On an honest homeschool discussion (i.e. rant)…

My husband and I had an honest discussion about the state of our homeschool.

Here’s the gist of how my side of the conversation went. Please note that these are all thoughts that I have had over the last few months, moving out of the eighth year of homeschooling my children.  These thoughts also follow on the heel of getting test results back on the yearly test that I get my kids to take.  And though I think standardized tests are stupid, I somehow manage to put weight in the results anyway.  Ok, here’s kind of how my side of this went.  Also note that I was crying through most of this.

“I just feel like you’re disappointed in me, in the way that our children have turned out.  That it’s all my fault that B can’t read well, or spell well, or write sentences with punctuation.  And I worry about it, too.  I worry that I’ve messed up and that you blame me and that it’s all my fault that I’ve gotten it all wrong.  Thinking about my kids and homeschooling brings up all these things that I loath in myself.  My need for alone time and how I am not crafty or artsy and that I’m an inconsistent, undisciplined, lazy person, and always have been!  I get these end of the year test results and I think I HAVE FAILED.  I HAVE FAILED MY CHILDREN.  I know they are smart, so smart.  And imaginative.  And happy.  But they spend too much time in front of screens.  I know this.  And I feel powerless in many ways to stop them because I’M ON MY SCREEN, TOO.

And I war within myself with how I really feel about SCHOOL.  Like as a concept.  Especially when they are under the age of 9.  Our kids have been read to since they were born.  We read “To Kill a Mockingbird” out loud for goodness sake!  I find it hard to believe that these children won’t grow up and learn for themselves what they need to know when they need to know it.  They have the basics.  They can read.  Well, J can’t but he can take numbers apart and put them back together in ways that surprise me.

But they think big thoughts.  And we have time to talk to them about that stuff because we aren’t yelling at them in the morning to get ready for school and in the evening to FINISH THEIR HOME WORK.  Because it’s all homework and there’s tomorrow.  And I’m the teacher and I’m giving them an extension.  And no one’s going to fire me if their test results aren’t improving.

And I work too much.  Or rather, if I didn’t work as much as I do (or not at all) then our school days would be more consistent and there might be more science experiments and art projects.  But we are comfortable with the amount I’m working and we still are able to go on long field trips and camping trips and visit the High and go to Washington, D.C.

And I can’t put them in school.  I think about it and I just can’t.  This is the life we’ve chosen for them and for us, and as much as there are days when I question every decision, there are days when I listen to other moms talk about school and bullies and drugs and teachers who don’t care and stress over meaningless tests and I think…WE MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE.”

(I don’t think I actually said all this, but I said some of it.  And Mac listened to my rant.  And I did let him speak…a little.)

I don’t know that I solved any of what I was feeling.  I still question my choices and my ability to do a good job at this.  But I also do love my life and trust my boys to take what we have given them, which I hope is a love of learning, the tools to find out what they need to know when they need to know it, and the space to let their imaginations thrive (oh and reading and math…we made sure they could do reading and math) and move forward into their lives with all the hope in the world.



On staying Catholic…

Why do I remain Catholic?

This is such a weird question to me. Like asking me why I stay married. “Well,” I would say to nosy hypothetical person, “Why wouldn’t I? I made a vow.”

And I did, to the Catholic Church. The big, old, behemoth that often has members who make STUPID decisions. Stupid decisions that lead to people being hurt, damaged, forever.  Did any of those sinful decisions alter the foundations of the church that I am a part of?  Does any sin change the TRUTH of the gospel?  How strong is my faith?  Can it weather the storm?  Do I believe the Lord’s words, “Upon this rock I will build my kingdom and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”?

Here are the answers:

No.  Those decisions did NOT alter the Catholic Church.  The catechism did not get rewritten.  Institutions do not fail people…people fail people.  Bishops and priests and nuns and parents failed children.  They did.  But bishops and priests are not the Rock of my faith.

No.  Sin does not change the truth of the gospel.  The gospel is love overcoming sin and death.

My faith has not been altered by these scandals.  I was baptized as an infant.  I, with my dad’s encouragement, prayed for Jesus to come in to my heart at the age of 7.  I was confirmed in the Methodist Church at the age of 12.  I was moved by the Holy Spirit at church camp.  I was confirmed in the Catholic Church Easter Sunday 2000.  My mother praised God through death and cancer.  As did her mother and my father’s mother.  This legacy of faith was my foundation, my rock.  And now this is my faith.  The anchor holds.

Yes, unequivocally yes.  I believe the Lord’s word.  These scandals are the “gates of hell.”  When we let sin and vice run our lives, when we stop going to confession, when we stop being TRULY sorry for the sins that we have committed, then we bring the gates of hell with us through life.  These scandals should bring us to our knees to pray for protection for children.  Pray for wisdom for bishops and priests.  Pray for courage to stand up when those who benefit from silence would have us sit down.

The Rock has not changed.  “But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6 KJV)  Jesus charged us with protection of children long ago.  That has not changed.  The devil got in.  It’s what he does.  He is a roaring lion seeking to “kill, steal and destroy.”  And, oh, he roared over this one.

But he will not prevail.  His end is written.

So I remain.  Without reserve.  To fail.  To fight.  To run the race.  This is my Church.


On Stitch Fix #1: June 2015…

I’m nervous about posting this because this will be quite a departure from my normal post. I am reviewing something. I’m doing this for two reasons. One…I think it’s a cool idea.  Not my reviewing something, but this start-up, Stitch Fix is innovative. And also, because if you have similar feelings then perhaps you will grab my link and I’ll get a little referral fee. I’ll explain more later. But first the review.

I was ridiculously excited to get this little box in the mail. As others who have reviewed this service have said, there’s a surprise in every box, chosen for you by someone who may know your taste better than anyone else, because you made a Pinterest board just for them.

The way these reviews work, if you don’t know, is that the reviewer takes pictures of herself in each item and then says a little about the item. What’s kind of cool is that you can post a link of your review to the stylist and then they can know what you liked and didn’t like. A little conversation online between stylist and subject. So, the rest of this post is all for Christina, wherever she may be.  Special thanks to my hubby, who willingly got up from playing his video game in-between my costume changes to take these pictures.

#1: PAPERMOON Shea Striped French Terry Dress


When I first put this on, I was not keeping it.  This dress is not the most flattering shape on me. And I think it’s a little big. But only slightly so that the next size down might be too small (Christina actually knows my MEASUREMENTS…guard them with your life, Christina!)  The waist is elastic, so it holds on without being uncomfortable.  I do wish that the tie in the front was a belt.  It would be nice to be able to add a belt just for some contrast.  The tie in the front is just there as decoration.  It doesn’t come off nor does it make the waist tighter.

But as I wore it it I realized, that this is one of those dresses that I could live in all summer. It’s light-weight, cool, can be a runaround town dress or a pool cover up. I love it…except for the horizontal stripes, Christina. I really don’t like horizontal stripes.

#2: EVERLY Nadia Dress


Love the color on this dress. It’s actually just right for me in the summer. The fabric reminds me of my grandmother’s closet. That’s not a bad thing.  Mac, my husband, likes it and it’s different from some other dresses I have in my closet. I think that this will work as a Sunday dress throughout the summer.

#3: PIXLEY Brook Dot Print Tie-Waist Top


Hard to tell from the picture, but this is a pretty sheer top. I don’t have anything like this in my closet. I don’t have ANY polka dots in my closet. So this is a departure for me. Christina, you said you put this in instead of a white tunic top. I do like it. It’s nice and light for summer.

#4: COLLECTIVE CONCEPTS Dustin Mixed Material Top


When I first pulled this out, I didn’t think I would like it. The colors are similar to dresses that I pinned. I love navy and white. But the pattern is horizontal and the shoulders give a more boxy appearance. But when I put it on with the white skinny jeans and navy sandals, Mac said “I like it.” Unequivocally. I think this top can move from summer to fall pretty easily with jeans or navy dress pants. I should have taken a picture of the back…it’s solid white with a zipper at the neckline. Again, not something that I would normally choose, but I see you, Christina, as someone who is broadening my clothing horizons.

#5: URBAN EXPRESSIONS Caroline Hobo Bag


I’m on the fence about this one, as well. I did post some pics on the Pinterest board of bags. I am trying to expand my accessories. Maybe even do a little bag swapping through the season instead of picking one and staying with that for 6 months or more (or until I wear them out). This is a nice bag. It looks fancier than what I usually buy.

So, there you go Christina.

Stitch Fix is a personal styling service in which you go to the website and create a style profile.  There is a questionnaire asking about elements of style that you like or don’t like.  You can link to a Pinterest board of styles you are interested in.  You can even leave personal notes for your stylist.  For instance, I included some of my favorite colors and my measurements.  Once you get all that info in, you go onto a list and your “FIX” is scheduled.  There is a $20 styling fee which will be applied to anything you purchase.  You will receive 5 items in each box and you can keep all or none.  If you keep all five items, you get a 25% discount on everything.  Boxes are scheduled to your desire, as often as you like.  From other reviews that I have read, the customer service is pretty great.  If you have a problem with your stylist or damage to clothing, they are good about rectifying those things.

If you, the reader, decide to try out the service, this link does allow me to get a $25 credit.  Which is nice for me, I admit.  Just in case you were wondering, the prices in this fix ranged from $40-$70.


UPDATE:  I ended up keeping only the pieces I wasn’t undecided about.

On my war with myself…


Father Robert Barron posted an article which had Bruce Jenner in the title. That name is kind of everywhere right now.  And so I clicked on the link because Fr. Barron (no relation, by the way) usually has something very insightful to say.  He did not disappoint.

But what he had to say struck me in a different way than I thought it would.  It made me want to point a finger, not at Bruce Jenner and the upside-down world we live in, but at myself.  At my own war with my body.  A war that has been going on for the better part of my life.

This is not a post where I say I should give it up and let it go.  Stop trying to be healthier.  Stop wearing makeup.  Stop taking showers.  Nothing like that.  Rather, it is a reminder that God made me.  All of me.  My smile and my hair and my Howard legs and my nose.  I say all of these parts, because they are all parts that I look in the mirror or at pictures of myself and see and criticize.  Over and over again.  And GOD MADE ME.  And this creation that we are all a part of is GOOD.  He looked at the world that he made and said “IT IS GOOD.”  And my body, which is ME, not separate from me, is GOOD.

I live, we live, in a fallen world.  So, I am aging.  My knees hurt sometimes.  Parts sag. Wrinkles deepen.  But, GOD MADE ME.  I have to learn to work WITH, not AGAINST, my very self. As Fr. Barron says, “Moreover, the mind or will is not the “true self” standing over and against the body; rather, the body, with its distinctive form, intelligibility, and finality, is an essential constituent of the true self.”  My body is myself.  And lest I seem like this is strictly about ME, there is another step.  When we give ourselves a break in the body department, when we learn to love ourselves with our flaws because we are made by GOD, then we tend to be able to love others more fully, because we see that GOD MADE THEM TOO.  ALL of them.  Even their physical flaws, which are the most obvious to us, and sometimes the hardest to look past.

So…challenge.  Especially for women.  Look in the mirror.  That person that you see…God made them.  And those parts that you criticize…he made those, too.  So, there you are.  Look and say, Thank You to the God that made you.  I will endeavor to do the same.

On CNMC 2015…

Sitting in the hotel lobby after lunch.  Just needed some time to process some of the amazing things that I’ve heard in the first few hours of the Catholic New Media Conference in Atlanta.  (Ok, I’m also here in the lobby because someone, I’m not gonna say who, but he’s tall and goofy looking and I’m married to him, needed a nap and I thought I did, but I really didn’t.)

First, Maria Johnson, author of Maria’s drink (that’s a Mojito for the uninitiated) is the reason I’m writing this.  Because she talked about blogging.  And I have a blog.  And I don’t blog enough.  Or rather, I don’t blog consistently.  Or with intentionality.  Which is how she said we SHOULD blog.  Who am I?  Why am I blogging?  What do I have to say?

Another thing that she reminded us is that those we come in contact with on social media and through our blogs and podcasts, are real people.  We haven’t meet them yet, but they have hopes and dreams and lives.  The way we treat others on social media is just as important as the way we treat those next to us.  For some, it is may be their only connection to the Catholic world.  We have to be mindful of that.

Second, Greg Willits, bringing some truthiness.  Podcasting and blogging and this whole “digital revolution” that has occurred over the last 10-15 years has made it possible for us to create and connect in ways that we never could have dreamed.  We have a community of friends that spans the globe. How do we tap in to that effectively? What talents can we use for the Church? His keynote was a wonderful opener to remind us that we should be doing what we are doing – WELL. He has made his talk available for free if you would like to hear it.

Some cool things have come from the CNMC. This is the fourth of these conferences that Mac and I have attended and they are always so energizing. As I finish up this post, three weeks have gone by. I certainly do not feel the excitement that I was feeling as I began the post, but many conversations have occurred since June 7th both with other podcasters and bloggers, as well as between Mac and I, about how we see our presence in the digital world changing. What personal goals do I have? What collaborations would I like to get involved with? Am I brave enough to ASK someone to collaborate with me? Am I prepared for rejection?

Moving forward with new goals requires vision. It requires determination. It requires a sincere knowledge that I may be knocked down, but also an expectation of success. I’m excited about how the next year will look. I’m excited to see where some new goals will take me.

On Mother’s Day…

So, Mother’s Day holds mixed feelings for me these days. As my child would say, “It’s complicated.”

On May 9th, 1997, my parents left town for the weekend to get away from life for a bit. They traveled down to St. Simons Island and left me in charge. I was 20 years old. My five siblings were all younger, 18, 15, 12, 11 and 5. My 18 year old brother, Wilder, was headed to the prom that Friday. He came by the house before he and his friends left, full of excitement and swagger, ready for the fun ahead.

The next morning he came by again to drop off his tux, so I could return it for him. He said good-bye as he left for the beach at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Just another prom beach trip. Sometime late that night (or early in the morning), the phone woke me. Croaking a bit, I answered.


“Is Mr. Henry Smith available?”

“Huh?” I asked, not really awake.

“Is Mr. Henry Smith there?”

“Who is this?”

Then another voice came on the line, one I recognized.

“Katherine, this is Anna Kate. This nurse needs to talk to you.”


The first voice spoke again. “This is a nurse at Hilton Head hospital. Can you get in touch with your parents?”

After getting off the phone, I woke one of my sisters.

“Some hospital just called and said that Wilder’s on a ventilator. Should I call mom and dad?”

I was now realizing that it was four o’clock in the morning, but I still wasn’t getting that what was happening was bad. Very bad.

“Yea. I think you should call them,” Barbara Jean said.

This was before everyone had cell phones. My parents were staying at a retreat center and could only be reached after going through a night guard. I got my dad on the line and gave him the number of the hospital.

Not long after that, my dad called back.

“Call all the aunts and uncles,” he said. “It’s bad. Mom and I are headed to Hilton Head.”

About an hour later we were all up. My Aunt Ginny, who lived next door and whose daughter, Anna Kate, was the same age as Wilder and was at Hilton Head with him, came over to ask if we were going to the hospital.

“We weren’t. Do you think we should?”

“I do.”

So we went. And Wilder was on a ventilator. He was very sick. At the time, we weren’t really sure what had happened. We know now that he had an asthma attack. An asthma attack. One of those “situations” that Wilder had been having forever. Something that was dealt with by sucking on an inhaler, or getting a shot. Not something that could do this.

My parents made the decision to move him to a bigger hospital closer to home. A helicopter came and got him. We got on the road to make the 3 hour drive to Augusta, Georgia.

My sister BJ, my cousin Richard and I were in my car. We got to the hospital before my parents and other two sisters. We walked into the waiting room of the ER at the Medical College of Georgia, the three of us, and saw my Uncle Mason walking towards us. He was shaking his head.

And I knew.

Wilder hadn’t made it. He died in the air.

It was May 11th, 1997. Mother’s Day.

So Mother’s Day after that was bitter. For my mom. Her own mom died in 1985. And now, Mother’s Day was a reminder that as a mother, she was incomplete. It was the anniversary of the day one of her children left before she did.

And now, she’s gone too. Taken too soon by breast cancer in 2012.

It’s Mother’s Day. And my mother is gone. But that doesn’t make me sad. Mother’s Day, 2012, was the first of these Sundays in 15 years that my mother didn’t have to be sad on Mother’s Day. For the first time since the day my brother never came down from the air, she was with him.

On baking…

In the kitchen, baking a cake, I found my mother.

She was there as I turned on the mixer, the whir of the KitchenAid blade beating the Crisco and butter together.  I heard her voice as I cracked the eggs one at a time into a glass, to be poured into the mixing bowl after checking for shells.  I saw her hands leveling the flour, measuring the salt and baking soda, turning the crank on the sifter.  I felt her near me as I prepared the pan with a paper towel, Crisco and flour.

Again she was there, when I beat the buttercream icing to soft white peaks, when I spread the icing onto the sheet cake in the smooth back-and-forth rhythms I learned just watching her countless times, and as I screwed the icing tip on the bag.  As I made figure eight’s on my son’s hand, I felt again the smooth texture of sweetness, of gift.

And as my son looks at his completed cake that is mixed, baked, iced and decorated by hand, I think, even though she’s gone, even though he will barely remember her, this cake and the many that will come after it, are gifts from her.  As surely as if she made it herself.

Because she was with me in the kitchen today, and I was so happy to find her there.

On Mother-Baby connections…

I read this article a few days ago doing my usual morning net surf. Started this post then, but wasn’t sure where to go with it.

Then yesterday, I had this little moment with Jude.  Jude is my youngest child and will turn five in a week.  Five.  When he was born, in my mind I saw him as a middle child of five kids.  I figured I would have at least two more babies before I turned 40 and then Mac and I would have to work hard at natural family planning in order to enjoy those retirement years in peace.  Haha, right?

Jude became the youngest of four when we brought Tristan into our lives.  Then last summer, after 4 years, we found out we were pregnant again.  I was thrilled.  A little worried as well, because we have come to rely on my salary more than we should and taking time off for a baby would be hard, but we had 8 months to save money and be ready.  Only five weeks into the pregnancy, however, I miscarried.

Walking to work yesterday, I thought about my youngest son who has gotten so big.  And then my thoughts turned to the baby that we lost.  He would be a few weeks old now.  I was profoundly sad at never getting to know him and at the idea that my body may be done having babies.

Then I thought about the article.  About how that little baby is still with me.  In my MARROW.  The idea takes the phrase “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone” to a whole new level.  Each baby that I have is with me still.  The thought made me wonder at the world we live in – how little we understand it – how amazing our bodies and our connections to each other are.


On turning around…

I left my house today to walk to work.  I do this often.  Usually I say good-bye to every one in the house, but today I only said my good-byes to those who were downstairs.  No big deal.  A common occurence.

I had gotten about a hundred yards down the sidewalk when I heard my name being called.  I turned around to see Jude, my 4 year old, and Mac standing in the yard.  I waved. Jude took off running towards me.  He reached me, gave me a huge hug, said “I love you, Mommy” and “good-bye”, turned and ran back to his daddy. 

Just a little moment.  But my boy, smile lighting up his face, legs pumping away – that image took me all the way to work. 

On my screen porch…

Photo on 2-23-14 at 11.40 AM

Those of you who have known me for a while know how much I love my screen porch. When my husband and I were shown our house for the first time (it wasn’t our house then), we looked all through the place, loving the curved archways and picture molding. We decided to buy it that day. (the price was pretty amazing, too) A few weeks later we were back in town to meet a contractor to inspect the house, when we finally went out on the porch. It was huge! Built with brick as part of the house, with more arches and a tiled floor, we could not believe our luck. The wood and screens needed replacing, but Mac loves summer projects and he did the work himself.

Each spring, I come out and throw away the old plants, dust off the furniture, wipe down the tables and mop the floor. I fill my bird feeders hanging in the dogwood tree and in the mornings…sit. Sometimes we play board games out here. Sometimes we do homeschool out here. We’ve been known to eat lunch, nap and read (or even watch movies).

Last weekend after our second crazy ice storm of the winter, we had a week of 70 degree days. Sunny, warm…I needed my porch. So I spent a whole afternoon cleaning and dusting and pouring and wiping and now…sitting.

Just a moment ago I saw my first cardinal of the (almost) spring. His brilliant red feathers and beak were even more beautiful set against the bare branches and gray sky. Yea…I love my porch.