A grateful heart…

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I’m not going to lie. November has been a very sort of off month for us. Nothing really went according to plan the whole month long. Plans for celebrating and observing the month of gratefulness fell by the wayside quite quickly. We usually make some version of a gratefulness tree in which our gratitudes makes up leaves which we attach to branches. It just didn’t happen. Even our schooling suffered a bit this month, which was frustrating. Mostly, it was due to another round of constant appointments. It seems our family has about three to four weeks of normalcy, if one can call it that, and then the next week or two are literally full of doctor’s appointments. Often those appointments require labs and testing, which, depending on the results, means we have head back in an even more unplanned way- appointments being made on the fly, out of our control, and we just have to roll with the punches. It just makes for weirdness. If I had a general idea of when these rounds of appointments would fall, I could probably adjust our term planning even better, but we rarely have fair warning. Appointments with specialists are weird like that. You get the referral and then you wait and wait, and then all of the sudden, everything happens at once.

In classic fashion, the Nativity season is upon us.

After having a fairly good Thanksgiving break complete with an adventure to a nearby revolutionary war museum, my husband suffered a debilitating back injury on Friday. Our plans for pulling out our Christmas boxes on Saturday were completely out of the question, and will probably remain so for a least a few more days. No advent wreath, no Jesse Tree readings, no tree. At yet, the season is here all the same.

I have a feeling this whole holiday season is just going to be weird for us this year. We have multiple appointments in the next two weeks that have the potential to send us spinning off again- we will get the results of multiple tests performed recently, and Ellianna’s diagnosis is probably going to be added to. They are contemplating another round of transfusions for her. Josiah may have to have his tube replaced sooner over later (typically they are replaced every six months to a year). Both would mean we’d be spending a lot of time at the hospital again. My prayer is that we would not have to deal with the hospital rounds until after the holidays. I will know soon.

For all the crazy, we still lit the candles and entered into the season of anticipation. With grateful hearts, we await the coming of a King, Emmanuel, Who is always with us…even when it’s nutty and weird and off.

Drink deep of fairytales…

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“Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”- Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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The last few weeks have been full up to the brim. The kids are working hard; I do my best to keep up with all the amazing places their minds take them, but I am a mere mortal.

So very often, my gaze is focused right in front of me- on the kids, on the medical stuff, the house, the cello and ballet lessons- but you’d practically have to be living under a rock to not have your gaze pulled across the Atlantic right now. It’s true of every tragedy- your life goes on, the kids still have to be fed, the world continues to turn- and that doesn’t seem possible, given the sorrow- but turn it does.

My older kids are of an age that they begin to understand the nuances of the wider world around them. We listen to the news via the radio on our errands (NPR and BBC World News are probably the safest for little ears- they are usually quite careful to provide warnings if there will be language or content that is un-suitable or too violent for younger ones.) Now that we are deep into pre-World War 1 History, it is not difficult for them to make connections to the world before them- some of the deep divides we see in the world today had their beginning at the turn of the last century. As a historian, I find it absolutely fascinating just what connections they make, unencumbered of the baggage we adults carry with us. An example: the most often said phrase during discussions? Well, so and so wasn’t being very kind to his/her subjects/neighbors/friends/parents. In the vast sweep of history, they see families. Families who forgot to be kind, who forgot to love, who forgot who they belonged to, who forgot to respect the humanity of another. It reminds me of this discussion we saw between a son and his dad in Paris.

C.S. Lewis said to his god-daughter that

“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.”

I thought of C.S. Lewis’ admonition about fairytales as my children were watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The quote above is actually from the next film in the series, The Order of the Phoenix, but it’s the quote that came to mind as I watched my kids watching Dumbledore, watching the wizarding world suddenly go from light and laughter and joy to tremendous loss and darkness and uncertainty. All of the wizarding kids are faced with choices- very hard choices, and those choices will play out over the next few books. We as the audience have the luxury of knowing how the story ends, but the characters do not- and, as my children first watch, they, too, are left in the dark.

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

I keep thinking of something Andrew Kern said at a recent workshop I attended. He said that in the Odyssey, the muses are known by what they say- remember. The sirens always call you away from your purpose, but the muses will always remind you of first truths, as if to say- remember who you are. Remember where you are going. Remember how to get there. In Harry Potter, Harry’s closest friends will be his Muses throughout his extremely difficult journey. And it is his godfather, Sirius Black, who will say the above line to Harry when Harry becomes terrified that Voldemort is taking over his soul.

So this is what I say to my kids, gently, right out of the wizarding, fairy-tale world- we can remember who we are, and not be scared. We can remember the families- in Syria, throughout the Middle East, all over the world- in Paris, in New York- and right across the street. In remembering Whose we are and to Whom all those families belong to, we can remember and be at peace. We are heading Home. The way is so very dark, so very scary, but we can always, always look towards the Light, and walk each other Home.


It runs in the family…

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“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the organizer, who gave us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

–Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.”

–G.K. Chesterton

Honoring all the veterans in my family from every branch of the military stretching back generations. I am so grateful for those who returned home, and I remember and honor those who were lost. We will never forget. Thank you for your service. 

Please, today, consider how you can get involved with caring for our veterans and wounded warriors coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. For so many of them, the war is just beginning. The rates of catastrophic trauma to the brain (TBI) have exponentially increased for our military brothers and sisters returning from these engagements more than any other war before. The co-incidents of PTSD have also rocketed. Every day, a veteran commits suicide. Never forget that these are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons- family- so very loved. Reach out and consider what you can do to help. They have lost so much. Let us give back as if they were our own family.

This grand-daughter, niece, daughter, sister and cousin of the military thanks you in advance.


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It was a quiet, cozy day. There were still moments of Monday-ness, being Monday and all, but still. We pulled in, read long. We are using Story of the World, Vol 4: The Modern Age as our History spine, taking about two weeks to complete a chapter or so. We finished the (very brief) account of the Civil War two weeks ago. Today we dug a bit deeper with the recommended book list. (The book above is If You Lived At the Time of the Civil War.) I don’t put many demands on the children while I read, other than that they are quiet; some play with Legos or dolls, some sit and listen, and David- David most often illustrates what I’ve been reading of his own volition. I always find it interesting what he chooses to draw, what catches his imagination: today it was a battlefield and a flag.

The older children will move on to engage with the text more in depth- we do map drills of the places associated with the chapter, engage in some of the activities from the Student Book. They will often narrate the chapter back to Daddy at the dinner table that evening. What we do often depends on the children’s interest- Ben, of course, has been very interested in how railroading and industry changed as a result of the war. Lorelei has focused on the bigger picture (immediately connecting our civil war back to other civil wars in other countries we have already read about this term). Isaiah and David, especially, have been interested in the emotional toll of war on both sides, and it was Isaiah, in the car on the way to pick up daddy from work, listening to the day’s news of protests at Yale and the University of Missouri, that connected dots to problems that were left unsolved at the end of the war. It won’t be the first time the children have astounded me with grasp of a subject seemingly far beyond their years.

You never stop learning. I have studied the era in depth at least three times (as an elementary student, as a high schooler, and then undergraduate work in History). I’ve connected more dots in my own brain this time around teaching and listening to and learning from my kids than the other three combined. I’m learning and thinking right alongside them. The connections that young children make unencumbered of the emotional baggage we adults often carry will absolutely blow your mind. Out of the mouths of babes, indeed.


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Last week was one of those full, good weeks. More than one kid this week took off on a learning adventure ahead of me, which is pretty amazing. There was a lot of inventing going on, too…just…one of those good weeks when you see the wheels turning and learning being applied, which is always such a gift.

For all that, I felt rather behind for most of the week, constantly playing catch up. I haven’t really found my groove with home care and meal prep since schooling began in earnest. It is definitely a case of knowing what the general needs and routine are, but not having enough hours in the day. It’s not that we sit at the table all day long, but with six learners and six different interests (and teaching Latin and Physics to my eldest) I find myself often barely finishing up before my husband returns home in the evening. The children and I all have our basic chores that get done everyday, but a lot of the maintenance type chores (mopping, deep cleaning the kitchen, etc.) aren’t getting done- and with eight in our space, those areas show the lack pretty quickly.

And the groceries- meal planning- ugh. Don’t get me started. I feel like we spend so much time trying to figure out what we can actually have- always feeling a little bit lost- and having such a limited budget- that often, figuring out a meal plan for our family of eight can pretty much bring me near tears if I’m not in the right frame of mind. We had a long discussion on Instagram the other day about it, if you’re interested. There’s quite a group of us in similar situations and it was a deep encouragement that day to know I was not alone.

Through it all, there is so much beauty to be found. Picking up my husband from work one day, I looked up to find an almost Narnian-like scene under a lamp post…so many beautiful leaves…and the last vestiges of our wildflower plot out front. I etched one of the pumpkins in a quiet hour last Monday. It’s all here…good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.

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