Gathering My Thoughts









I find myself:

::noticing God's glory

I love the way the sun sets at the soccer
field. It’s happening earlier and earlier each evening. Next week, we might
miss it altogether. I am determined to bring my camera tomorrow in order to
attempt to capture it. The iPhone just isn’t cutting it.

::listening to 

soccer practice.

::clothing myself in 

Denim shorts and an orange shirt, neither of
which I owned last spring. When we first saw possibilities for the cover of
Small Steps, I didn’t much prefer the one that was chosen. It’s been a few
babies since I’ve felt comfortable in shorts and orange isn’t really my
color;-). When I received word that the “shorts cover” was indeed the cover
chosen, I went shopping. I try really, really, super hard to be wholly authentic.
If my book had a picture of a lady in shorts with an orange shirt and her feet up
drinking coffee, by golly, I was going to make every effort to try that whole
scene at least once. So, I did.

I still rarely put my feet up. I don’t drink
coffee regularly. My couch does not match my orange shirt. And the orange shirt
still isn’t really my color. But the denim shorts?

I kind of love them.


::talking with my children about these books

we spent a lot of time talking about 9/11 books
last week. The kids seemed to keep revisiting them, much more so than in years
past. We haven’t yet talked about the recent D.C. shooting. I put a ban on all
television where they might be exposed. I spent a fair amount of time making
telephone calls in my car so that I was safely out of earshot. I need to figure
out how to approach this one. This time, it’s going to take me a few days to
find words.

::thinking and thinking

About God’s unique call. I wonder sometimes at
the damage done by a women’s movement that fought so hard and so long to
persuade the culture that women can do it all—be wives, mothers, employees, employers,
artisans, crafters of the ideal life. No ceiling, no boundaries, no
limitations. But there are, aren’t there? Natural law makes it so. There are
only so many hours, so much energy. We can’t do it all and we likely will burn
ourselves out trying. The culture tells us we can. God doesn’t. God calls us
uniquely to live as He created us and He grants us abundant grace to do it. He
didn’t create us for burnout. That feeling of being stretched too thin, doing
everything halfheartedly and nothing well? That’s not of God.

::pondering prayerfully

Let yourself be seen by all as you really are. Just as we are in the
sight of God, so let us be in the sight of all.

~ St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

::carefully cultivating rhythm

We are in the second
full week of the total schedule. I’m finding my writing pockets. Those are like
little nuggets of gold. Writing does for me what knitting does—it calms me; it
organizes my thoughts; it leaves me feeling full. I get a little stressed out
when I’m not sure how I’ll fit it in. It relaxes me to see those golden nuggets
of time reveal themselves.

::creating by hand

I did the things Monday that keep me from
sewing. I prewashed a whole bunch of yardage. And I traced. I ordered some
patterns (that I thought I’d already ordered but apparently in my sleepless
stupor last week I never sealed the deal). I’m planning some shirts and dresses
for my girls and a little love bundle for the mail. Now, I might actually get
to sew!

::learning lessons in

appliance maintenance. Just in case there is
someone else out there who doesn’t know: Take the cover off your dryer every
month. Vacuum out the inside. I’m not talking about the lint screen. You have
to clean that every time you switch loads. I’m talking about the innards, where
the heating element warms the drum. Lint gets in there. And it can catch fire.
When it does, it causes the thermostat to overheat, igniting the safety valve
which shuts the whole thing down. That’s the best case scenario: you get a load
full of dried clothes that smell like you had a wild time in a smoky bar and
you have to replace the thermostat.

The worst case scenario is the stuff of

Really, go vacuum out the inside of your dryer.

::encouraging learning 

We’re hitting that sweet spot between planned
lessons and following rabbit trails. I’m not an unschooler; been there, done
that, paid a huge price. I have a plan and I have some non-negotiable
essentials. But I do love a good jaunt in  an area of interest that reinforces the
whole notion that learning is fun and has purpose.

::begging prayers

for the victims of the tragedy in Washington,
D.C., both those who lost their lives and those who lived through the horror.
My stepbrother works in Building 197. He saw unspeakable things.

for all the intentions of our prayer community.

And yes, for that intention I was keeping
quiet; it’s still very close to my heartJ  

::keeping house

I am nearly caught up after being without a
dryer for 9 days. Go me.

::crafting in the kitchen 

This morning I made a quick decision to return
to Monday Night Football Geography. With that decision, I committed to cooking on
Monday nights according to the cities that are playing. Tonight’s dinner was
super fun.

::loving the moments

It’s been a rough couple of days. I caught some
sort of virus late last week and it has hung on. That, coupled with a lack of sleep, a mountain of
laundry, some great ideas that I don’t have time to get into print, an unintentional
oil spill and cleanup to rival BP in my driveway, sewing projects that are not
yet begun awaiting the magic moment, and the very tragic news of Monday morning
had all combined to bring me way, way down. I sent a friend a quick note around
midday Monday and she stopped and spent an hour just talking and sharing and
understanding. I love the moments when I feel understood. We really need to do
that for one another, don’t we? We need to understand.

::giving thanks 

for the safety of the people I love tonight. Really,
it’s not to be taken for granted.

living the liturgy

We are approaching my favorite stretch of
liturgical feasts. I’m so grateful for the way that the liturgy aligns with
birthdays in my life. Five years ago, we began the novena for St. Therese on the
September 23, the feast of Padre Pio. I began to bleed that night and the
doctor in the NICU told me that birth was imminent. My baby was 28+ weeks in
utero. I didn’t deliver. Instead, I spent several days in the hospital and then
I returned home where I was forbidden to get out of bed. I surrounded myself
with the saints. I’m going to tell you more about that tomorrow. Just know that
those saints kept me safe in their prayers. My daughter was born –early, but
healthy—on the vigil of All Saints. So very appropriate. And, not long after,
when my world crashed and rocked and I began to question the Church because of
the people in the Church, I could not walk away. Because I could not leave the
communion of saints, I could not leave the Divine Office, and I could not live
authentically without living the liturgy.

::planning for the week ahead

I return to the eye doctor Tuesday at noon. I
would dearly love for her to tell me that we’ve made progress on this whole
warped eyeball thing. I only have one ear. My eyes are working at about 50%.
Just know this: I have an incredible sense of smell. So there’s that.

Mike is taking a bunch of boys to watch Paddy
play Tuesday night. It’s absolutely beautiful soccer weather. That’s a good
thing because we’ll return to Charlottesville Friday and then we’ll begin State
Cup for Stephen back here on Saturday and there is a match for both Stephen and
Nick on Sunday.

I do love to watch them play.




  1. says

    I love that you decided you must match your book cover!! Too funny. And thanks for sharing your football plans… I have some kids who would find that super-cool.

  2. Mimi P says

    I literally laughed out loud about the jean short since I myself bought a pair of jean shorts for the first time this summer, since high school. I have the old printing of Small steps so I had to scroll back up and look at the picture! I too am looking forward to what we call in our house “the Season of the Saints” All of our Name days, quite a few birthdays and some very special anniversaries come during this time. We will be celbrating with you.

  3. says

    When we turned on Monday Night Football last night I had just time to register the commentary asking the audience for a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting. I muted the tv but my 11yo old son told me he had already heard it on the sports radio program he listens to each day. I had not heard. My instinct is to always be able to be the one to share such news with my kids. It doesn’t always work out that way, though, and in this case the children and I were able to pray together and then talk quietly before the game. I really sympathize with you Elizabeth. It’s an intense world we live in; we can only do so much to protect our kids from the news and all … This is something that is on my daily radar. We are a pretty low-tech, low-media family: we do take the daily newspaper, and then there’s that daily sports radio show my son listens to …
    My prayers for your stepbrother.

  4. says

    We missed the pregame last night because we were at soccer. The tricky thing here for me is how to tell them without terrifying (terrorizing) them. This time, it’s super personal. It’s someplace very close to home. It’s someone very close to heart. And I don’t want them to be afraid in DC or be afraid every time someone they love goes to work in the big city. It needs a filter, but I don’t know how much I really can filter because it did, indeed, happen and it did, indeed, hit close to home. For now, only people over 12 know anything is amiss.

  5. Corrine says

    “That feeling of being stretched too thin, doing everything halfheartedly and nothing well? That’s not of God”
    Thank you, thank you for these words. I’ve been struggling with burnout for a long time now, and through prayer and a great confessor I’ve been slowly coming to understand just what you wrote this morning. I couldn’t help but feel God in your words today. Thank you.

  6. says

    Praying for your stepbrother. So tough and if our experience is a guide, will take a long time to heal and to process. Also, love the way you can weave beauty into your days. You inspire me! Life goes on no matter how tough the road in front of us and beauty is always always beckoning.

  7. says

    I have not heard about what happened; your mention is the first. As much as I would like to google it, I can’t. There is really no fine line for me to walk in these situations. The tragic events I read or hear about get planted way down deep and there they remain to torment me.I become of no use to my God, my husband or my children. So, my husband is my filter. If and when I need to know, he fills me in in a way I can process the information, grieve and then prayerfully move on.

  8. Greg says

    When did you question the Church about the people in the Church? I thought you were referring to a priest your boys knew who was removed but that was before Sarah Annie was born so that couldn’t be it. Have you done a post on this before?

  9. Elizabeth says

    Wow! This was a meaty post! I will be praying for the victims and their families as well as your own as you make sense of the tragedy and process it. I’d love to know more about your unschooling experience. I wouldn’t call myself an unschooled but I am very relaxed in what I require so that there’s plenty of time in our days for our own projects and creativity. But my oldest is only 11 and I’d like to know if you felt you paid dearly with your older children and why. I’m always trying to balance what the classicists tell me with CM and project based homeschooling.

  10. says

    Elizabeth, I cannot guess at what Elizabeth F’s response to be, but if I may share our experience? My eldest is in his 20s; I homeschooled him all the way through. I was strongly influenced by the writings of John Holt — still love so much of his stuff on unschooling. So, my eldest was primarily homeschooled. I mentored the homeschool teens group for many many years: they were nearly all unschooled too. Many familes. What my son and ALL of his friends say now? They wish they hadn’t been unschooled. They say they weren’t educated well enough. What I observed in my own home and in other families is that it is super difficult to unschool **well** It takes a John Holt, or a Sandra Dodd … What we, collectively, learned is that all too often, without even noticing sometimes, unschooling becomes nonschooling. I know that sounds strong. (I’m sure I,ve written posts on it somewhere!). Simply put: it really didn’t work for us. Or for **any** of the many families we personally (locally, not online, I mean) know.
    My younger kids aren’t being unschooled. They’re happy, I’m happy. Their older brother wishes he could have a do over. (He and all that cohort are lovely people; doing well in college, in jobs etc. but thwy wish is had been different).

  11. Melissa says

    There is so much in this post that is thoughtful and wonderful, but I just had to smile at the photo of Snow White and Belle breaking bread with the saints! I wish I had your little girls to play with when I was child…we really would have “gotten” each other! :)

  12. says

    Briefly, I really believe that math, in particular, should be taught systematically and every day. There is a popular unschooling book out there that tells the story of the author’s son, who delayed a formal study math until late in high school when he finally realized he would indeed need it, even if only to get into college. He caught up nicely and all was well. I lived that story, complete with all kinds of wonderful games and manipulative and lovely math books strewn about. It came down to late high school and they were way behind where they needed to be. In my case, we worked incredibly hard to overcome the lapses and it was ridiculously stressful. It was not the all blissful ah hah that I’d hoped it would be. It was grueling and demoralizing and required a whole lot of concentrated effort on my part and the part of the student. We did catch up in math but none of us thinks we would do it that way if we had it to do over. there’s just so much math they can absorb doubling recipes and building things in the garage…
    I also think that children are happier if they learn early that sometimes we just gotta do what we gotta do. Everything in life isn’t delight-directed and quite a bit of life requires hard work and persistence and diligence even if it’s not the way we are naturally inclined. Assigning tasks with the attitude that they must be accomplished promptly and with a good attitude teaches children to have a cheerful good work ethic. There is eternal value in that. I don’t want that lesson to go unlearned. I don’t want a child to grow up and think he only has to accomplish the things he likes or the things that were his idea. Children lack perspective. We can see the big picture and engage them in a broad education.

  13. says

    Greg, I’m not sure what you know about the local situations, but our current parish administrator was assigned to the mission church of Corpus Christi in January 2010, replacing a priest who is no longer Catholic. Sarah was born in 2008. Perhaps you are referring to St. Veronica, where unfortunately, there were also some abrupt changes while we were parishioners. Both local. Both affected our family and frankly, still do. In the case of those situations and one that was not local, I am very grateful for the good people whom the Lord provided, both here and in heaven. And in all cases, the fewer details shared, the better to avoid the near occasion of the sin of detraction.

  14. Amy M. says

    Elizabeth I know you read Jen Fulwiler but have you read her post from last week, “A Mental Neat Freak”? Your comments about “finding writing pockets” reminded me of it. When I read Jen’s post I thought, “YES! That is exactly it!” I too need time to “reorder my mental space.” For you and Jen, that time is writing. For me it varies greatly from day to day, but I’m learning to say, “What do I need to do -right now- to make my mental space a healthy place to be?” Many factors conspire to make it unhealthy, and I am already fighting that mentality that tells me I need to “have it all,” which is a sore temptation for such a perfectionist as me. I’m working instead on, to borrow from your book title, small steps every day to practice listening and responding to where I am called to be and what I am called to do. Hmmmm, how’s that for a rambling comment that touches on almost your entire post! Happy Tuesday, I hope your doctor appointment goes well, and I will pray that you feel better soon!

  15. Jamie says

    Hi, Elizabeth. I’m working hard this year to be an example of having a good work ethic, being cheerful about it, and gracefully expecting the same of my children. It’s all about good habits this year …
    Speaking of Math, do you still recommend the same things you wrote about in Real Learning? I’m curious as to which curricula or programs you recommend for boys in 4th or 5th grade?

  16. says

    I’ll send you a longer message when I have time. Here, for now: the two most important things I did that first week was talk with a priest and insist that G. go to a counselor immediately. I am not in the business of telling my husband what to do, but this was one instance where he was not able to see what he needed (it was overwhelming to process) and I told him he had no choice but to go. We went together, for months and months and months. He talked and the therapist and I largely listened.
    He had many colleagues – particularly in the stoic/macho world of police and I imagine the military is the same – who would say “Jim Beam is my therapist.” Going to a therapist was seen as a sign of weakness. We have witnessed a lot of self-medication by trauma survivors.

  17. maddalena70 says

    Sorry to bother you but I’d like to know howdoes the s.Therese novena function I’ d like to joib it!

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