Gathering Sunshine and Books

Outside my window: It’s a gorgeous August day. After a summer of oppressive heat (and very scarce air conditioning), I'm inhaling these late season days in big gulps. Low humidity makes the whole world seem a little happier, doesn’t it?


Listening to: Katie making breakfast.

Clothing myself in: Still in pjs. That means I didn’t run this morning. I really need to get my morning outdoor groove back.

(Actually, it's taken all day to get this post ready. The spinning rainbow beach ball of death has tried mightily to silence me today. So, right now, it's late evening and I'm wearing jeans and listening to bad coffee shop music while I try again during soccer practice.)

Talking with my children about these books:  Here we go! School is back in session and here in my house it’s going to be another Storybook Year. This plan holds up very, very well. So, my younger ones (though older than you might expect with picture books) will be pretty much following the tried and true storybook schoolhouse plan. Most of the booklist is here. Scroll down the list on the lefthand side for lots of links to more lists--and more and more lists:-) Our formidable collection of picture books offers plenty of opportunities to explore reading and writing as well as most of the academic subjects covered throughout the elementary years. There are lots of ways to respond and interact with picture books listed here.


In my own reading: I’m simultaneously reading Simply Tuesday, The Best Yes, and Hands Free Life.  There’s a bit of a common theme going here. Also, personal reading time took a big hit this week as school kicked in. I’m actually reading a whole lot of philosophy right now. More on that below.


Thinking and thinking: about writing an Advent workshop. I think I need a web designer. If you know someone who would be interested and who might also love Squarespace, would you drop me a note?


I was starting to shape a theory about dinner. I found that if I was eating well, there was a good chance I was living well, too. I found that when I prioritized dinner, a lot of things seemed to fall into place: We worked more effectively to get out of [work] on time, we dedicated time and place to unload whatever was annoying us about work and everything else, and we spent less money by cooking our own food, which meant we never felt guilty about treating ourselves to dinner out on the weekend. And perhaps most important, the simple act of carving out the ritual- a delicious homemade ritual- gave everyday purpose and meaning, no matter what else was going on in our lives.” --from Dinner: A Love Story

Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: Since neighborhood kids are still summering, we’re easing back into a school year schedule. Mary Beth’s classes started this week, so I’ve begun to lay down the tracks for everyone.


Creating By Hand:  Kristin made another Geranium Dress in my [nicely cleaned and organized] sewing room yesterday. I watched her. Go me.


Encouraging learning in: Philosophy. One of Mary Beth’s classes this semester is an introductory philosophy class. As we ordered books and noted how it was very heavy on C. S. Lewis, I decided that Stephen would take this class, too. Of course, he won’t get college credit and her professor won’t see his work, but we’re going to keep up with the assignment schedule. I’ll do the reading, too, and the three of us can discuss. The pace is brisk and it will challenge him (and me), but I think we’re all going to learn a lot.

Booklist, if you’re interested:

How Do We Know?: an Introduction to Epistemology 

Prelude to Philosophy 

Complete Signature Classics of C. S. Lewis

Also, this really worthwhile article about math phobia, courtesy of Mary Beth, who has had to read it for two college math classes now. 

Keeping house: Last weekend, we were given an incredible Montessori gift. A whole lot of brand new materials became ours! Mary Beth and Katie cleaned out our sunroom and then prepared it so that when Lucy comes, she can work right alongside Sarah and Kari. The room is beautiful and it’s inspired me to similarly “prepare” the rest of the house. It’s a slow process, but we are tackling some de-cluttering and repurposing of spaces. It’s pretty cathartic; I’m purging the ugly guts of the summer.


Crafting in the kitchen: Let's talk about dinner. 

As I've reflected on the-summer-from-hell, I've naturally inclined towards thinking about what's working in my life and the life of my family and what needs to be tweaked. I often feel like my little kids are growing up in an entirely different family than my big kids did. And they are. The hope is that their parents are wiser, more patient, and more mature. And they probably are. They're also more tired, more stressed (yes--I'm sticking with that story: this stage of motherhood is far more stressful for me than having a whole bunch of kids under 13), and going in more directions. One place where I've really felt like my Philosophy of Family has take a hit is family dinners. I've long, long been a proponent of family dinners as the norm every night. But we've seriously fallen short of the mark recently. As I turn over every parenting decision I've ever made in my mind and decide whether I like them or not, I simply cannot find one thing wrong with family dinners. They are all good. They are still super important. And my six-still-at-home deserve them.

The logistics are tricky; no doubt about it.

I re-read Dinner: A Love Story last week and I read the fairly new Dinner: A Playbook: A 30-Day plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal. I admit that when I first read  Dinner: A Love Story I thought it was sort of ridiculous that people needed such a lot of support getting dinner on the table. Now, I see nothing but beauty in the book. I mean, really, even the title brings tears to my eyes. Dinner has a been a love story in my life. We bought our first dog when we weren't even engaged, but we found ourselves outside a grocery store shopping for ingredients to cook together and we go distracted by a puppy.  We announced our intention to get married to Mike's mother over dinner. We have announced the coming of babies over dinner. Once, my two youngest boys planted a whoopee cushion at the dinner seat of Michael's girlfriend. They still consider it their finest hour. They're also the first to tell you that they're happy that girlfriend became his wife and is a regular at our table now. And we have always, always prayed together as a family before meals. Dinner is a big deal, as it should be. 

So, even though so many things confuse me about this stage of life, dinner is simple. I'm starting with dinner. I'm going to take a page out of the Playbook and make something new for 30 days in a row, starting September 1st. I want you to hold me accountable. So, I'm going to use the new low-stress video app Periscope and invite you into my kitchen around 4:00 every day. These will be short scopes with Karoline and me (and anyone else who's hanging around). We'll show you what's for dinner and chat a little about the sort of things we talk about around my kitchen island. Occasionally, I can follow up here with notes or links to recipes. I'm planning to pull almost all the recipes from  Dinner: A Love Story, Dinner: A Playbook: A 30-Day plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal, or the Dinner: A Love Story blog. You can follow me on Periscope @elizabethfoss. Each day's video will be live for 24 hours. 

To be fit and happy: Tomorrow. Going to run tomorrow. Promise.



Giving thanks: Gosh. The little things are such big things these days:

  • the first really good night's sleep in forever
  • cooler evenings (which is partly why the above was possible)
  • antibiotics (same)
  • big talks with my teens
  • little girls who spell sweetness with their letters
  • Lucy and the magic sparkle she brings into a room...


Loving the moments: when a text pops up and the news is good. Exhale.


Living the Liturgy: Tomorrow is the feast of St. Monica. Friday is the Feast of St. Augustine. We’ve been chatting a lot lately--St. Monica, St. Augustine, and me.  That saint who was once a brilliant, philosophical boy who was so restless until his soul rested in God and his mother who was tireless in prayer. 

Here's the Augustine-inspired prayer I wrote that chimes into my phone regularly every day.. Feel free to replace the pronouns with your own Augustine.

Dear Jesus,

Please chase after him. Bring him close to you. Breathe your spirit into him. Grant him the grace of knowing your wisdom, knowing your truth, knowing your life-changing love. Please Lord, reach him and become his best friend. Strengthen him and show him how to turn from sin and towards all the good you will for him. I beg your mercy for him: give him health in mind and body. Let him shine in your image, Lord, and please, God, let him learn from your unconditional love. Let him see the miracle that is you. Grant him the grace and strength to hear and answer your call. Amen.

Planning for the week ahead: Tomorrow and Saturday, from 1:00-3:00 Katie is performing at Amercian Girl Place in Tyson’s to celebrate the introduction of Mary Ellen, the new historical girl from the 50’s. We’re pretty excited to be a part of it! The "little" boys play in Richmond on Saturday and Fredericksburg on Sunday, with a stop in Charlottesville Saturday evening to watch UVa launch the defense of its National Championship.