This is no holy war

But first, a funny story. Mistakes that local, but non-military, kids make in this Northern Virginia area:

While driving on Route 395 through Arlington, Neighbor Girl looks over and sees a very large building. “Is that that hexagon building?” she asks.

Pentagon…hexagon…same thing.

Pentagon Briefings No Longer Quote the Bible

The Pentagon said Monday it no longer includes a Bible quote on the cover page of daily intelligence briefings it sends to the White House as was practice (sic) during the Bush administration.

Whatever. I don’t really care if the cover page that nobody really reads has a Bible quote or not.

What gets me going is the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, suggesting that a Bible quote on a Pentagon brief portrays American soldiers as crusaders.

Let me tell you, the military is the one place where we do not want to remove God. The military, like the rest of America, is worldly, secular, and materialistic. There are pockets of religiously-minded people, but they run the gamut of all religions, and include varying degrees of devotion to that religion. And, just like the rest of America, there are many, among those who are “devout,” who “homechurch” or otherwise worship in their own manner, like seeing the beauty of God in a quiet golf course on a Sunday morning.

There is no lock-step, no single-mindedness, no communal belief in a higher calling.

And when you’re talking about “boots on the ground” soldiers, the ones actively engaging the potential enemy, you have a population that is mostly under 25. Like the rest of America, this age group is the least likely to consider themselves devout anything.

As uncomfortable as this concept may be for the average civilian, a soldier’s primary job is to defend and protect, which is a really nice way of saying kill. They are not a police force, designed to capture bad guys and bring them to a court system for justice. Although most (the old and the wise) soldiers hope that by carrying guns and looking tough, the bad guys will decide to pick on easier targets – like Europe – they all know that their job description includes “eliminating” threats.

Do we want a godless Army?

Do we want soldiers who don’t believe that there are any eternal consequences for their behavior on the battlefield or off? What, then, will keep them from crossing the line from killing during a battle to murdering anything that crosses their line of sight? We expect soldiers to make split second decisions – is that a combatant hiding in the closet or a little child? I have a hard time believing that fear of prosecution is a greater motivator to make the right choice than fear of eternal damnation, especially if your fellow soldiers and commanding officer and entire chain of command are equally unconcerned about morality. For at some point, the thought of “getting away with it” will permeate the organization if there aren’t any Jiminy Crickets in the bunch.

Bill’s job is hard and there are many long hours. In many ways it is incompatible with the family-centered lifestyle we desire, and the sacrifices required by the children and I are tremendous. He certainly isn’t in it for the money, and even if he were, the risk – and the fear – of sending a husband and father off to war and getting back a body in a box or a broken and changed man does not at times seem worth it. Dying does not bother my husband nearly as much as the thought of leaving behind a widow and six orphans to cope with the mess their lives suddenly became. And leaving that possibility aside, there are only so many baseball games or ballet recitals that you can miss before you start to doubt that this is the right career path.

But the military needs family men who can see their own child’s eyes reflected in those of a scrawny kid in Kosovo. It needs men who derive comfort from, as well as fear, a just God who reads the hearts of all and knows the truth of what you do. A moral man does not obey an unlawful order. Take God out of the military and you risk creating a power unfettered by conscience.

So, again, whatever. No more Bible quotes on Pentagon briefs. But may the civilians whose sensibilities are so disturbed at the thought of soldiers deriving comfort and direction from the Word of God hold their own behavior and choices to such a supreme standard.

Home or Away

At home, the baby (who will remain “the baby” until she grows hair and can say more than a dozen words) must be in close physical contact with me at all times.

She does not care that I am trying to pay bills online. She wants to be cradled in my arms while she watches the birds on our deck outside the window.

“Brr,” she says.

“Yes, a cowbird,” I reply.

“Brr,” she says.

“Yes, a downy woodpecker,” I reply.

“Brr,” she says.

“Yes, a hummingbird. Don’t you want to go watch TV?” I ask. Sign me up for the bad mom club. I just want 15 minutes to pay my phone bill.

She does not care that I want to make dinner. It is really difficult to chop an onion with a 22 pound baby on your hip.

She does not care that I want to plant gladiolus bulbs. Or mow the lawn. She had fun in the backpack the other day, but then she got hungry. “Eeeeet,” she said in my ear. And just in case I didn’t catch it over the roar of the motor, she pulled my hair until I turned to her and put her fingers to her mouth.

Away from home, the baby does not want to be anywhere near me. Oh, how I would love to sit and watch my boys play baseball. She could sit in my lap, and we could happily talk about birds in between pitches. But, no, she wants to go play in the parking lot. Or balance on the curb to the street. Or wander along the fence past the outfield.

I would love to sit and eat a meal in a restaurant. I am quite adept at eating with a child on my lap. I could even discuss birds in between bites. But the baby would rather crawl under the table and down the aisles. We took Fritz out to dinner for his birthday today, and I spent quite a bit of time in the lobby.

I would love to hold her close while shopping. After dinner, Fritz wanted to buy some Legos with birthday money. The baby went in the backpack. But she was not happy. She wanted to inspect the toys. She wanted to run up and down. She wanted to be free.

Perhaps if the store had had a bird section, she would have been happy to observe them from my back.

“Brr,” she would say.

“Yes, a canary,” I might reply.

Maybe I should decorate my house with large, red bulls’-eyes and put all the kids’ toys on metal shelving covered with shrink-wrap. I could probably pay the bills, make dinner and mow the lawn before she even noticed I was gone.

Suicidal Surprises

When I talked to Bill at 8 pm, he was annoyingly vague about his travel plans for his return tomorrow.

“You mean you don’t even have a set time you’re meeting for breakfast?” I asked.

“We’ll probably meet about 630 and then head out,” he replied. Please, dear, try to contain your enthusiasm for coming home.

I had to get off the phone for prayers and to get the kids off to bed. “I’m not going to call you later,” I informed him, “I want to try to get some work done.”

An hour later, I finally had the baby asleep. I ignored the sink of dirty dishes and sat down to check email. A minute later, I saw the taillights of a car pulling past my window deeper into the driveway. Who is that? I wondered in alarm. Quickly my brain raced through a mental list as I sprung into action: Where is the dog? Are all the doors locked? Where is the phone? Do I call Bill (to confirm that it’s NOT him) or the police first? Where is the gun? We don’t have any ammo – is there any point?

After checking that the doors were indeed locked and with phone in hand, I went to the door and turned on the outside lights and waited to see who would appear on the steps. I told myself it had to be Bill, because he pulled to the left in the drive where he normally parks, instead of to the right where most people would naturally pull. But Bill was in another state, or so he seemed to claim not an hour before.

Of course, it was Bill. He wanted to surprise me. And when, 10 minutes later, I still had an unpleasant adrenaline rush, he said, “Oh, that’s right, you don’t like surprises.”

I’ll be happy, darling, just as soon as I calm down.

Katie’s First Holy Communion

This was two Saturdays ago, but I’m finally getting around to putting up pictures. (Forgive me, Katie, I’ve been a wee bit busy.)

Katie and her friend Eva.
Katie and her Godparents, Uncle Glenn and Nana.
Katie. I made her dress, originally for my niece, Morgan. It was lovely not having to worry about sewing my own daughter one. I did contemplate making her a veil, but after considering my long list of to-dos, and after a brief look at the inexpensive, but quite beautiful, options on eBay, I wisely delegated that task to a third party.

Step One

The first stage is denial.


It’s no big deal, really. Bill is TDY for a few days. He hasn’t been away for quite some time – a month, perhaps. I don’t even have time to miss him, and, in fact, I get less done when he’s away because he calls me and I have trouble folding laundry with a phone in my ear.

But this isn’t just any TDY. He’s off doing a meet-and-greet with the unit with which he’s supposed to deploy in the not-too-distant future. This is the beginning of the physical process of deploying. Next, my home will begin to resemble an Army surplus store – a disorganized Army surplus store – with piles of tan camo colored gear in every corner. Then there will be the stacks of Army paperwork in official looking folders mixed with not-so-official looking reams of loose computer printouts of packing lists and other information.

But, it’s no big deal. That’s all another day. Right now, he’s just away for a bit. He’ll be home before we really miss him.


I hate goodbyes

My sister and her family are at the airport. It was tough dropping them off. We are hoping that the stars align for another reunion next summer at Cedar Point.

My parents, celebrating 40 years of marriage.

The kids and spouses.

The grandkids.

The whole gang.

COL Mustard, and family.

Mr. Boddy?
Professor Plum, and family.
Miss Scarlett.
Mr. Green, and family.
I really recommend The Picture People for large groups and small kids. Didn’t they do an awesome job?


How to Wake Up Slumbering Minds

The point of this article, though it doesn’t say it, is that kids need to be taught how to think (aka: a classical or even traditional education). Most homeschoolers are checking this block. It is the public school systems that care more about test results than true education who have failed in this regard. I don’t know what the answer is. Schools need to be accountable for children’s educations, and we need some way to measure that (testing). Trust me, I understand the pressures of having a child pass the test. But I worry about that one mere week a year, not all year long.

Love this quote from the article: Mr. Willingham makes a convincing case that the distinction between visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners (who supposedly learn best when body movement is involved) is a specious one. At some point, no amount of dancing will help you learn more algebra.

Old fashioned memorization and drilling in the younger grades has proven over centuries to raise intelligent thinking adults. Are the public schools ever going to learn from their successes?