Our first “MFMP” trip is in the books. A Mother/daughter art “treasure hunt” in Italy.

What is that, you may ask? Well, I have talked about our “MFME” mother/daughter gatherings in the past. MFME stands for “Mothers and Future Mothers of Eyrealm.” My mother wrangles us all, sisters and sisters-in-laws, and we do something together. Whether it is a quick gathering for dinner at the end of a reunion like we did this year or whether it is traveling together to a foreign country, or anything and everything in between, we cherish any time we can be together. We talk about motherhood and buoy each other up. There’s lots of talk about life and how we feel about it. We get the chance to dig down into how we can help each other. And that time we have spent together over the years is so precious.

So this year, now that my own girls are almost all adults, I decided it was high time we start our own mother/daughter trips. So let’s talk about how our first “MFMP” (Mothers and Future Mothers of Pothierealm…ha!) trip went down.

The first mother/daughter trip

But first we have to back up to the beginning. Twenty-five years ago which was I think probably the first-ever MFME gathering. My little brown-eyed baby Max had just had his first birthday and I was a couple months away from giving birth to Elle. There were no sister-in-laws yet, but my brother was finishing his service as a missionary in London and the whole family was going to get to go pick him up. My mom had the brilliant idea to take the girls on a special pre-London trip to Italy. And that puppy went down in history to set the trend for many more mother/daughter-eventually-called-MFME-trips.

Not only did we get to visit famous works of art that were so dear to my pretty-freshly-studied art history in college…

…but someone had the brilliant idea to wear matching overalls as we traipsed all over Rome:

And who wouldn’t want that??


Oh those were the days!

A Joint Love of Art History

Anyway, like I said, I adored exploring that art with my mom and sisters. There is something deep inside each one of us that draws us to art. We all love it. I’m sure it has to do with our art-loving mother (who is now passing on her art love to her grandchildren at “Grammie Camp” each summer). As we explored Florence and Rome, I was overcome with familiarity and love for the paintings, architecture styles, and sculptures I had studied and written papers about in my classes during my freshman year at Boston University.

So, fast forward to seven or so years ago when I hatched the idea that I’d love do do this trip with my own girls. Elle was heading to college and wondering which classes to take. I told her art history was my favorite (at one point I thought maybe I would major in art history), and encouraged her to try an art history class for size. Then as each of my other girls entered college I encouraged them the same. Take art history!

And they did.

Somehow I wrapped up this idea that if they all took art history classes we may just have to go check out the real-deal art in Italy like I did with my mom and sisters.

Making the trip a reality

This summer, since Claire would be finishing her study abroad in London and heading out shortly after on her mission, we all decided this might be the little window in time to make this art history MFMP trip happen.

Oh how I wish we could have taken Max, Abby and Lu as well. And Dave of course! And at first I really did try. But as we know, Abby and Max have a special new little charge in their midst, Lucy couldn’t miss school, nor was she too excited about all the places we’d be run/walking. And Dave fully respected the idea of a girls’ art history trip (he hadn’t taken the art history classes to merit his being there, after all.)

So it was down to the four of us.

We figured out the dates, found a wing-dinger of a deal on flights to London and back from Rome, and let the planning begin.

Letting the girls do the planning

I put each girl in charge of one section of the trip. Claire, of course, was in charge of London since we would be picking her up there. Elle would take us around Florence. I was in charge of the Almalfi Coast (not an art history stop, but hey, you gotta work in a stop to all that beauty if you possibly can!). And Grace was in charge of Rome.

That being said, there was a LOT of planning going on from the mother. Yow. I feel like this trip has been rumbling around in my brain and heart for so long! So many logistics to figure out and options to narrow down. So many things to see crammed into not all that much time. But Oh! That “glistening whole” we get to look back on makes it so worth all the stress and worry.

Part of the planning and preparation included listening to The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone.

Yes, that really does say “2.25x” speed up there…I was sure trying to hustle through that almost 34-hour book in the end!

I had read it in my book club back in Virginia so many years ago and decided it was time to re-read that puppy. Oh my goodness it is so chock-full of so much to learn about Michelangelo and the political/historical scene around his life. Also his journey to become such an incredible sculptor, painter and even architect. I assigned the girls to listen/read it too, but I’m not sure much reading got done on their ends. I bookmarked all the parts about The David and the Sistine Chapel to read to them before we went to see each one, and was so glad to know the background of so much before our journey began.

My favorite highlights of the trip

Each of our stops merit their own blog post which will be coming soon, but as for this post I will just share the highlights from my heart.

Reunion with Claire

  • The feeling of being submerged in London, catching the train and tube dragging our suitcases through the cobblestone streets to Claire, bounding giddily across the street to give us all the hugest hugs ever. There is an extra light in that girl and we could all feel it illuminating the air around her as she spilled out story after story filled with her adventures. She is so full of life and spunk and I adore her. Plus, she has the best “welcoming response” known to man.

Following my girls around

  • Sometimes I would walk behind those three beauties guiding me through foreign lands and marvel that they are mine and I am theirs. They are so nice to each other aside from the occasional huffiness (young mothers reading this, have hope! this was not always the case, we were laughing at how at-each-other’s-throats they were when they were younger!). Sometimes I felt so old (they all know all the latest TikTok and television series and I wonder how they can come from me who knows literally nothing about these things!). Sometimes I felt like they were the teachers. Their kindness. The way they know how to maneuver maps and how to find good restaurants so much faster than I can.

On the run, stairs, planes, trains, automobiles

  • We all loved each stop with all our hearts. And we all went the same pace: FAST. I love that these girls are adventurers and see the beauty in everything…even the over-hundred-degrees heat some of the days and that we jam-packed a LOT into our schedule. I love that we all just love to see as much as we can. I love that we walked all kinds of miles every day, stood in those lines and in those crowds and hiking those hills and taking those hundreds of steps just sweltering and there was never complaining or getting too tired (although we were pretty pleased as punch when we were able to snag a few taxis in Rome!)

A special night in London

  • All of us with tears in our eyes during Les Misérables, the power of goodness filling up our hearts…

…then walking to Piccadilly Circus to find a big crowd gathered around this awesome guy dancing, and the girls got so hyped they danced their hearts out on the sidelines until he pulled them right into the middle to dance with him.

Art Love “Treasure Hunts”

  • I loved how it felt to stand in front of those art masterpieces and that after studying their own college art history classes, those girls of mine each had their own senses of awe. Especially Elle who has studied more extensively.
Shawni and Grace looking at art

Before we left I assigned the girls to make up a “treasure hunt” of famous artwork for us to hunt for in each of “their” places where they would be guiding us. And those works in their “treasure hunts” were our favorites. Claire’s tops were Van Gogh’s sunflowers and Degas’ ballerinas at the National Gallery in London:

Also Monet’s Water-Lily Pond and the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck:

Elle’s were the Birth of Venus, The David and Madonna of the Long Neck.

And also Titian’s controversial Venus of Urbino:

Grace’s were The Pieta and the Sistine Chapel.

Can you even believe Michelangelo carved this when he was TWENTY-FOUR years old?

So much more about that when I write about Rome, there is so much to say about that sculpture. I loved studying it before we got to see it.

Since we couldn’t take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, let’s just post Raphael’s The School of Athens that we got to see in the Raphael Rooms before we entered the chapel.

Oh Elle and I were so excited to see that one.

I hope I will always remember the four of us standing with that crowd at the base of The David with our jaws dropped, eyes wide in wonder to see how it was carved knowing a little extra background reviewed from parts of The Agony and The Ecstasy we read together the night before.

Let’s check out the side-by-side with MFME twenty-five years ago and MFMP this month:


Racing to catch sunsets

  • Racing with all our might through the hot evening slanty-light to get up the hill to the Piazzale Michelangelo in time for sunset. Joining the throngs of people all with the same idea. Watching that giant sun set over that city we had explored what felt like every inch of that day from the top of the Duomo to the corners of all the art we could find.

There was a guy playing the guitar right next to us and we joined in with the crowd just feeling it all.

Another race to the sunset scrambling up the hill from the beach in our little town of Sorrento on the coast, taking in all that beauty after a quick little swim.

Amalfi boating

  • Boarding a little Italian boat and bobbing over the brilliant blue sea to the Island of Capri and the Amalfi Coast, the girls’ eyes giant with glee that we got to do this fun thing. Our jaws dropping as we pulled us into all kinds of little caves and right through the arch on the famous Capri rock formations.


We spent two days exploring the glory of the Amalfi Coast.

The Rome Temple

  • The Rome Temple towering above us, going to church right next to it trying to sort out how to work the little translation headsets, our own little personal tour of the visitor’s center.

All kinds of transportation

  • We took every kind of transportation you can imagine, but I think the girls would definitely say their highlight was riding vespas around Rome. Especially after the guys in charge were so worried they wouldn’t be good drivers, and then they knocked their socks off with how well they maneuvered those Roman streets.

The Food

  • We ate some incredible Italian food and were pretty delighted about the gelato shops on literally every corner.

That gelato stop up there was particularly fun since we happened to run into our neighbors from home right there on the street corner before we went to see The David.

For real.

It is an incredibly small world.

Baby Murphy Love

Even though baby Murphy wasn’t with us, it kinda felt like she was. These girls could not stop talking about her and ooing and ahhing over pictures of her and just loving her from afar every moment they could. We realized every one of us has her as our screen savers on our phones. I loved to hear those girls love that little niece so much. It was pretty sweet I have to say.

Perhaps one of my favorite highlights was just our simple drive to the airport when we were heading home, talking through feminism and motherhood and the mixture of the two, me a little teary-eyed talking about how lucky I am to be their mom.

Oh there is so much more to say. And literally thousands of pictures to go through.

But for now I’ll just leave us with a couple more side-by-sides from that original MFME all those years ago:

Thank you, Mom, for helping spill art-love, mother-love, and adventure on to the next generation.

Love you forever.

All Posts from this MFMP Mother/Daughter Trip:

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  1. What a great trip!! Italy is so incredible! We got to spend a week in Rome with our daughter this summer plus my husband and I also went to the Amalfi Coast. Our older daughter spent 10 days there separately with her sister (We couldn’t get the dates to match up) which was also so fun for them.
    The pizza, the pasta, the gelato, the HISTORY, the beauty. I cannot wait to go back someday.

  2. Love this! Would love to hear from the girls as to their (and your) thoughts on the intersection of feminism and motherhood.

  3. Those side by side photos are so incredible!!! Those could be so special to frame along with any future MFMP trips in the same places you did MFME. Looking forward to hearing about the trip more in depth as well as how you snag such great flights and how you guys get so good at planning trips!

  4. Major ick and much sadness. Defining women as “future moms” is weird and reductive. Especially in a world where personal “agency” and free choice is so valued. (I say this as a woman who feels motherhood is her true vocation) Also, what about Lucy? A quick online search shows many syndrome symptoms that are not compatible with motherhood. This is painful to watch

      1. Then why do you bother coming to a blog that you KNOW is about family life, motherhood, and such?
        Obviously to complain! Find some other blog if you only want to criticize.

    1. As usual, an idiot who knows that this blog is about Shawni’s family life and motherhood. Why do you even come here? Just to throw your bitter comments on here? You’re obviously so jealous of the life that they live and what decent, responsible kids she has that you have to make such stupid comments.

      1. We can enjoy Shawni’s family life and the emphasis on motherhood and still be concerned about the emphasis on motherhood being placed on others than herself. It’s the second time in a short while that she mentions her daughters having kids, this is not something everyone is able to do and it has nothing to do with how one is raised. Be better.

        1. It’s obvious that you’re very jealous of how she lives her life and the life she is able to give her kids. You look for things to attack to make yourself feel better. Your so called “concern” is misplaced because this is HER blog and HER life. It’s HER choice to write about whatever she wants to. If it makes you uncomfortable, as you said it did, then move on! Many of us enjoy her and her family and find her very inspiring. Just because a few cranky, envious people don’t like her views, she shouldn’t have to censor her writing.

    2. So many beautiful picture! How wonderful that you were able to enjoy that time together and find so much beauty!
      Also, the naming of your little group also through me off and already puts so much pressure on your girls…. Why must there be such an emphasize on motherhood? Why not just name it WoP (Women of Pothierealm) or something along this line?
      Love from afar, Jasmin

  5. I love the pix of you all in dungarees. Great idea.

    Claire looks great in her stripy dungarees too.

    Just curious, how did you manage to fly when you were so heavily pregnant? (I don’t mean this as a criticism)

  6. Ahhh! What a delight to see all of this! Thanks for the idea to frame those side-by-sides! They are so fun! Great memories! Thanks for leaving this for us to enjoy for generations to come. That was a lot of work and so appreciated! Love you so much!

  7. Shawni, thank you so much for your emphasis on motherhood. Young women do not get the permission they need from mainstream media or society at large to choose this happiness. You are doing great work showing women what a gift home, marriage, motherhood and children are.

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