Life, liberty and the pursuit

I told my grandpa on the phone this morning that indeed this home learning journey had its challenges.  It does.  But I also told him in complete sincerity that it was so worth it.  And that I truly learn something new almost every day.  Truth be told sometimes I’m more excited about it than they are.

Especially today.  We have wrapped up our world history for the year since we were at a good holding point until the new school year.  So we are immersed in our early American history until summer break.  For me, learning all over again about the foundations of this nation we call home is deeply meaningful.  Our heritage is rich and our founders were bold pioneers who fought and sacrificed so much for the freedom we now enjoy (and often take for granted).

I could not sit today and read on the couch like we usually do (much of our learning comes from living books that I read aloud to the kids).  I stood and waved my hands around and read with fervor as Benjamin Franklin traveled to and fro from England trying to be a peacemaker with the British.  I exclaimed “And the Declaration of Independence was signed on July FOURTH in 1776!!!  What day is that!”  They erupted “It’s Independence Day!”  To which I replied “And what do we celebrate on that day?”

They yelled now, trying to counter my extreme excitement “FREEDOM!”

Yes.  Freedom.

As the decades pass by and we get further from those roots and beliefs than this nation was founded on, some freedoms have become scarce for certain people who believe certain things.  I count us incredibly blessed to enjoy the freedom to teach our children at home and do not take that for granted even on my worst days.  But even now there are many who are working to remove that freedom from those of us who choose that road.

I digress however, that is another entire blog.  As I read to my children the first part of the Declaration of Independence this morning:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…


I could not help but explain to my oldest daughter and son that though our nation was founded on these and other principles, they did not always exist here.  In the years that followed the American Revolution, slavery took off and those men and women were NOT treated with equality and they did not live in liberty but instead in bondage.

What was hardest to explain however was that we live in a nation now where the life of the not-yet-born child is no longer protected.  Millions of babies every year are denied their unalienable right to Life – this fact is impossible to make sense of or explain.  Rylee asked tenderly, “Do those babies go to heaven?”.  Of course they do.  “Well there must be a LOT of babies there then!”.  Yes, indeed there must be.  We then talked about China and other countries that don’t share in the system of values that this country was founded on.  Rylee stated plainly “In places like China and India, the life of a girl baby has less value than a boy.  So they can choose to let it die and try again for a boy.”  It totally caught me off guard but she is totally right.

The privilege of getting to share in this dialogue with my children weighs so heavy on days like today.   I would not trade it for anything.

Why mess is worth it

Ten months ago following the oh-so-sudden and tragic loss of Chris’ dad the year before, his mom moved across the country to live with his sister.  The reasons were many and they were good.  But no amount of good reasons made it easy, for her or us.

That’s the thing about change.  It hurts.  Even when you understand it and know it has to be that way.  Life has kept her there and us here over almost a year now.  And when she’d been a brief drive away for our entire marriage, that feels like an eternity some days.

Add into the mix our five kids, us moving, her getting sick and so on and so on…’s been hard to get a moment on the phone to catch up.  Phone time for me is scarce.  The time change is one more dynamic.  I actually set my alarm to get up an hour early today so I could call her and my grandpa back east before the kids were up.  But one quick snooze button later and I was snoring away until a little voice beckoned me for breakfast.

Usually I keep my crew of learners reigned in until they’ve completed at least some of their school work.  But I felt this burning need to have a conversation with the mother of my husband more than my duty as teacher.  So I grabbed my coffee, went somewhere quiet and talked.  To say it was what both our hearts needed is an understatement.

All that transpired elsewhere in the house and yard during that half hour seemed a pitifully small price to pay for time well spent.  Her voice was lighter when we said goodbye.

I tallied up the damage and all told, I still say it was worth it.  Sometimes that’s the nature of life and learning and love and little people…..

A huge bowl of dog food AND dog water all dumped and mixed onto the kitchen floor by a crafty one-year-old.

A little girl outside in footie jammies without boots leaving permanently mud colored feet.

A pile of puppy poo on my favorite rug.

A baby toy gnawed to bits by same puppy.

A bathroom door left open and a little boy who just can’t help but throw toys into the toilet.

The remains of my mug of coffee poured out onto white carpet AND into a box of puzzle pieces.

A box of dumped out and unattended toys.

Jelly remnants on the counter from self-serve breakfast goers.

Yes, all that.  And yes, still so totally worth it.

1 day….2 mamas…11 children

She made me mix tapes when we were twelve years old.  When I had a boyfriend I was sure I would love forever, the songs on the tapes were along the lines of Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl.  She dubbed her voice in between the songs and chatted away about life as a junior higher.  If I was feeling down, she gave me all the reasons why life wasn’t all that bad.

Fast forward more than half my lifetime and she’s still here.  No more mix tapes these days but plenty of love shared and every day together is a memory made that we won’t forget.  Its $30+ in gas to get to each other these days.  Its packed cars and occasional bickering along the way.  Its extra laundry and extra laughter and loads of extra fun.  Its eleven children that span 10 years when we gather our two clans.

There is something sacred about sharing this journey of saying yes to life with someone else.  It isn’t exactly status quo and it sure is a gift understanding and being understood along the way.

There is always a set of babies
(note the jellybean drool Finn is sharing with baby Henry)

And there is always someone to battle with…

And with boys outnumbering girls 9 to 2, it should be no surprise that I found this as we were saying goodbye…

All in a face


It had been a dismal sort of day.  The kind where your eyes are puffy and your heart is broken and you wonder just how you’ll ever make it through.  The kind where the needs of one child completely eclipse the balance of the entire family and all the other kids cluster in a room and keep themselves busy and happy because they sense the toll that’s being taken.  The kind where I find myself repeating words in my mind that have been spoken to me in haste by strangers in years past.  Words that hold no truth and should hold no power but somehow they do on this day.

Why is it that in these weak and fragile moments I can’t always find the right thing to cling to?  Why do I forget?

I use every ounce of my being, every skill I have and still find myself at a total loss for how to proceed and how to help a child who can’t stand change make it through the trauma (and blessing) of moving.

In the midst of such a day I foolishly attempt to unload some random items on Craigslist.  Really, it was one thing too many.  But I either lacked the common sense to figure that out or underestimate just how the day will play out.

I arrange for someone to come get the free desk around noon and then spend the hour before noon trying (and failing) to calm a child who is getting bigger and stronger so quickly that I no longer can just sit and hold him when he’s lost it.  The doorbell rings and I wipe tears away so I can answer it.

I mumble and wonder if she sees my current state and tell her the desk is outside. Why I even stop to worry what the random stranger from Craigslist thinks of me I have no idea.  I forget her name and rummage around for shoes.  But her face and the kindness in her eyes force my heart to settle just a bit.  I look up again and notice wrinkle smile lines around her eyes and pale blue eyeliner that reminds me of junior high.

I don’t even offer to help her and her son carry it to their car.  I just walk back inside and figure out how to make lunch.  When the day is over I write her an email and tell the stranger “I just wanted to say that your face, your eyes, were really beautiful and joy-filled and had I been my normal chatty self I would have told you that.”  I went on to explain just briefly how my morning had gone.

Her response was as kind as her face had been, “ As I always say you never know what people are going through so never pull trigger too fast ….. Thank you again for the nice thought, you made my day..and Jesus Bless your day as well.”

I wonder what my face says about my heart.  If I had a mirror of every moment these past several weeks I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t love it.  But it is days like these with the simplest of gifts mixed into the mess of my life that remind me how much God is present absolutely everywhere around me.  Even if just in the face of a stranger.