Evan McMullin for President.


On Tuesday, I will vote for Evan McMullin for President. It will be a pleasure to cast my ballot for a person who understands the role of each branch of government and the importance of the separation of powers. Having served as both a senior adviser to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, he has knowledge of how the legislative process actually functions and how laws are crafted, and would thus enter the Oval Office with an understanding of how to go about submitting suggestions for bills that would accomplish his policy goals. Nothing in his background suggests that he would attempt to legislate from the White House, and he has actually been very critical of both major party candidates for their stated intent to do so. Too strong of an executive branch leads to a degree of authoritarianism that would be fatal to a democratic republic, regardless of who is exercising the executive power. With regard to the Supreme Court, he also understands that the judiciary was not created as a way to do an end run around either federal or state legislatures, and promises to appoint jurists who are able to apply the timeless principles of the Constitution to cases brought before SCOTUS in the 21st century.

Along with a clear understanding of, and commitment to upholding, the proper separation of powers as described in the Constitution, Mr. McMullin also calls for a return of the correct balance of power between the federal government and the states, in agreement with what we Catholics call the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity means that problems should be handled at the most local level possible, not that the federal government should never, ever be involved in anything at the state level. Having worked in the legislative branch, he has seen both cookie-cutter social programs and unfunded mandates imposed upon the states, both of which stifle states’ ability to address problems with serving the poor and educating children in flexible, efficient, and practical ways. Furthermore, he respects the Tenth Amendment, which reserves all non-enumerated powers to the states themselves, or to the people themselves. This also helps with accountability in the delivery of government services and policies, which has been much discussed this election year; as Mr. McMullin correctly explains, “a government that is closer to the people is more accountable to the people.”

This is not to say that Mr. McMullin wants to abolish the federal government; he simply wants it to return to its proper function, which is to handle those tasks which the states cannot handle by themselves. One proper function of the Presidency is the position of Commander in Chief of the United States’ armed forces, and part of that function is ensuring that our military is able to respond to threats against our nation. Mr. McMullin points out that defense funds are not being spent effectively in terms of bases and equipment that should have been mothballed being kept operating, a skewed ratio of civilian and contract employees to active-duty servicemembers, and constant cost overruns for both defense equipment and everyday supplies. He supports the bipartisan Congressional efforts to simplify and clarify chains of command and defense acquisitions, and rejects the notion that the defense budget needs to be strictly matched to partisan federal domestic spending priorities.

With regard to actual use of military force, Mr. McMullin believes that there is a place for that, but only in the context of a broader, coherent foreign policy, in which our nation acts as it has historically done – to preserve life and freedom. Having been both a covert operative in the Middle East and a refugee resettlement officer for the UN, he understands that real human beings are affected by the policy decisions of great nations, and what little can be known about the professional life of a covert ops officer suggests that while he will go to great lengths to find levelheaded, practical ways to handle threats, his public statements also indicate that when the use of force is necessary, he will do it both soberly and with an eye to minimizing both collateral damage and loss of life to our own military personnel. His background and public statements also indicate that while he understands how to handle sensitive intelligence information to protect both our national security and our intelligence assets, he also believes that the American public has a right to know why our government is deploying those assets to troubled locations outside our shores, as evidenced by his consistent efforts to bring attention to the atrocities committed in Syria.

For those who have served in our nation’s armed forces, the VA system and other benefits are part of how our country thanks those who have given a piece of their lives (and sometimes more) to defend our nation’s interests, without regard for which political party holds power. The problems with the VA health care system have been well documented, and Mr. McMullin correctly points out that while the Choice Program of 2014 was intended to assist veterans with securing health care if using the VA systems was overly challenging because of issues of time or distance, the program has been woefully underutilized and clumsily implemented. He proposes allowing veterans to use the VA health benefits at any health care provider, instead of forcing them to rely on an unwieldy bureaucracy that is hallmarked by long waits and other ineffiencies, some of which have proven fatal. Simultaneously, he calls for the Veterans Administration to be included in Pentagon reforms that would increase both transparency and efficiency. He does not see the need for arcane systems of service delivery that the average person cannot navigate or understand, and he does favor the broad application of a principle he learned in the private sector – if someone is not doing the job for which that person was hired, that person should be fired.

Evan McMullin is also not an isolationist; he is enough of a student of history to understand that the isolationism that characterized American foreign policy after World War I did nothing to improve conditions either within or without our borders. Our robust participation in alliances like NATO helps keep the peace around the world, and as President, if Mr. McMullin determines the evidence shows that our allies are expecting the United States to carry an undue share of the burdens of peacekeeping, he will not hesitate to point out the deficiency and insist that our allies adhere to the treaties to which nations have mutually agreed. His intelligence background and reputation within that community both indicate that he is an excellent analyst who is committed to preserving human rights and finding honest and honorable ways to solve problems of local, national, and international import. Additionally, he has publicly stated that should a time come when a military intervention must be considered, he will listen closely to the advice of the senior commanders who are experts on military tactics and capabilities. He does not seek validation for his preconceived ideas; he does seek wise counsel from those best equipped to give it. He does, however, favor securing our national borders, albeit not by building walls and compelling our allies to pay for them; instead, he would increase the number of border control agents and invest in technology that would provide better surveillance of those borders.

A sane strategy on immigration, and on how to handle people who are presently living in the country after having entered it unlawfully, is also a valid concern of the executive branch; one of the President of the United States’ chief duties is to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. As it stands, laws on immigration have not been faithfully executed for such a long period of time that we are now faced with 11 million people who have no legal right to be here. Mr. McMullin has noted that there is no just way to make them all leave, and that the consequences of doing so could be devastating both in financial and social terms. Having considered those facts, he has called upon Congress to enact not an amnesty, but a pathway to legal status, through which those who have an earnest desire to be American citizens may earn that status without having to shatter families. Even as that pathway is created, however, he is also calling upon Congress to reform the overall process for legal immigration, so that entry-level jobs are protected for citizens who need them to gain the experience that will enable them to progress economically, and he further calls for reform of the H1B work visa program to discourage employers from abusing the program to avoid paying a market-rate wage to U.S. citizens. Worth noting as well is Mr. McMullin’s acknowledgement that employers who are not making the effort to verify legal immigration status contributes to the overall problem of illegal immigration, and he insists that the existing laws be enforced by both employers and local governments; he correctly points out that sanctuary cities are violating the law, and notes that immigration law and enforcement is a power that is properly reserved to the federal government, as it pertains to foreign relations.

With regard to jobs, Mr. McMullin bases his economic policies on another principle familiar to Catholics – that meaningful work is essential to human dignity. He advocates expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to single people, so that the largest number of people possible can become self-supporting, which is a cornerstone of helping people recognize their own human dignity, and having that dignity recognized by others. He also points out that EITC reform enables people to reach an economic status that will encourage them to consider getting married and raising a family, and that the family is the foundation of all other human society. This is a proposal that has already been discussed by conservatives in Congress, and as President, Mr. McMullin would call upon the legislature to reform the legislation enabling this and other anti-poverty programs so that securing employment does not result in a federally mandated loss of supportive benefits. Again, in consideration of the principle of subsidiarity, he would advocate that such changes in legislation include an increase in the use of block grants and the diminution of the tangled web of mandates and regulations that micromanage how states are able to serve those who need some help to secure adequate food, shelter, transportation, child care, and health care. From his public statements, it appears that Mr. McMullin understands that supporting and promoting families is, of itself, a way to help lift people, particularly children, out of poverty. Having himself grown up in a family that was so poor the children wore winter coats indoors because heat was too expensive, he understands that hard work on a person’s part needs to be met with compassionate, dignified help on the part of the broader community.

When discussing issues of jobs and the broader economy, international trade and treaties must be considered. Mr. McMullin favors the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it would immediately eliminate the tariffs imposed by our trading partners, particularly Japan (tariffs imposed by the U.S. on imported goods are, as he correctly points out on his website, nearly zero as it is), and would, he asserts, reassure America’s allies in Asia that we intend to maintain a position of economic leadership in the region, as opposed to ceding that leadership role to China. He also points out that the TPP mandates a leveling of the labor playing field, as nations that mistreat or underpay their workers will face stiff penalties, and that it includes very strong environmental protections. He also points out that many manufacturing jobs, which were once the bedrock of the American economy, have been replaced by automation, and hence the concern that additional manufacturing jobs would be lost to the TPP are not grounded in reality; however, a look at history indicates that major trade treaties of this nature in the twentieth century did lead to a net loss of American jobs attributable to agreements such as NAFTA.

Personally, I have reservations about TPP; one of my largest is that it does not include China, and another of which is that the only way to approve the treaty is in its entirety, without the advice of the Senate. Historically and Constitutionally, the Senate is supposed to have a role that includes both advice AND consent, not one without the other. I am also very wary of the special protections included for pharmaceutical companies, which could serve to increase the price of lifesaving medications without just cause.  Furthermore, there are some serious concerns about protections for journalists and whistleblowers, and for law governing the protection of copyrighted materials.

With respect to the increasingly complex tax code, which favors large corporations with well-funded lobbyists, Mr. McMullin recognizes that while the executive branch does not promulgate laws, it is responsible for writing the regulations that implement those laws. He favors simplifying the regulations that accompany the laws and thus making the taxes paid by all economic strata of society more just, closing loopholes and creating situations where small businesses do not have to employ an army just to figure out how to file quarterly and year end taxes. That is a proper and appropriate role for the executive – to simplify the regulatory environment so that our stewardship responsibilities towards the environment, towards people living in poverty, towards interstate commerce, can be fulfilled with honesty, dignity, and clarity of both intent and purpose. In fact, he is a proponent of using the executive to simplify most regulatory environments that are within the proper scope of the executive branch’s law enforcement powers, and clearly understands that federal micromanagement of state and local programs is not only unnecessary, but also counterproductive. His guiding principle as President would be that before any new regulation is promulgated, the federal agency requesting the regulation should have to demonstrate a clear need for that specific regulation or set of regulations, and show that no extant regulation would serve to solve the identified problem. Agencies would also be required to provide cost-benefit analyses of both existing and proposed regulations.

This streamlining of regulations would also extend to federal programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The regulatory environments for all these programs, among many, are so complex and convoluted that they are prone to waste, fraud, and abuse. By simplifying the regulations, he would decrease the number of people required to administer the programs and interpret rules that are frequently contradictory, particularly in the case of Medicare and Medicaid. Lowering the administrative costs then allows more of the monies properly allocated to these programs to be spent on reimbursements for actual medical services; many medical providers no longer accept Medicaid and Medicare because the reimbursement rates are so ridiculously low.

His statements also understand that he understands the difference between the federal budget deficit and the federal debt. While the federal budget deficit has narrowed, it’s still there, which is causing the federal debt to grow. Debt must, at some point, be repaid, with interest. Economic growth that would be produced by businesses being able to spend more time doing business and less time figuring out how to comply with a Gordian knot of regulations – particularly the growth that would be driven by the small entrepreneur who wants to open a hair braiding business, a roadside produce stand, a tutoring service, a home day care – would result in more income that could be taxed under a simplified federal code that would be less susceptible fraud and abuse.

In order to secure a good job, a person must be able to access an education that prepares him or her not just for gainful employment, but also prepares the person to think critically and make decisions about daily life and social and political engagement. Federal education mandates have created a situation where teachers are spending ridiculous amounts of time dealing with federally mandated tests which demonstrate little in the way of what students are actually achieving and complying with webs of federally mandated paperwork; I saw that mess firsthand during my teaching days. Mr. McMullin favors returning the main responsibility for education to the states and localities, with parents empowered to choose the educational options that best suit their children, whether that be a local public school, charter school, private school, or homeschooling. Let the teachers teach, let communities choose what pedagogical methods work best for them, let parents have an active voice in how and where their children are educated, and stop letting textbook publishers drive curriculum and testing decisions.

Once a person has completed high school, he or she can be reasonably expected to pursue professional training or a college degree. The costs of higher education are ridiculous, and rising faster than inflation. There is a simple question of supply and demand involved here, whereby the more money is available to pay for a good or service, the higher the cost of that good or service will rise, until a market tipping point is reached at which there is an inadequate number of consumers of that good or service. So it goes with higher education; the more federal money has been allocated to higher education, the more costs have risen, and it is hard to argue that the quality of the education received for the money has risen along with the price tag. Mr. McMullin favors assistance in paying the costs of higher education, whether that education consists of college, vocational apprenticeships, or trade schools, but he does so with the expectation that the federal government will get out of the way of people who are attempting to research such relevant information as graduation rates, employment rates, loan default rates, and average salaries after graduation. Additionally, he advocates that universities and other higher education programs should be held accountable for promising what they can’t deliver by requiring them to assist with repayment of student loans or other federal or federally guaranteed monies when students flunk out or default because they are unable to secure employment in their chosen fields.

In order to have a life with dignity, it is essential that each individual have access to adequate health care at an affordable price. While well-intentioned, the ACA has failed to bring that universal access to health care that its proponents hoped for and expected. Rates for health insurance are, as with the cost of higher education, rising at a rate that far outpaces the rate of inflation, and the volume of federal regulations governing what policies must cover and how the insurance mechanism must function contribute to the costs of health care coverage because of the administrative expense involved. Furthermore, instead of consumers telling the insurers what they want covered and choosing how they want their plans to function, individuals and employers are constrained by the federal mandates. 33 million people continue to be priced out of the health insurance market. While I still maintain that the delivery of health care needs to be reformed before expanding the availability of the insurance mechanism, I agree with Mr. McMullin that the ACA needs to be replaced with a more consumer-driven mechanism, and the tax credit provided for the purpose of securing health insurance coverage (which is not the same as securing actual health care) should be given directly to workers in their paychecks to assist with premium payments throughout the year, instead of being given in a lump sum in a tax refund. This puts more money and more power back in the hands of individual health care consumers. ACA should be replaced with a simpler, more comprehensible, and more user-friendly program. Mr. McMullin does not, at this time, have a detailed plan published, but I believe his underlying principles to be sound, and his motives to be honorable.

With regard to Medicare and Medicaid, Mr. McMullin favors means-testing Medicare coverage and ensuring that people who can afford to pay for their care, do so, while ensuring that those who are less able to pay for their care have the safety net Medicare and Medicaid were originally intended to be. This is consistent with a pro-life ethic of ensuring that those who need care are able to obtain it, but that the bulk of the assistance is directed towards those who are least able to pay. However, as with many other federal programs, the regulations need to be simplified and the actual monies directed towards paying for health care need to be maximize. The two tend to go together; the less money is spent on administration, the more money is able to be directed towards actual assistance. This is the standard to which we hold charities, and it does not seem unreasonable to hold the federal government to the same standard.

In addition to caring for the health of people, Mr. McMullin recognizes that we, as a nation, also have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment. While he opposes a regulatory, as opposed to incentivizing, approach to the Paris climate accords and supports the recent Supreme Court holding that the Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional, he does recognize that supporting the development and implementation of cleaner energy solutions rises to the level of a sacred responsibility. Even in the recognition of that responsibility, however, he also understands that everyday people still need to be able to pay for lights and heat (and here, perhaps, his early upbringing shines through in his concern for those least able to tolerate even slight increases in their monthly expenses), and thus favors policies that will keep energy prices for individuals and families within reason. He also favors ending the federal subsidies to energy producers; I concur with his assessment that those subsidies do more to improve the profitability of those companies than the development of clean energy technologies, and would also agree with him that said monies would be better spent on basic research by scientists and inventors. Having advised several energy companies during his tenure with Goldman Sachs, he has a fundamental understanding of how those subsidy dollars are currently obtained and spent.

Of course, all the human dignity in the world is worthless if the fundamental right to life of every human being, from conception to natural death, is not recognized. Mr. McMullin is pro-life throughout that entire continuum and, like me, would like to see the Supreme Court answer the unanswered question of Roe v. Wade, when human life begins, by using science that has been settled for over a century. Also like me, he does not see SCOTUS overturning Roe as the magic bullet that ends abortion, but advocates for programs in every place that support and nurture women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, as well as programs that intelligently teach about human sexuality and biology. Part of his overall pro-life philosophy is that we, as a country, must encourage and support programs that lift people out of poverty and ensure that all people have access to life-sustaining, life-affirming care. Importantly, he also points out that people who disagree passionately on the morality of abortion can still make common cause in making sure we direct resources and support to women facing crisis pregnancies and helping make adoption a better option for everyone involved.

In the pursuit of providing services to those in need, and even in the conduct of our daily lives, the First Amendment protects our right to speak and worship as we choose. Mr. McMullin vigorously supports the defense of First Amendment liberties here in the United States, for if we do not defend the right to express our faith and our opinions openly, in the public square, we cannot then provide the vital example of how a free society operates that so many nations across the globe so desperately need. If we are to speak authoritatively to other nations about respecting the rights of religious people whose faith may be a minority view, we must protect the free exercise of religion and rights of conscience here at home, even if that free exercise makes some of us uncomfortable. His position on the contentious moral issues of the day is that the law is what it is, that people of good will can disagree and still love each other, and everyone deserves to be able to attempt to persuade his or her neighbors on moral matters. His public conduct indicates that he genuinely believes you can love someone fiercely and still find their behavior immoral. That’s a pretty good example for a whole lot of people, myself included. He supports the same First Amendment religious freedoms for those of all faiths and of no faith, but, perhaps more importantly, he also supports a free press, and opposes any efforts to loosen protections for journalists and whistleblowers. He has advocated a national conversation about balancing new technologies with essential civil liberties protections, as well.

With respect to the right to keep and bear arms specified in the Second Amendment, Mr. McMullin favors the protections afforded to individuals who choose to exercise that right, but also understands that it is a matter of both community and national security that we protect the general public from those who should not own guns. He does not, however, favor the blanket use of watchlists constructed without due process protections to deny Second Amendment rights to anyone. He favors increased mental health screening and intervention to keep guns out of the hands of people who have nefarious intentions towards themselves and others, he does support allowing the Attorney General 72 hours to show probable cause why a person who has landed on a watchlist should be barred from obtaining a firearm, and he does support having the ATF support state and local law enforcement agencies instead of being a self-contained fiefdom.

I’d address the Third Amendment next, but to my knowledge, there are no proposals from anywhere regarding the quartering of soldiers in private homes. That said, there is nothing in Mr. McMullin’s background or statements that indicates he would favor any proposal to do so, but would instead characterize it as an abuse of federal power.

Moving along to the Fourth Amendment, I agree with Mr. McMullin’s contention that “stop-and-frisk” policies are a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and that searches should be accompanied by both probable cause and the appropriate warrants, absent an immediate and obvious threat. Also on the topic of law enforcement, Mr. McMullin advocates a returned to community-based policing, body cameras with specific rules for their use, and judges who have some discretion in sentencing, so that the focus on more on justice than vengeance. A person who makes a mistake should be helped to obtain the tools necessary not to re-offend, not forced to wear a perpetual scarlet letter that renders the person incapable of supporting himself or herself. Let the focus become “how can I make the wrong right,” instead of “how can we lock this bad apple into a barrel to rot.” Interestingly, he also espouses the idea that the criminal code has become too complex, and there are too many nuisances that are unnecessarily criminalized, leading to gross disparities in how people are treated in communities where ethnic minorities or people of low socioeconomic status are the dominant group. It is an affront to human dignity to criminalize poverty. Mr. McMullin recognizes this, and thus proposes an overhaul of the criminal code that would both emphasize rehabilitation and reduce the number of crimes that are considered federal offenses. This is also a pro-family policy, as too many children are now growing up with a parent behind bars, the sociological effects of which are unquestionably deleterious to those children’s development in almost every area. I like his emphasis on mercy over vengeance, and also wholeheartedly support his insistence that violent felons receive both appropriate punishment and appropriate rehabilitation. It is not possible for a person to pay a debt to society without skills and the opportunity to employ them for the good of his or her nation, community, family, and anyone he or she may have victimized.

Interestingly, his support for proper use of body cameras also supports the protections offered to citizens under the Fifth Amendment. If the cameras are used during police interrogations, it becomes relatively simple to determine whether the right against self-incrimination and the right to legal counsel have been protected properly. It makes sense. He is a staunch supporter of due process rights for everyone entering the American legal system.

I would hit the rest of the Bill of Rights, but I’m already at close to 5,000 words and I want people to actually read this. The nutshell version is that Evan McMullin is putting out policy proposals that show respect for the Constitutional separation of powers, demonstrate a practical understanding of stare decisis and the Supreme Court, show a consistent logic throughout, and are largely in conformity with Catholic social teachings. I do not see a cause for scandal in any of the positions he has held, and I do see in his professional background a respectable amount of experience in foreign affairs and business along with an intrinsic understanding of the problems faced by families living in poverty. Perhaps most importantly, I see in him a practical application of mercy and love for neighbor, as evidenced by his relationship with his mother and apparently authentic desire to bring community and government resources to bear to affirm the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human life.

If there are other questions I can answer for you about why I support Evan McMullin, please leave them in the comments, and I will answer them as I am able. I will also be happy to respond to any articles you care to post, as long as I have not already responded to them elsewhere in this piece. I may be adding more to it, but I promised this to someone almost a week ago and really need to get it published.

Peace be with you. Please vote, and please help protect the right of every citizen to do likewise – even if you passionately disagree.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: https://www.evanmcmullin.com/issues http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/13/opinions/mcmullin-conversation-utah-cupp/ http://heavy.com/news/2016/08/evan-mcmullin-anti-donald-trump-who-is-joe-scarborough-cia-house-republicans-independent-running-for-president/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2016/08/22/the-story-behind-evan-mcmullins-run-for-president/ https://www.romper.com/p/what-is-evan-mcmullins-platform-on-undocumented-immigrants-hes-more-flexible-than-trump-21403 http://myattorneyusa.com/immigration-blog/minor-party-candidates-part-two-election-issues-and-immigration-11-examining-the https://ballotpedia.org/Evan_McMullin http://www.limacharlienews.com/politics-society/evan-mcmullin-for-president/ https://statesmanonline.org/2016/02/15/evan-mcmullin-talks-poverty-foreign-affairs-at-penn/ http://fortune.com/2016/10/20/evan-mcmullin-u-s-president/ http://conservativefiringline.com/conservative-race-evan-mcmullin-words/ http://conservativefiringline.com/evan-mcmullin-on-the-issues/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/09/23/common-core-the-gift-that-pearson-counts-on-to-keep-giving/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/pearson-takes-big-hit-in-_b_7792202.html http://www.npr.org/2016/10/16/498173958/evan-mcmullin-calls-himself-the-only-conservative-in-presidential-race http://truthinamericaneducation.com/candidates-on-education/evan-mcmullin-eliminate-federal-common-core-mandates/ https://www.thestreet.com/story/13749658/1/if-nevertrump-candidate-evan-mcmullin-was-president-here-s-what-would-happen-to-the-u-s-economy.html http://healthblog.ncpa.org/divided-on-obamacare-trump-and-clinton-both-threaten-medical-innovation/ https://piw.sas.upenn.edu/semester-program/blogs/alumni-spotlight-evan-mcmullin-past-present-and-future-republican-party http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-burnett/trans-pacific-partnership_b_4479420.html https://www.eff.org/issues/tpp http://cherilyneagar.com/2016/10/who-is-evan-mcmullin/ http://www.redstate.com/brandon_morse/2016/10/19/evan-mcmullins-recent-qa-shows-theres-still-someone-race-worth-voting/ https://collisionofchurchandstate.com/2016/08/18/ten-reasons-why-you-should-support-evan-mcmullin/ https://www.evanmcmullin.com/press_releases http://themodcon.com/blog/2016/08/31/official-announcement-themodcon-endorses-mcmullin-for-president/ http://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/The-future-of-the-GOP-is-already-here-a-female-10418462.php

She will sing, sing a new song


Here’s the song reference.

We homeschool year-round, taking breaks of a week or two when they seem warranted.  Quite honestly, when we try to take longer breaks, Beanie gets weepy and starts asking when she can have her math time again. and Bugaboo develops a profound case of Notgonnadoit Syndrome with respect to pretty much everything.  We had been on a bit of a break through most of May, but in the early days of June, it became obvious that it was time to do some formal school time again.  Out came the math and penmanship books, but no more than that.  It is, after all, summer, and one of the more important lessons they’ll learn is the glory of a summer’s day, and the value of time that has only minimal limits.

I do, however, make it a point to have a few things lying around that, should any pint-sized personages complain of boredom, can be immediately placed into their waiting hands to relieve that dread malady.  Most of those things are of the printed matter variety.  As it happened, today’s selections were a book of traditional children’s games and the Wee Sing children’s songs and fingerplays songbook.  Since none of the tribe slept especially well last night, I declared universal naptime at noon, immediately following lunch, primarily to prevent bloodshed.

Beanie and Bugaboo, even on the rare days when they do nap, don’t sleep long during the day.  When they tumbled downstairs to see what wonders the latter part of the day might bring, I first offered them the opportunity to straighten up their room.  There are times when having taught these children logic works to my short-term disadvantage, as was the case when our daughters brightly informed me that the picking up and storage of Legos results in a decibel level that is nearly certain to awaken their little brothers, both of whom happen to be nursing summer colds.  To their credit, they did wash the dining room table and put the books back on the shelf in the playroom, since they agreed that a chore or two would be in order.

Since Mr. Man and Baby Guy were still sawing logs when the girls completed their labors, I handed Bugaboo the book of children’s games and Beanie the songbook, then suggested that each might choose something from her book to learn today, to teach the rest of the tribe.   Since both of them love to be placed in charge of almost anything, my recommendation was met with the quiet rush of two pairs of bare feet scampering off to preferred reading spots.

While the girls were weighing their gaming and musical options, Baby Guy shambled down the stairs, arms laden with toy cars and mumbling something about needing milk.  As I filled his cup, Beanie skidded into the kitchen, waving her songbook, and Bugaboo bellowed from the downstairs that freeze tag looked like great fun.  We play regular tag, but she had been hitherto unaware of the freeze variant.  Beanie had found a song she found enchanting, but needed some help figuring out the tune.  Off to the family room couch we four went, Baby Guy dripping cars as he walked, Bugaboo loving her baby brother by gathering them as they fell, so he would still have the full complement when we arrived.

After a moment of figuring out the melody to “Three Blue Pigeons” and a quick round of practice, Bugaboo suggested we sing and play tag outside.  Mr. Man, who has the worst of the household summer cold, was still peacefully sleeping (he ended up taking a four-hour nap).  Allowing him to continue in that state seemed advisable, so, after a quick drink of water to combat the heat of the day, we found a good singing spot in the shade of a grand magnolia.  Little pigeons flew and landed, with a madly grinning Beanie conducting our little chorus.  She tried ever so hard to convince Smudgie that he should be a pigeon, but he was far too interested in chasing us to sit nicely on a wall.

Once we’d tired of playing at being pigeons, and run out of Mo Willems references, it was time to play freeze tag.  Mr. Man was still comfortably snuggled up on Daddy’s pillow, which led Bugaboo to declare that she would give him special freeze tag lessons once he was feeling better.   A noisy, merry chase around the back yard ensued, with Smudgie being declared the winner of our game of freeze tag; any time anyone started to run, he or she was immediately tagged by a cold, wet nose.  Among our other discoveries were Sal’s excellence at sprinting off in random directions but utter inability to freeze, the blissful cool of a light breeze in the shade when we’ve been running, and the softness of grass (relative to dirt) for cushioning high-speed falls.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for summer afternoons, and for the gift of a big back yard where Your blessings can safely revel in them.  Thank you for the ability to read, for those who taught me, that I might later teach Your blessings, and for all those wonderful people who committed their childhood memories to paper that we might learn new and hilarious ways to enjoy Your creation.  When our calendar gets crowded, Lord, and I get cranky over the amount of work to be done, please keep me mindful that what I do, I do to serve You, and the greatest service I give You lies in the time I spend loving Your blessings instead of video screens and telephones.  Help me to cherish these days when playing tag and singing silly songs is my most important labor, and give me the wisdom to always teach Your blessings that we rejoice in each day You send.

Fly me to the moon


Here’s the song reference.

First, let me share my customary Father’s Day greeting, to wit:

To all the fathers who hold their children in their arms, to all the fathers who hold their children only in their hearts, to all the fathers-in-waiting, to all the men who have lovingly given of themselves to act as a father to other men’s children, to all those who would give much to be able to call their fathers just one more time – happy Father’s Day. May we remain ever thankful for dads and their love!

We have a few Father’s Day and Mother’s Day customs in our family, most of which revolve around things we do not do.  Neither Manie nor I enjoy either pushy crowds or big fusses, so we eschew going out to eat.  We always start those days with Mass, to give proper thanks for each other and for the parents and grandparents who trained us up to be the parents we’ve become – and, of course, for the children we hold both in our arms and in our hearts.

Insofar as gifts and other tangible expressions of appreciation go, we also tend towards the nontraditional.  Our budget doesn’t allow for expensive presents, and even if it did, we frequently laugh that it’s such a bother to find places to store things, and then to have to clean them, so we’d rather have simple things we can enjoy together.  Sometimes that “thing” is a nap, or a movie in the playroom with lots of popcorn, or time spent tooling around the neighborhood on bikes and scooters.

That said, Manie and I love the gifts our tribe makes and selects for us.  One of the traditions the midget mob and I  have developed over the years is hoarding Walgreens rewards points for Daddy’s birthday and Father’s Day.  He loves toys, you see, and none more so than toys that give him the chance to make a little mayhem with the minions.  Walgreens in summer is a virtual treasure trove of such delights, and all four of them mark the days until we make those two shopping trips to fill a cart with things that will make Daddy smile and laugh.

Manie was awakened this morning by a small parade of small people bringing him their treasures, their biggest hugs, and their best kisses.  Nestled among the bag of beef jerky, the giant package of Cracker Jacks, and a plethora of peanut butter cups, he found a water balloon launcher (Baby Guy does not yet realize his selection is a little more than a giant box of balloons, but it’s going to be a riot when he finds out), a balloon animal kit, and, wonder of wonders, a rubber band rocket.  A great deal of the morning, both before and after Mass, was comprised of Daddy laughingly and lovingly crafting a small army of balloon dachshunds.  We fully expect to hear these popping the middle of the night, as all four of the small people insisted on taking their inflatable pets to bed with them.

It was the afternoon, however, that brought the great hilarity of the Mega Rocket.  You see, some weeks ago, Manie procured one of those little plastic rockets that launches with water.  Unfortunately, he managed to land it into one of the roof vents on his third flight, and has been earthbound, from a toy perspective, ever since.  When Mr. Man espied the Mega Rocket hanging from its peg in the store, he seized it and crowed, “Mommy!  Daddy needs a brand new rocket!  It’s a BIG rocket!  Daddy can fly this rocket all the way to the moon!  I want to get this rocket for Daddy!  He will be so happy to have a rocket again!”

As it happened, Daddy was quite happy to have a rocket again, especially when he discovered that its advertised flight of 250 feet was not, in fact, an exaggeration.  For hours, our front lawn rang with laughter from father and children, along with several neighbor dads who had to come over to see what was causing such cheerful commotion.  One of them beckoned me aside and said, “So, did Manie get anything, you know, good for Father’s Day?”

“Yes,” I replied.  “The kids gave him exactly what he wanted – a bag full of toys of his own and his favorite snacks, an afternoon bike ride, and eating anything Daddy wanted to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for a husband who thanks You for our four little blessings by rejoicing in every opportunity to laugh and play with them.  Thank You for Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man, and Baby Guy, and for their six siblings whose faces we will see when we meet You at the end of our days on earth.  Thank You for our fathers, for our grandfathers, for our godfathers, and all the other good and Godly men who have loved us throughout our lives and shown us what beauty there is in fatherhood.

Lord, thank You also for simple pleasures.  We like a great many of our treasures here, Lord, from guitars to books to computers to pretty clothes, but please help us be mindful that all those things will pass away.  Please burn it into our hearts that to loving one another is not measured by the amount of money we spend, but by the love we pour out upon one another, as You poured Yours out upon us.

 

I say a little prayer with you


Here’s the song reference.

All the tiny people were awake and active before Manie left for work yesterday morning, a somewhat unusual happenstance, as the boys usually sleep until around 8:00.  This posed certain logistical challenges, since I generally use the time between Manie’s departure and the boys’ awakening to make the morning phone calls in relative quiet.  I’ve never been entirely certain exactly what it is about the appearance of a telephone at the side of my head that causes the volume dial in toddlers’ heads to automatically crank up to ten, but it’s always been the case.  Perhaps one of the tiny people will become a neuroscientist and answer that one for me.

In any event, Grandma had a busy day on tap, so our call was short.  Once she and I had finished our chat, Bugaboo and Beanie were ready to start their math lesson.  Just as they settled in with their books and pencils, Deedaw called me before I could call her, as she had errands to run and wanted to get an earlier than usual start to her own day.  We had just started to discuss Manie’s building project for this weekend when Baby Guy ambled into the kitchen, arms laden with toy cars and trucks.

The little fellow climbed up into his daddy’s chair at the kitchen table, as he often does during the day, and started to arrange his load on the table.  Bugaboo and Beanie loudly complained at him, since he was shaking the table with the force of his parking the cars on the wood.  Still talking with Deedaw, I started to gather up Baby Guy’s playthings and gently return them to the living room; we discourage the playing of Demolition Derby on the kitchen table during seatwork time.  Mr. Man was having a morning romp with Smudgie in the back yard, having already devoured a waffle and about a quarter of a pound of cheese.

This turn of events greatly displeased Baby Guy, who alighted from his perch, stomped into the living room, loudly insisting upon the necessity of having toy motor vehicles in the kitchen as he went, wagging his wee finger at me and scowling as he intoned, “Babababad!”  Deedaw, being on the other end of the phone line, could laugh.  Apparently the audio of the scene made it pretty easy for her to get the visual.

We repeated our little dance, with Baby Guy slamming his toys onto the table and me gently gathering them and returning them to the other room.  His complaints finally became so loud and continuous, and were so augmented by Beanie and Bugaboo’s warranted lament that the racket made it impossible for them to concentrate on solving math problems, that Deedaw and I agreed to cut our conversation short.

After hanging up the phone, I remonstrated with Baby Guy about the principle that if books are on the table, cars and trucks should not be, gave him a kiss on the head and a cup of milk for his hand, sat down at the table between our daughters, and opened up my laptop to order American Heritage Girls uniforms for Bugaboo and Beanie, figuring we should have at least ten minutes of peace.

This being the fourth time since 2009 we’ve had a two-year-old in the house, one might think I’d know better.  However, our children come by their thick skulls honestly.  As I typed in all the shipping information, Baby Guy returned to the kitchen, fire truck in hand, and proceeded to clamber back up into Manie’s chair, gleefully shrieking, “I da FIYUH CHEEF!” as he did so.

Beanie put her head down in her math book.  Bugaboo started twirling her hair around her pencil, glowering alternately at her youngest brother and her mother.

“Baby Guy.  This is schoolwork time.  We cannot have trucks on the table during math lessons.  Take it back into the living room please.”

His wee face crumpled, his little chest heaved, and he started to cry big, fat, sad tears as he wailed, “No wivig woom!  Fiyuh cheef!  Bump twucks on tabuh!”

I picked him and his fire truck up, set them both gently on the floor, and gave him a little pat on the back to indicate that he did, indeed, need to head for the other room.  “Go on, sweetheart.  We’ll be done soon, and then we can all play fire chiefs together.”

Baby Guy collapsed on the floor in a shuddering, sobbing, heap.

His sisters stared – not at him, but at me.  No mathematical equations were being solved.  The problem at hand only tangentially had anything to do with books.

“Hey, girls, put your pencils in your books and close them for a minute.” I scooped up Baby Guy and snuggled him against my chest.  His tears made wet tracks down my shirt front as he tremblingly pushed his red face into my chest.  “I think maybe Baby Guy is sad that he missed when we did our morning prayers.  Would you mind if we did them again?”

Beanie jumped on that lifeboat with a cheerful, “That’s a great idea!  There’s no such thing as too many prayers!”

I cradled Baby Guy’s little hands between mine as we repeated our morning devotions, feeling the hitches in his breathing slowly diminish, then stop, as he calmed in my embrace.  The words of the prayers, and the promises they contained, washed over me, particularly “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  As we finished praying together, Baby Guy’s countenance having settled into a contented smile, I whispered into his hair, “I’m sorry, baby.”

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Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for the reminder that Your blessings inherited many traits from me, including the tendency to be a little thick-headed.  Please grant me the grace to have as much patience with them as You have with me.  Please open my eyes to their need for comfort and attention, and keep me mindful that however important whatever I’m ordering on the computer at that particular moment may seem to be, it pales when compared to the significance of spending that same time with one of Your little blessings.  Engrave it upon my heart, Lord, that what may appear to be an inconvenience is, in Your eyes, an opportunity for me to teach Your blessings that love means my to-do list can wait.

Compliment without caveats


The ladies over at Scary Mommy have had some remarkable postings lately.  I would strongly encourage all of you to read their latest, “About Children with Down Syndrome.”

Every life matters, friends, and most people appreciate both an honest compliment and an honest question.  The rules of etiquette teach us it is best to separate the twain.

Peace be with you,

Kelly

Bang your head


Here’s the song reference.

Our kitchen is slightly less orderly than usual at the moment, perhaps because our dishwasher decided to resign a bare two months before we’re supposed to be moving.  I have no particular objection to washing dishes by hand; truth be told, I have many vivid and cheerful memories of drying dishes in Granny’s kitchen, and am somewhat looking forward to passing that experience along to my own children.  Even Baby Guy can dry and stow the spoons.  However, it does disrupt our morning timing somewhat, and while the tiny people are not exactly enslaved to their routine, they will take advantage of distractions and diversions to skitter off to Lego-land instead of working on their morning seatwork.

Nonetheless, we headed for the park to take advantage of a warm, sunny day, the second-to-last Wednesday of summer, and a day on which the less time I spend in front of any electronic media, the happier our entire household is.  Since we were running low on what we call “portable food,” and because we are trying not to generate more dishes than are necessary, we stopped at the nearby grocery store to acquire grapes, cheese, and carrots to eat for lunch.  Augmented by the blueberry biscuits I’d found in the pantry, we had the makings of a warm day’s feast.

As I was loading Baby Guy into the shopping cart seat, and his siblings were scrambling into their accustomed positions around the cart, our youngest set up a pitiable cry of, “Cuppy!  Cuppy! Where cuppy?”

I had asked Beanie to locate and carry Baby Guy’s sippy cup.  Mr. Man clung to his blankie, Bugaboo carried a stuffed penguin whithersoever she went, and had her pancake bunny when they still had to have a security object in their travels, but for Baby Guy, it has been a sippy cup since he learned to use one.  Fortunately, the color and style of sippy cup matter not to him, as long as he has one.  “Hey, Beanie, do you remember where you put Baby Guy’s cuppy?”

“I think I forgot it.”

Those who have raised toddlers just winced a little.

After a quick reminder to Beanie that Baby Guy was likely to be quite unhappy for the duration of our trip to the store, I mentally added a cup for the little fellow to our shopping list.  Baby Guy continued wailing unhappily about the absence of Cuppy, and I exhorted the tribe to set as brisk a pace as possible without running, which would be unseemly and unsafe in a grocery store.  Shepherding the older children as we trotted, I awkwardly rubbed Baby Guy’s back while pushing the cart upon which he sat and trying to murmur soothing words in between reminders to Beanie and Mr. Man that trying to step on the backs of one another’s shoes is not an approved game.

Few other customers were in the store at the time of our arrival, so we were able to acquire our few items largely unimpeded.  With four small children, I’ve developed a knack for snagging and carting things in stores without breaking stride.  When we arrived at the baby supplies aisle, however, I had to come to a full stop to select an appropriate cup.  The price of sippy cups at a grocery store has become genuinely ridiculous, and I was taken aback at the thought of spending seven dollars on a single drinking vessel.

We’d been meaning to transition Baby Guy from sippy cups to straw cups anyway, so I tossed a package of them into the cart and headed for the checkout.  To Baby Guy’s very great delight, these particular cups featured characters from the movie Cars.  He’s never seen the movie, but he loves cars.  He did not, however, love that the cups were in the cart instead of his hands, and proceeded to express his displeasure the way all of his siblings did at the same age, to wit: by pounding his head vigorously upon the nearest available surface, which in this instance happened to be the handle of the shopping cart.

We made our way back to the van without serious damage to Baby Guy’s cranium (my pediatrician’s advice has been to ignore this behavior strenuously, and only give reinforcement of any kind when the behavior changes to something that does not involve head-banging, and he’s been right so far – this stage only lasts a couple of weeks if the child doesn’t get what she or he wants from it, because it really doesn’t feel very good).  After a light-speed load-in, I reassured Baby Guy that upon our arrival at the park, he would be presented with a snazzy new cup full of his beverage of choice (he’s a milk junkie).  That changed his wail from one desirous of a cup to one pleading for the playground, which I counted as progress as we hit the road.

Once I’d settled our cooler on our base of operations, a picnic table in the shade of the pavilion next to the playground and helped Baby Guy drink deeply from his new cup, the tiny people scattered in all directions to swing, slide, climb, and make friends with the other children cavorting through the play equipment.  I stayed by the cooler to hand out drinks and food, as Mr. Man is in the habit of staging raids which result in edibles flying in all directions as he seeks his snack of choice.  Baby Guy, while somewhat put out by my denial of his request to carry his new “Cuppy” around the playground with him, was quickly lost in his quest to see exactly how fast he can descend a sliding board.  Bugaboo and Beanie cheerfully set about making friends with the other homeschooled kids who were already there, and I introduced myself to the ladies at the other table, who were meeting there to talk about setting up a new American Heritage Girls troop.  After sharing our overabundance of grapes with them, since they were the mothers of the rest of the children at the playground, I retired to our base camp to continue my rolling head count of my own crew.

We passed a pleasant hour at the park, with the tribe careening between the cooler and the playground.  Once Mr. Man and Beanie started a mulch-throwing party, however, it was time for us to depart.  The day was hot; all four children were red-faced and sweaty, so it seemed an opportune time to head home, get Baby Guy a nap, do a little schoolwork, and maybe catch an episode of “How It’s Made,” which is Bugaboo’s current obsession.

I called to the tiny people, “Bugaboo!  Beanie!  Mr. Man!  Baby Guy!  It’s time to go now!”

The predictable protest ensued.  Baby Guy attempted to flee up the steps of one of the slides, having not yet watched enough horror movies to know that when one is being pursued, one should never run up the stairs.  I tucked him onto my hip and waded back through the playground, trailing a line of little kids, each of whom had his or her own reason why we should stay at the park for ten more minutes, or even another hour.  Bugaboo and Beanie quickly remembered that Mommy is something of a Borg about park departure times; resistance is futile, and possibly counterproductive.  Mr. Man, however, would live at the playground if we would allow it.

Our three-year-old son, ruddy-faced from the heat and exertion, stomped and shuffled his way across the playground to the pavilion where I was retrieving our cooler, whining as he went, paying far more attention to his lament than he was to the tree roots that protruded from the ground.  With the grace typical for his age, he tripped over a tree root and landed, forehead first, on the corner of the concrete pad that forms the floor of the pavilion.

With Baby Guy still riding on my hip, I ran and scooped up my wailing child in my free arm.  The sound of a full-throated scream from a child who has just hit his head with a great deal of force is authentically beautiful – it means he’s conscious. As I clutched him to my chest and made my way to a bench to survey the damage, I suddenly found myself surrounded by the ladies who had been meeting at the other table.

“Is he okay?  Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I think he’s okay, but there’s a lot of dirt on his forehead, do any of you happen to have a wipe I could use, please?”

One lady produced a wipe, another grabbed a ziplock bag and an ice cube from her cooler.  After we had applied both to Mr. Man’s head, we discovered that while he had an impressive goose egg and abrasion, the swelling was all directed outwards.  I thanked the ladies profusely, and in response to their inquiry regarding whether we needed any further assistance, I replied, “Let me see.  Mr. Man, will you be okay if we can get home and find you some chocolate?”

“Ye- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) sh.  I need some chocolate for medicine, and chocolate will make me feel all better.”

We four moms chuckled discreetly.  Having calmed both boys (Baby Guy cries when Mr. Man does), I explained the story of a high school friend’s father’s method of determining the severity of his many children’s claimed illnesses and injuries.  If a child complained of being sick or hurt, he would produce a bowl of ice cream, give it to the complaining child, and watch for results.  If the child was still sick or hurt after eating the ice cream, a trip to the doctor was probably warranted; if not, the child was sent off to school.

For the record, Mr. Man is in fine fettle this morning, and currently quite put out that Mommy is focusing on her laptop instead of her son.

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Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding me that the thick skulls You gave Your blessings are a gift; I forget that sometimes.  Thank You for the kindness of strangers, for the love they showed Your blessings and I at the park yesterday, for the reminder that sometimes “I love you” is said best by having the humility to accept assistance from people we don’t know.  Thank You for enough grapes to share, and for a bright, peaceful, and sunny day, where the only heat we encountered was from the late summer sun.  Please help us teach Your blessings to love without fear; empty me of my doubts and suspicions, and fill that space with trust in Your providence.  We would raise children who live in joyful anticipation of Your kingdom, and who see a glimmer of You in every face, even if that face is twisted with rage, or malice, or a pain we cannot fathom.  Grant us the grace of hearts that do what You made them to do, which is to love and serve You by loving and serving all of our neighbors, and by humbly thanking You for blessing us with them.

Black vultures, if you please


Here’s the song reference.

One of our favorite features of homeschooling is the freedom to go wherever the tribe’s curiosity takes us, insofar as learning is concerned.  While we have a daily requirement of English, math and religious studies lessons, it’s not uncommon for the day’s planned science or history lesson to be set aside in favor of exploring some question one of the tiny people has posed, particularly when it’s one to which I don’t have an immediate answer.

Yesterday, while she was working on her arithmetic, Bugaboo heard a bird crying in the skies outside, and excitedly declared, “I think I hear a vulture!”

“Hmm. I don’t think so, Bugaboo, that sounded more like a crow to me.”

“What sound do vultures make, Mommy?”

“I’m not exactly sure, honestly.  Tell you what.  You finish your math, there, and Beanie, you finish yours, while I get the computer and see what I can find.”

“Okay! Maybe we can learn how to talk to them!”

We live in a semi-rural area, where wildlife populations are robust.  Because the automobile population is also robust, Bugaboo and her siblings are accustomed to seeing vultures on the side of the road, cleaning up the inevitable results of encounters between the two populations.  I believe her first inquiry about the big carrion birds came when she was about three, at which time I explained to her that every creature the Lord created has some purpose, and vultures are God’s garbagemen, eating up the dead things so they don’t stink for a long time.  Seconds later, I had to further explain that no, vultures would not make good pets, in spite of the amount of garbage we might be able to generate.

I still haven’t come up with an explanation for the purpose of mosquitoes, unless they’re meant to be a reminder that the smallest things can cause the biggest trouble.

Grinning as I recalled that conversation, I fetched the laptop from its table and started searching for vulture calls online.  The first interesting result didn’t have any actual vulture speech, but was a nifty two-minute short about the black vulture.

“Hey, Bugaboo, hey, Beanie, take a little break.”  I turned the screen so it faced Bugaboo’s chair.  “This doesn’t have their actual calls, but it’s interesting anyway.”  Beanie scrambled out of her chair and tucked in beside her sister, and the two of them raptly watched a nature center’s introduction to one of its avian inhabitants.

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“That was neat, Mommy, can we watch it again?”

“Sure, why not?  Then you can finish up your math while I look for some more, and hopefully I’ll be able to find one with the actual sounds vultures make.”

Bugaboo hurriedly recommenced solving equations, while Beanie dawdled her way back to her chair.  Vultures were significantly more interesting than practicing sums.  A few minutes later, I located a page with audio clips of the various sounds turkey vultures make, cranked up the volume, and played the sounds for the girls.  “Mommy, they sounds like they’re snoring!” exclaimed Bugaboo excitedly.

“They do, don’t they?  And listen to this – when a young turkey vulture thinks it’s in danger, it hisses like a cat.”

“Wow!”

After all the math and reading were done, the girls headed off to play while I looked for documentaries about vultures on Netflix and Fios.  My lesson for yesterday was that if one searches with the string “movies about vultures,” one will get a large number of search results that have absolutely nothing to do with wildlife.  While I didn’t succeed in finding anything vulture-specific, I was able to add Sir David Attenborough’s excellent Life of Birds series to our queue, along with Wild Kratts (am I the only one who misses Zoboomafoo?) and a quirky little animated series called Oscar’s Oasis, which features a vulture as one of the recurring villainous characters.

By the time I finished my searching, Baby Guy and Mr. Man had finished their breakfasts and begun making merry mayhem in their sisters’ room.  If I’m not mistaken, Legos were being used as missiles, and I think it was Baby Guy who pulled Beanie’s Wall Tracks off of the wall . . . again.  With a sigh and a bit of an eyeroll, I waded into the battle zone to deliver the news that suitably education viewing materials had, in fact, been located, and that should the room be rendered navigable again, we could watch them over sandwiches on the couch.

We watched the Attenborough episode about carnivorous birds, after which Baby Guy decided he was ready for a nap.  I decided Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man and I could use a little rest, too, so I came back upstairs from tucking Baby Guy in with Mr. Man’s blankies and pillow, then advised all and sundry that we could have a little movie if everyone could rest quietly while we did so.  Since Joseph, King of Dreams happens to have vultures in it, that seemed like a good viewing choice, and gave me a good opportunity to talk with the tribe about the importance of forgiveness (a particularly relevant lesson, given what we commemorate today), we watched that, each of us in repose in our comfy spot of choice in the living room.

Before we left for Deedaw’s in the late afternoon, we had also caught an episode of Oscar’s Oasis, and talked about references to vultures in the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Revelations, as well as the Gospels of Mark and Luke.  We read up on carrion birds in our wildlife folio collection, and talked about avian life cycles and anatomy.  My one regret is that we didn’t have time to turn our newfound knowledge into a craft project of some kind, but I suspect we’ll devise one today.

Our drive over to Deedaw’s house was punctuated by joyful exclamations from Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man whenever they spotted vultures circling overheard.  As we drove past a car dealership, Bugaboo explained to Mr. Man, “Look, there are lots of vultures flying over that car store.  That means there’s probably something tasty there, probably in the back, and it’s probably stinky, too.  There’s lots of cars at a car store, so maybe somebody ran something over, and the vultures are waiting for it to be safe for them to go eat it.  Then it won’t be stinky anymore, it will just be food in the vulture’s tummy.”

They also made a project of teaching Baby Guy to say, “Booteeful vuchuz!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the eyes of Your blessings, so eager to find the beauty in every living thing You created.  Thank You for the ability to read, and the joy of passing that skill along to the tiny people You have entrusted to my care.  Thank You for reminding me, through them, how full of wonder the world is, and to contemplate how all the things in it work together for Your glory.

Lord, on this day when the minds of so many will be occupied with remembrances of a day filled with evil, fill my heart with awe and joy.  Help me teach Your blessings to seek Your face on dark days, to find that glimmer of You in every other person, and to respond to each of them as You would have, with gentleness even in reproof, by sharing whatever nourishment those other souls may need.  Please guard our hearts and tongues from wrath, and help us remember to seek justice instead of vengeance in all things.