Florence: A Hike Before Sunrise and 7 Quick Takes on Finding Quality Time

“Quality time is found in the midst of quantity time”

~Deacon Randolph~


When thinking back on our trip to Florence, there is one memory that brings home the truth about quality time:  it’s often found in the more ordinary moments and it can happen anywhere, at anytime, and it is the glue that holds family together.

Sure —  we were in Florence — and that isn’t an everyday occurrence for our family.  But the memory that I am thinking about started off in a way that many family memories start out:  a little conversation between husband and wife.  We knew we hadn’t slept much since the beginning of our trip and Florence had been packed with so much activity, including an amazing time at the Accademia Museum, that we would miss the lovely Piazzale Michelangelo unless we sacrificed precious sleep to get there.  We both agreed that it would be worth waking everybody up before sunrise, walking through the quiet streets of Florence, and hiking to the top in order to see the amazing views of Florence at first light.

getting close...
getting close…


Sunrise over Florence
We made it just as the sun began to rise over Florence


The bells were ringing throughout the city, waking people to the glorious sunrise.
Worth the price of losing some sleep!

So that’s what we did. And it was beautiful and well worth losing a little sleep. But as we heard the bells of the churches ring out throughout the city and watched an amazing sunrise, I thought that this was the moment – the highlight of this day.  It had all the components –being outdoors–beautiful sunrise–quiet streets–bells ringing–together as a family in Florence.  What could top that?

I’ll tell you what could top that:  our seemingly ordinary walk back down the hill.  We took our family photos and began our walk down the hill so we could make it to Mass at the Duomo.  As I walked down the hill, looking at all my children walking before me, I grabbed John’s hand and thought “this love we have has brought these amazing children into the world.  how blessed are we?” …and as John looked towards me and I was about to share my thoughts with him…I saw out of the corner of my eye, a disaster about to happen.  And instead of speaking beautiful words of love, I screamed  “Stop!  Stop! Ssstoopp!”  Poor John, he was expecting this to be a lovely moment and here I was screaming in his face –but it was for good reason.

My incredibly enthusiastic (and sometimes impulsive) 11 year old saw what looked to her to be a lovely soft patch of beautiful green grass and she thought it would be wonderful to lay on top of it for a quick rest after all our trekking.

Granted, this was the "after" picture, so if you saw this lovely patch of green maybe you'd want to jump on it too.
Granted, this was the “after” picture, so if you saw this lovely patch of green without the water maybe you’d want to take a nap on it too.

And she literally disappeared under the green sludge.  You couldn’t see one bit of her!  John jumped into action to save his girl from the green sludgy depths of death  — which proves he’s a far better parent than I am  because I was wondering if my 11 year old would die before I had the chance to say “You know its important to reflect on the consequences of your actions before you act”.  —  Yeah, it’s hard as a mother to stop mothering sometimes 🙁 .  But before I could mourn her loss, she  jumped back to the surface and John pulled her out– camera and all –and she looked like this:

Phew! She's okay!
Phew! She’s okay!

And we all began to laugh — you know those deep-down belly laughs –the ones where you are laughing so hard that you begin to cry?–the ones where you lose all composure –perhaps the ones that are are dangerous for a woman who has had six kids for reasons that will remain nameless?–yeah, those kind of laughs happened for everybody –including our 11 year old.  The germ-conscious part of me wondered for a moment what was in that bright green sludge -but no time to dwell on that.

And thank goodness for all the fountains in Florence, because right across the way was a fountain and John moved to action to remove the sludge from his poor, green-faced daughter.

Okay, I'm thinking Mary provided this lovely fountain so we could manage to get Mass
Thank you Lord, for providing lovely fountains, from which to bathe.

We dried her off with a blanket, wrapped my scarf around her, and we all literally laughed the whole way to Mass.  She was such a good sport about the whole thing, and a quick stop after Mass for some lovely Italian pastries made it all better for her.

This was the lovely view as I looked up to God and had a good laugh with him at Mass
This was the view as I looked up to the heavens and had a good laugh with God at Mass.

So this brings me to my point about quality time:  it really isn’t one of those things you can plan — it just happens in the midst of spending time together.  Really this same moment could have happened in any sludgy pool, in any city in America.  And yes, Florence was amazing — but more amazing is just living life as a family and the craziness that inevitably comes when you spend time with your family.

So, this leads me to my 7 Quick Takes for finding quality time in the midst of your busy family life:

1.Just spend time together.- This one might be pretty obvious, but the more effort you put into just spending time with your family, the closer you will grow as a family.  You don’t need to make a big production about it.  Just know that as long as you are trying to be present to each other, it will strengthen your relationship as a family.

2.  It is often in the looking back that we really gain appreciation for just  how epic ordinary family life can be.- This one is important.  Believe me, some of our greatest memories didn’t start off as “great” moments.  In fact, some of the most chaotic moments –the one’s I was really not enjoying at the time — have become some of the greatest sources of laughter for our entire family.  For me, taking time to pray, reading about other people trying to live this life, or just sharing with others is so helpful in gaining perspective on this crazy life we’re trying to live.

3.  Every once in a while, plan something that is a low key, fun event with your family.  Look for ways to get everybody out of the house and doing something together.  This could mean just playing cards on a deck,  soccer in your yard, or taking a bike ride.  And hey, if that bike ride or game is followed by ice cream — guaranteed it will rank high with the kids (and the adults too)!

4. Irritating moments are to family life what a grain of sand is to the pearl oyster.  Oh boy, what an analogy!  Let me explain.  So in order to make a pearl, there has to be a grain of sand that gets into the oyster and irritates it.  The oyster then secretes a beautiful incandescent liquid and, in time, it becomes a beautiful pearl.  Okay, so what if the most irritating and chaotic moments of our own lives can become the pearls of our family memories?  In my own life, the disastrous days have become part of the legends we will tell for years to come.  Embrace those awful moments, because, I can guarantee that the more frustrating they are, the greater the laughter later on.

5.  Examine what your family commitments are and be ready to cut some out.  Yes, this is the pot calling the kettle black, and I struggle with this one –big time!  We have to remember that if we’re so busy that we can’t find time for each other every day, we’re just too busy and we need to let some things go.

6.  Try to get away as a family at least once a  year.  This one might be a hard one for some families to pull off because maybe the budget is pretty tight or there’s so much going on that  you can’t find a time that works for everybody’s schedule.   As far as the money goes, it doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s not so much where you go as just having time together as a family in someplace that isn’t full of all the distractions that you will find in your own home.  And if it’s more of a question of time off from your busy schedule, well READ #5 AGAIN.

7. Say the Rosary as a family.  I know, I know what you may be thinking.  You might be thinking that I must have 6 little cherubs line up each night — on their knees — deep in contemplation — and then we follow up with more prayers and a spiritual reading or two before bed? If this is what you’re envisioning — You.Are.Dead.Wrong!

It’s probably been about 15 years since we began a nightly rosary as a family.  And even now, there are fights over who is going to sit where and who is touching who and sometimes even I say the entire Rosary and have no idea what mysteries we were supposed to be contemplating that night — no idea!  So, get that perfect vision out of your head of how the rosary is supposed to look.  Maybe your family is a bunch of contemplative cherubs, and that’s great! Or maybe your family descended from celtic warriors (yep, that’s us!) and you find it very hard not to punch somebody in close proximity to you.  Either way, our general attitude is Just Show Up!

Everybody has to show up for the family rosary, but beyond that, there are no set rules.  If you feel like kneeling, then kneel, but we don’t require anybody to kneel.  If our 4 year old falls asleep at the 3rd decade, all the better –it’s one night where we don’t have to convince her she’s exhausted!  I can only say that nobody ever fights us on doing the Rosary anymore.  It used to be a daily argument from the older ones –but now, they are the first ones to join in and they even remind us every once in a while when we forget!  Change doesn’t happen overnight, but slowly the Rosary changes your family dynamic.  Slowly, you will see peace descend upon your family, and slowly you will realize that many of those amazing, joyful moments in your family were orchestrated by Mary who sees the little details — the little needs — the little opportunities –and delivers them to us.

I know that for 6 months we offered one decade of the Rosary for our pilgrimage to Italy.  I can tell you that it was one of the most joy-filled trips we have ever taken as a family –and one of the most challenging too –and I know in my heart that Mary took care of all those little details — even our 11 year old surviving her jump in the sludge –and all the laughter that followed.

So let’s go out this weekend and make some memories with our family -no pressure- just spend some time together!

Don’t forget to visit Kelly and the other 7 Quick Takes link-ups.

Thanks for visiting!


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4 thoughts on “Florence: A Hike Before Sunrise and 7 Quick Takes on Finding Quality Time

    1. Christina,
      So happy you liked it! By the way, I recently found your blog and I love it! You are my kind of writer! 🙂

    1. Hey Alicia!
      Yes, I really hope we never forget it because we still laugh about it whenever we bring it up! Happy Weekend!

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