Thursday, June 25, 2015

Poetry Friday: How the Stars Came Down

I am just getting to know Pat Schneider, but, oh, is she worth getting to know. From the bio on her website:

After a search for work took her single mother to St. Louis, from age ten Pat lived in tenements and in an orphanage until she was given a scholarship to college. Those early experiences have deeply influenced her writing, and fueled her passion for those who have been denied voice through poverty and other misfortunes.

"How the Stars Came Down" is a snapshot of a night in her childhood, a shift in her vision, and it's lovely, lovely.

How the Stars Came Down
by Pat Schneider

Night. How the stars came down
arching over us, and the only name
we had for them was shooting stars.
Why there were so many was anybody's guess.
My great grandmother thought the world
was coming to an end when Haley's comet
(Read the rest here, at The Writer's Almanac.)


The Poetry Friday roundup is at Carol's Corner

(Photo thanks to Free Images.) 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Random Instagram Instances

Ramona made me a "Book Writing Encouragement Jar."

Keeps everything in perspective. 


I love that Ramona and I completely nailed the fail when we tried to make cookie cups:

Though a couple of them turned out satisfyingly well:  


Last month, I discovered this portal to another dimension in Ramona's closet: 


We stole this puzzle from my sister. The only reason I gave it to her for her birthday last year was because I wanted to borrow it. (Well, not the only reason....) Doesn't it look nerdily fun?


Sometimes I just want to be a cat. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day with Atticus

Mass, of course.

Indecision about dinner. Does he feel like cooking? (He insists cooking is consistent with relaxing.) Want pizza delivered? Feel like going out? Some waffling.

Open presents. Ramona's homemade card: a picture of Darth Vader with the caption, "Atticus, You Are My Father." Other, equally funny and creative cards from Anne and Betsy.

A nine-and-a-half mile run. (Him, not me.)

Falling asleep on the couch while Anne and Betsy watch an episode of Lost. (Me, not him.)

Read some Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with Ramona, with older girls warning me she might not want to hear all the details of the giant rumble. (Me, not him.)

Read some Retribution, by Max Hastings. (Him, not me.)

Go out for Mexican food. Eat too much. Come home. (All of us.)

Call my dad. (Happy Father's Day, Dad!)

Kiss husband. Thank God for him. Feel amazement and happiness at the privilege of having had a family with this man.

Happy Father's Day, Atticus.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Poetry Friday: Swallows by Leonora Speyer

Photo thanks to FreeImages.*

Swallows are much on my mind of late. They love our porches, view them as prime real estate.

We always let them build in front. Why? I don't know. The front of the house should be what we're more concerned about, right? The mess the birds leave behind, the cleaning up of the droppings. But a number of years back, when the swallows first decided that we were their own private Capistrano, I just couldn't say no to them. Instead, I called the girls over to the window, we watched a pair of swallows investigate this corner, then that one. We imagined their conversations: "Yes, dear, the corner you like is lovely, but think of the children. The corner I chose will be cozier, don't you think?" Then the swallows would start a family, and the girls and I followed the family's progress as babies appeared, cried and chirped, were fed, grew, flew the nest.

Every year, on the front porch, they build, they leave a mess, we clean up, they raise their brood, and then they're gone.

This year, a pair scoped out the back porch. I guess they heard it was a builder's market at the Edmisten house, and two corners on the front porch were already taken.

That's enough! Atticus and I cried. We'll have bird droppings all over the back porch! The grill! The lawn chairs! We are putting out foot (feet) down!

Oh, but they're crafty, those swallows. This is a determined pair, and once they had their eyes on a building site, they did not want to give up or move on. Every day, they start building. A little mud, some dried grass, dab, dab, dab. Atticus and I knock their foundation down, sweep it away. The swallows attempt some half-hearted dive bombing, but they really aren't as aggressive as everyone says. They swoop near us, but don't seem to have the heart to really attack their potential landlords. One day, I took the dog out back and I caught the swallows red-handed, flying away from their first mudding of the day. They both landed on the power line that crosses the backyard. I could tell they were trying not to look at each other, pretending they didn't know each other. Pssst, just ignore me for now ... maybe she'll think we're not together. We're not the ones trying to build that nest. That's right, Missy, just move along with the dog. Nothing to see here. 

That cemented my love for them.

We've swept some mud away the last couple of days, but I'm about to give up. They are too clever, too determined, too beautiful for me. I can't bear to thwart their plans anymore.

What I have is yours, swallows. I hope you will name one of your children after me.

Leonora Speyer

They dip their wings in the sunset,
They dash against the air
As if to break themselves upon its stillness:
In every movement, too swift to count,
Is a revelry of indecision,
A furtive delight in trees they do not desire
And in grasses that shall not know their weight.

They hover and lean toward the meadow
With little edged cries;
And then,
As if frightened at the earth’s nearness,
They seek the high austerity of evening sky
And swirl into its depth.


The round up this week is at A Year of Reading.

*In the public domain.

Ramona's Summer Art

Lots of good stuff going on, but one thing I want to share is the live Mark Kistler 3-D drawing class that she's taking. The classes are available for free this summer, through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.*

She's been available for only two intermediate lessons so far and she wants to try the advanced level next time, if we're home at the right time.

Mark Kistler's virtual classroom is here,  and the schedule of classes is here. On this page, you can find Kistler's top 400 recorded lessons that can be used anytime. 


In other drawing news, Ramona is sorting Disney princesses into Hogwarts houses. So far, Ariel is a Gryffindor and Belle is a Ravenclaw. 


* Several other free offerings from the co-op can be found here

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Poetry Friday: Looking at the Sky

Today I'm sharing my beloved Anne Porter. She always stuns in small, quiet ways.

Looking at the Sky
by Anne Porter

I never will have time
I never will have time enough
To say
How beautiful it is
The way the moon
Floats in the air
As easily
And lightly as a bird

(Read the whole thing here, at The Writer's Almanac.)


One of my absolute favorite Poetry Friday bloggers (one of my favorite bloggers of any-kind-ever) is hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Jama Rattigan always dishes up scrumptious food, delightful books, whimsical posts, and bears. Today she has blueberry crumble and a wonderful poem by Mary Szybist, as well as the round-up.

On Relevant Radio This Morning

Morning Air on Relevant Radio, 7 a.m. central time
Talking about discernment and volunteering! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Catholic Exchange Podcast with Michael Lichens: After Miscarriage

It was a pleasure to talk recently with Michael Lichens, editor at Catholic Exchange, about my book, After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman's Companion to Healing and Hope.

Michael and I talked about dealing with the grief of miscarriage, how to offer help to friends who are grieving, where and how to find helpful resources, how to start a ministry in your own parish, the power of a baby's prayers, and more.

The podcast is here.

I'm grateful to Michael for helping to spread the word about the book, and for tackling this subject!


A partial list of helpful resources:

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Speaking in Omaha next month at the CHAO Conference!

Along with Suzie Andres and her husband, Tony, I'll be speaking in Omaha in July at "Filled With Joy," a homeschooling conference sponsored by the Catholic Homeschool Association of Omaha (CHAO).

Suzie is the author of Homeschooling With Gentleness and author/editor of A Little Way of Homeschooling: Thirteen Families Discover Catholic Unschooling (to which I contributed a chapter in the "-ish" section. As in, "unschoolish" ... I'm the Planning Unschooler, the Unschoolish One With a Plan...i.e., I don't fit into categories or labels, and I like it that wayish.)

Friday night, July 10, will be "Homeschool Show and Tell" and a used book sale -- more details are here.

On Saturday, July 11, talks will include:

From me:
"A Homeschooling Mom's Prayer Life: It Can Happen"
"A Read-Aloud Legacy: Reading Aloud for All Ages"

from the Andres:

"Increase Your Joy Right Where You Are," Suzie
"Homeschooling Dads," Tony
"Homeschooling With Gentleness," Suzie and Tony

The CHAO conference website is here, along with registration information. The full schedule for the day is here.

I hope I can meet you there!


A quick aside: 

Did you know that if you do a search for a free stock photo of "Omaha, Nebraska" on, the only results are two photos? One is of the Desert Dome at the Henry Doorly Zoo and the other is of a desert deer: 

This leads me to remind you that even if you can't make it to the CHAO conference, you should make it to the Henry Doorly Zoo sometime in your life. Seriously. It is one of the best zoos ever. An unschooler's dream day.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

This is from the archives, and was originally published by Faith & Family several years ago, but I think the topic is always worth revisiting. It's about listening to God's scheduling memos: When to volunteer? When to pull back? It's an ever-changing push-me-pull-you, but I find that when I pay close attention to the memos, the message is usually clear.

I'm reprinting the article in its entirety below, and you can go to this archived link to see the original and comments.


Memo From God 

“But that’s my birthday!” my daughter protested. “How can you go on my birthday?”

My husband and I taught baptism classes in our parish, and I’d signed us up for June, oblivious to a date that should have been uppermost in my mind: the day my second daughter would turn 13.

“Ummm,” I fumbled, “well, you know we never seem to do parties on the actual day. We already talked about having the slumber party Friday night, didn’t we?”

She murmured assent and slumped away, carrying on her shoulders the weight of a forgetful, busy mother who (even with a constantly consulted day planner) had failed her.

It’s true that we’ve always been flexible with birthday party plans. Really. But, we still make a big deal of the day, party day or not, so I felt terrible. And guilty.

Prayerful Discernment
I’d been praying about the classes, and whether to continue or not. We share the teaching load with several other couples, and Tom and I are called on only a few times a year. But, in the last couple of years, whenever our turn popped up, we encountered a conflict with our kids’ schedules. Still, I told myself, stick with it. Surely such a minimal time commitment isn’t a big deal. But somehow I couldn’t avoid feeling nudged to give up this particular commitment.

And now, here was yet another conflict. I’d asked God for confirmation about my gut feeling and it seemed to have arrived. We stepped down from the teaching team.

Focus on Vocation
This isn’t the first time I’ve needed to pull back from a commitment or a committee, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. My primary commitment—to being an at-home, homeschooling mom—means that Tom and I must regularly tweak our schedules to keep them in harmony with our family’s goals.

That doesn’t mean we won’t volunteer again. But it does mean that we do it with a discerning eye. We step up to the plate when we feel clearly called to, but we’re equally willing to pull back when we see the need. It’s all part of adapting to the ever-changing circumstances of our growing family.

When we began teaching the baptism classes, our children were young and the parish offered babysitting each week (for both teachers and attendees.) We took the kids with us and emphasized to them that helping with the program was our family’s way of serving the parish together. But, as the kids grew, and their schedules changed, we began to wonder if this particular form of service was still right for us.

Continual Reassessment
In the past, we’ve made similar adjustments. Shortly after I was received into the Catholic Church, I joined our parish RCIA team. At the time we had only one child, and I actually loved getting out of the house once a week. Yes, I was giving my time, but it felt more as if I were receiving—I loved the riches of teaching, spending time with other committed Catholics (my husband was not yet Catholic), and offering support to those on journeys of conversion.

So, although RCIA was an intense time commitment, it didn’t feel like one in that season of our lives. It worked for us, and worked well until sometime after we had two children, with a third on the way. At that point, the demands of RCIA began to clash with my family and our homeschooling life, and it was time to step away.

And so it goes with every consideration of my time. As I live out this vocation of motherhood, I find I must frequently reassess how everything fits into that, rather than shoehorning my family into something I want to do, however good the “something” may be.

Sometimes I fail—I become the forgetful, busy mother who has disappointed her almost-thirteen-year-old. When that happens, it’s time to pray. I ask for some heavenly scheduling help, and then I read God’s memos and tweak accordingly.

He’s even better than a planner.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

That Summer (Routine) Feeling

Still transitioning into some kind of summer schedule here, feeling a little bit afloat, but it's getting better. I'm writing a new book, so work time for me has to be part of the schedule. So, lots of this:

And lots of this: 

Ramona is doing horseback riding and Atticus is on chauffeur duty for that, so, that's helpful.

Ramona at age 3, about (GASP) -- 9 years ago.) 

Ramona's adjusting to piano lessons with a new teacher. She loved her old teacher but she also loves her new one, who is a dear friend of mine and of our whole family. It's all good, just new and different, and and change is funny, even when it's good change, right?

The piano never changes. 

Speaking of change, I may not be able to change up anything in my dining room (between the piano and the table, there isn't much room) but I can change up the artwork: 

There's the new artwork! 

Some of it is from Betsy's "Art for Elementary Ed Majors" class last semester: We were guinea pigs for her Van Gogh-inspired collage project, and her best friend, who took the same class, taught the Eric Carle-inspired lesson (note the pink cat.) 

And second from the bottom, in the center, is Ramona's Minecraft-inspired art. I think it's a Creeper? 

One of Ramona's self-appointed summer projects is to clean up and organize her art area:

One advantage to being the youngest (and being six years behind the next-oldest sibling) is that one gets one's very own art area. When Anne and Betsy were younger, the "art area" was the kitchen table, the living room, the backyard....

Other summer stuff to fit in and work around: Anne is still working for the college as a biology tutor, Betsy will be Ramona's main chauffeur to the pool and water park (thank you, Betsy!) and we'll be visiting out of town family at some point. Ramona might do a couple of theater camps, and there are lots of fun things scheduled through our library and the parks commission, like family nature nights. There are sleepovers to plan, read-alouds to complete ...  I figure that just about the time we get the summer routine down, it will be time for everyone to head off to school. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


(From a few years back, which explains why Atticus isn't really out buying donuts at 11 p.m., and why it isn't really Poetry Friday today. But the explanation of mini-retirement is still accurate. I love you, Atticus!)

Summer with Atticus goes something like this:

1. We experience a period of what my friend Sally calls "mini retirement." Sally's married to a teacher. She knows what it's like to suddenly have her husband around the house more often than usual. And how it feels to be extremely grateful for the privilege while simultaneously struggling to reorder a routine. She knows what it's like to tell herself to just shut up about where he tends to leave the salt shaker.

2. Adjustment period ends quickly. Everyone is happy.  Who cares where the salt shaker is?

3. Atticus takes over meal planning and cooking for a couple of months.

4. If I were the kind of person who jumps up and down and claps, I would do so at this point. You know how I feel about cooking. I'm figuratively jumping up and down right now.

5. Atticus is, at this very moment, out buying donuts from the new donut shop in town for the girls.  They've been wanting to try it. I keep saying, "Oh, yeah.  We need to do that. We'll get there soon ...." whereas Atticus actually goes out and buys the donuts.

6. He selects this moving piece from Robert Frost for Poetry Friday:

Two Look at Two
by Robert Frost

Love and forgetting might have carried them
A little further up the mountain side
With night so near, but not much further up.
They must have halted soon in any case
With thoughts of a path back, how rough it was
With rock and washout, and unsafe in darkness;
When they were halted by a tumbled wall
With barbed-wire binding. They stood facing this,
Spending what onward impulse they still had
In One last look the way they must not go,
On up the failing path, where, if a stone
Or earthslide moved at night, it moved itself;
No footstep moved it. 'This is all,' they sighed,
Good-night to woods.' But not so; there was more.
A doe from round a spruce stood looking at them
Across the wall, as near the wall as they.
She saw them in their field, they her in hers.
The difficulty of seeing what stood still,
Like some up-ended boulder split in two,
Was in her clouded eyes; they saw no fear there.
She seemed to think that two thus they were safe.

(Read the whole poem here.)

I do love Robert Frost (as evidenced by the number of times he's been invited over for Poetry Friday.) 

I do love summer.

And I do truly, madly, deeply love that man I call Atticus.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Poetry Friday: Wonder and Joy by Robinson Jeffers

Wonder and joy speak for themselves. 

Happy Poetry Friday! 
You can find the round up at Reflections on the Teche.

The things that one grows tired of—O, be sure
They are only foolish artificial things!
Can a bird ever tire of having wings?
And I, so long as life and sense endure,
(Or brief be they!) shall nevermore inure
My heart to the recurrence of the springs,
Of gray dawns, the gracious evenings,
The infinite wheeling stars. A wonder pure
Must ever well within me to behold
Venus decline; or great Orion, whose belt
Is studded with three nails of burning gold,
Ascend the winter heaven. Who never felt
This wondering joy may yet be good or great:
But envy him not: he is not fortunate.


*"Wonder and Joy" is in the public domain. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

From Non-Cheesestick-Eating-Princess to Prankster

My first real post about Ramona (ten years ago -- really?) was this:

What a Princess Eats
Our three-year-old, affectionately known as Ramona around here, was trying on princess dress-up clothes this morning. I interrupted, in that irritating way mothers do, to ask if she would like some string cheese (aka "cheese sticks" in RamonaSpeak.)
"No," said Ramona. "Princesses don't eat cheese sticks. Princesses only eat brownies. Did you know that?"
I didn't know that. Hmmm . . . there happens to be a pan of brownies sitting on our stove top at this very moment. Coincidence? Or Divine Providence? Perhaps just a princess's sovereign right.

Now, Ramona Tweets and Facebook posts go something like this:

Ramona entered an auto-correct shortcut on her sister's iPod touch. Now when Betsy types NO it auto-corrects to VELOCIRAPTOR.


I have to admit that I'm equally amused by three-year-old Ramona and the almost-a-teenager version. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bits and Pieces of Our Days: The My-Laptop-May-Have-Died Edition (With Other Stuff That's Much Cheerier)

Photo courtesy of

This post is brought to you courtesy of the old, old, old laptop that belongs to Atticus. Where's mine, you ask? I'm glad you're feeling inquisitive as I am ready to complain. You see, I tried to update the operating system on mine, and apparently this was a near-fatal decision. We'll know soon, but for now I am just extravagantly grateful for the fact that I obsessively back up my work when I'm writing a book. So ... Whew!

And, dear friends and readers, please remind me to never, ever, ever, NEVER EVER do anything that could even remotely be described as tech-y when I am working on a manuscript. Thank you. 


I'm done obsessing over Mad Men and the series finale. Really. I think. I never did get that post written, but partly because I'm mulling over the idea that some of my thoughts could go into this book I'm writing. Soooo ... best to keep mulling for now. Stop obsessing. Keep mulling. That's the ticket.


Ramona has been baking and she has mastered my chocolate chip cookie recipe. No wonder I haven't been hungry for real food the last couple of days. Too. Many. Delicious. Cookies. Sitting. Around. 


The VanWonderful VanDerwater (that's Amy Ludwig VanDerwater) is running a summer edition of Sharing Our Notebooks, and she's inviting readers to share ideas. I love this!

This post explains the idea.

And here's the idea that Ramona and I contributed: Make Your Own Notebook

Ramona's Homemade Notebook