Monday morning we awakened bright and early, packed up the van, and drove. It was a beautiful day and a happy trip. It was exactly eleven months to the day that I had left Matt in Talledega, Alabama at the National Guard Armory there. For the past eleven months he has been gone from our home. For nine of those months, he has been serving with the Fourth Alabama in Afghanistan. We were going to bring Dad home.

What a year it has been. Matt asked me not to write about his absence in this space. He did not want the world to know he was not at home for so long. He didn’t want everyone to know that we were by ourselves. This is smart, but it also made things so very, very hard.

I process things through writing, and I really have little success writing for myself. Since I couldn’t write it all out for you, the processing was stifled. I kept a lot of things inside this year, all bottled up and sometimes toxic to my psyche. I’ve deleted countless unfinished posts. Add to that the idea of keeping a blog about home, family, and homeschooling without being able to talk about the single biggest thing happening in your family at that moment. It was a tough year to blog, because I couldn’t talk much at all about what was really going on here.

And what was going on? Survival, that’s what. I started the year off with the idea that I did not just want to survive this year. I finished the year just grateful that I had. I had grand plans in the beginning, but I quickly discovered that an eleven month separation is far different than our normal three week ones. Those typically resulted in bursts of undistracted productivity. Along about week four it became clear that undistracted productivity was not sustainable throughout. After about month four, I was wondering if I was sustainable throughout.

But I was, and in retrospect we got much accomplished:

  • One was potty trained and weaned from his pacifier.
  • One learned to go to sleep in his own bed without having to be rocked and now stays there all night.
  • One stopped thumb sucking.
  • One had surgery, spent six weeks in casts, and made a successful recovery.
  • We completed a successful year of Classical Conversations and memorized the history timeline along with a ton of other facts.
  • One learned to read and finished his Singapore math book.
  • We memorized ten new poems.
  • One completed sacrament prep and received two sacraments this year.
  • We listened to countless books and stories.
  • One learned to write in cursive.
  • We founded the first Frontier Girls troop in the state of Alabama and had a very successful year (thanks in large part to the wonderful moms in our troop)!
  • And we never once missed a garbage day!

I am proud of us. It was not the perfect year. It wasn’t even the year I envisioned, but it was a good year. By God’s grace and the help of family and friends, we learned much and made it through. Each and every one of us.

Am I a better mother because of this year? Please ask me in a few weeks. Right now I am still too close to survival mom — she who skimped out on the bedtime routine, stopped reading aloud, pushed way too much television, fed the kids cereal for dinner, served everything on paper plates, and gave in to the three-year-old’s whims so he would just stop whining. In a few weeks maybe I can show you where I’ve grown. Right now, though, I can feel the calm coming back in the way I interact with the kids. I want to grab that, embrace it, and nurture it. I have missed it.

In the meantime, we are adjusting. Matt and I both agree that it feels weird for him to be here. I can remember that it used to be normal for him to be around, but I really can’t remember what that normal was like. I also know the new normal will not be the same. But, we are happy. We are so proud of our solider for his service and sacrifice. We are so grateful to God that He brought husband and father safely home to us. And as John said earlier as we played in the backyard after dinner, “The whole family is here together!” Indeed it is.

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Pam Barnhill

Pam is the author of The Your Morning Basket Guide and Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace. She also is the host of three popular  podcasts -- The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast, Your Morning Basket, and The Homeschool Solutions Show. She lives in the Deep South with her husband and three kids, where she is the go-to lady for great curriculum recommendations or a just a pep talk on a rough day.
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