letters from Advent, and make an "N" and a "T"--you're all set to spell REPENT). For the Easter season, they spell "Alleluia." They are painted gold and covered with "diamond dust" glitter. On Fat Tuesday, I take out the ALLELUIA letters and make a big deal of spelling out "Alleluia." I let the children chant, sing, and even yell "Alleluia" in order to "get the Alleluias out." Then, I solemnly put the golden letters in a purple bag and explain that the Church doesn't say "Alleluia" during Lent and that we will "hide our Alleluias" until it's Easter.I hide the purple bag with the Alleluias in it (and tell someone where I put them;-). Then, it's Lent.
And it's quiet.






Talking with Your Kids about Lent

Lent is a Good Thing

Prayer Rule for all of Lent

What to Give Up?

Remain in Him

Thoughts on Fasting

Family Lent Project: Counting Blessings


For the last few years, there has been a daily Lenten Fast::Pray::Give prompt here for you. Shall we do that again this year? I'd mostly republish the old, familiar ones from Lents past. Would that be helpful?


Monday Morning Almanac

I find myself:

::noticing God's glory

We took a drive to Front Royal on Saturday. As always, the lovely Blue Ridge delivered a glorious autumn show. Have I ever mentioned how much I love living in Virginia? Oh, well, maybe a few times;-).

::listening to 

Amy Grant. We've grown up together. 


{Nicky's prized possession, relocated to a new room.}

::clothing myself in 

Khaki pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt, a blue denim jacket rolled at the cuffs, and a handmade Anna Maria Horner voile scarf.


::talking with my children about these books

Pinkalicious. The littlest in this house pulls rank now and then (she outranks us all) and everyone does what she says. Her room is now cotton-candy pink, with one purple wall to appease Karoline. 


::thinking and thinking

About my mission. I clearly have not posted 31 days in a row, but I am reaping in a big way from this study. I'll update you later today. I'm amazed and grateful for the wild ride God has taken along with me as I look anew at vocation. While I'm 22 days into the prayer and meditation, I've only completed 10 posts. I promise I'll finish the whole 31 posts.  In time. Thanks for your patience.

{my view when I open my eyes in the morning}

::pondering prayerfully

“My present trial seems to me a somewhat painful one, and I have the humiliation of knowing how badly I bore it at first. I now want to accept and to carry this little cross joyfully, to carry it silently, with a smile in my heart and on my lips, in union with the Cross of Christ. My God, blessed be Thou; accept from me each day the embarrassment, inconvenience, and pain this misery causes me. May it become a prayer and an act of reparation." ~Elisabeth Leseur

::carefully cultivating rhythm

The last few weeks, rhythm was squashed into oblivion. We had birthday week, two orthopedic emergencies, a totalled car (unrelated to either orthopedic issue), Mike traveling, and a house full of contractors all day, every day, for two weeks. I was rocked to my introverted core. This morning, everyone is walking without a limp, my house is squeaky clean, I have dinner planned, and we will have a peaceful, planned day. God willing. Please, God, be willing!

::creating by hand

Drapery fabric is on the way! We're going to begin as soon as it gets here. In the meantime, I'm knitting away (very slowly) on my California shawl, helping Katie sew a blouse, and committing to getting those blocks finished for the anniversary quilt. Happy, happy, happy to knit and sew! I recognize how important these handworks are to me and how necessary it is that I plan time for them. 

{old curtains, new spot for them}

::learning lessons in

Oh, those Mama lessons! What a school for souls this vocation is! I'm learning that I still have much to learn. I messed up bigtime during birthday week and completely missed communicating in the love language of one of my children. I'm not sure either of us will ever fully recover. I'm still gulping the lump in my throat


::encouraging learning 

It's long been known to me that children learn at their own pace. That's one of the reasons we chose to homeschool. Friends, at long last, my most challenging student of all is cranking along and "getting" math. This means I am unexpectedly spending hours a day sitting next to him, working through college math, but I'll take it!

And I think that purgatory might be a place where one fills in all the teacher/school/counselor/parent forms on the Common App and repeatedly gets the error message every single time she saves. 

::begging prayers

for my peace of heart and others' gentle forgiveness as I try to catch up on things let go during the firestorm of the last couple weeks. I let more than a couple people down and I'm going to need a huge infusion of grace to regain equilibrium.

{the wall still awaits the icons, but we have a little pocket of peace here}

::keeping house

The middle and top floor of my house are perfectly clean. Every nook and cranny, wall and window, drawer and closet. Every flat surface above the floor has a new coat of paint and I so love the colors that surround me. Now, it's time to implement a new chore system, taking into account that in the next few weeks, two of the three big boys will leave our home. Nick and Stephen will go from sharing a room all their lives to each having their own rooms. We did a little switch preemptively. Nicky shares a room with Stephen, but he has always wanted to share a room with Paddy. When we learned he was leaving early for UVa, we moved Nick in with him and Michael in with Stephen. Michael is moving out in early December. This way, Nicky gets his much-adored roommate from now until he goes in January and then every time he comes home from college. It's just weird to think how huge this house is going to seem without them...

I've tried to capture a few images of the new colors, but I haven't gotten the hues true at all. Maybe next time.


{so good to have a functioning kitchen again, first thing in the morning}

::crafting in the kitchen 

I'm going back to a solid three week paleo meal plan. I'm really, really happy about this. I see its benefits and I'm committed to making it a habit for the long haul. My kids seem fairly happy with it, too. I think some nearly-paleo chocolate chip cookies helped. Recipes forthcoming. I've been Instagramming pictures of things we all are happy to eat. Follow me there, if you like. I'm heartofmyhome. You can also click on the little button at the top of the righthand column with the camera. This works even if you don't have an Instagram account.

 I registered to begin the Whole30 again. From the beginning of Lent until mid-June, I was following this diet for hypothyroidism, more or less. Then Kristen Kill mentioned to me she was doing Whole 30. They sounded essentially the same and I found a lot of support for the hypothryoid diet on the Whole30 pages, so I did Whole30 in July. I made it to Day 26 and then caved for a grain-free, dairy-free and utterly fabulous cookie. I went Whole 30+ from August 1 until our California trip and then I added wine and a little sushi rice. But I was really vigilant about all else while in California. And I was feeling well and very much seeing a difference.

When I returned home, I messed up bigtime. Birthday week and two weeks of non-functioning kitchen, and I  just didn't have the discipline to withstand either the unpredictable messes and crises or the abundant sugar at hand. I have paid dearly. On a couple days, my joints have hurt so badly, I've struggled to do the simplest things to move about the day. And there have been days my hands were so stiff that the thought of keyboarding anything has brought me to tears. I'm convinced that this way of eating is non-negotiable for me. I started Whole30 all over again. It took a few days to even get to functional again, but the past couple of days have been much better. I'm in for life. I have to be.


::loving the moments

when I have time to talk with my husband.

::giving thanks 

for the good men who have shared my home these last few weeks. They've worked so hard and cared so much about doing an excellent job. Their handiwork blesses us abundantly and we're so grateful to have gotten to know them. 

living the liturgy

Have you heard about the Advent Workshop? Do come hang out with us! Even if you're not local, click over and let me know your favorite Advent resources. I really need your help, y'all.

And...I'm doing a happy dance. Our mission has relocated daily Mass (again, I know). This time, it's five minutes away with no chance of traffic. Happy, happy, happy! This my friends, is truly living liturgy!


::planning for the week ahead

Mary Beth will be Sweet Sixteen on Tuesday. While I have a few thoughts in mind for this day, I'm interested to know how you celebrated your sixteenth birthday. Does your family have any traditions for your daughters? Ideas? 


{Mike completely renovated the foyer bathroom. Sarah helped him.}

{my new favorite place to sit}

The Last Supper and the Eucharist



I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I would lay down my life for my sheep.



The Good Shepherd is present to us in a different sheepfold. Just as this statue show us He is present as a Shepherd, the cup and the plate remind us that he is truly present in the bread and the wine.


Jesus is the Good Shepherd. I wonder who the sheep are...


Since we are the sheep, I am going to  replace the sheep with US.


We are all gathered before the table and the Good Shepherd is there. Where do we do this?



In this setting there is a way that we receive the Good Shepherd into our own body. This is called holy communion.The priest brings us Jesus. Jesus is the Eucharist.

Eucharist means Thanksgiving.

We are grateful for this great gift.


{painted wooden dolls available at St. Luke's Brush and  Catholic Folk Toys}