Baseball in Baltimore

Here we are with our good friend at the famous Camden Yards, getting ready to see our first major-league baseball game.

We traveled to Baltimore, Maryland for two major league baseball games. Before we went to these two games, there was already another game on Friday night that was Houston Astros vs. Baltimore Orioles, and the Astros won it. It was 6 hours to get there, and when we got to our hotel room, we had a great view of Baltimore.

The view from our 24th-floor hotel room.

That night, we walked to the game with our friends, but it got rain delayed, so they had to start the game late. It was still Houston vs. Baltimore, and we were going for the Astros. The Astros were visiting, so they got to bat first.

Watching the Astros warm up before the big game!

It was the 5th inning and still neither team had scored any points. But then the Astros hit a home run and the Orioles hit two home runs in a row. The Orioles had 4 points and the Astros had 1. Then the Astros hit a 3-point home run. The Astros ended up wining it 8-4! We went to our hotel room, and we saw people throwing down newspaper boxes in the road.

What a cool view of the field!

We saw one more game, but this one was the next afternoon. Our friends only came for the last part. The Astros hit two 2-point home runs in the 3rd. The Astros had 4 and the Orioles had 0, but then the Orioles came back and won.

There were pictures all over the park of what the Oriole has looked like over the years. We thought this one was funny because he seemed so angry!

I would like to thank my parents for taking me to Baltimore, especially my Dad who got us Astros jerseys and hat, and bought us tickets. We had a really fun time and had a lot of new experiences!

My cat Stanley

Stanley liked to lie down and stretch in the sun.

My cat, Stanley, was a big, fat, orange tabby, and he was really heavy. Stanley was quite hilarious, but sometimes he bit people.

My favorite memory about him was that he was always hysterical and made me laugh. One time my friend, Bret, was over and his sister, Bella, was like “Awww, look how cute!” He started hissing and then he scratched her.

Stanley would fold laundry with us and we would laugh at him. Sometimes my Mom would put underwear capes on him!

He fought with the neighbor’s cat, Wyatt, one time. We came out and there was hair everywhere because they brawled really badly. When we made puzzles, he always peed on them, and that was sad.

His nicknames were “Stuges,” “Stan Geed-Veh” and “Shrooms” … it was really amusing. He would always rub his tail on us. He was actually older than us. He died when he was 15.

This is Stanley in our stroller in 2010.

My mom told me that Stanley used to bring some “gifts” inside the house. Daddy said that when I was little or maybe before I was born, Stanley brought in a bunny head and left it in the hallway. I would be screaming if I saw that. And there was a bird inside flying around one time that he had brought in.

Here’s Stanley with a smug face walking away from Wyatt, his enemy!

Stanley died in January 2017, and we were all unhappy. I loved him because he was funny and adorable. But, he did scratch me a lot.

Camping & birthday party

About a month ago, I went camping for my birthday at Stone Mountain. Now this was no ordinary vacation; it was an insane vacation. There was constant screeching, screaming, and squealing of people. But hey, I’m not saying I didn’t do it.

But there was some fun involved, along with the fatigue and hard work of my parents. An example: there was something like a mini sliding rock that was actually pretty darn exciting, but I did cut up my whole lower body while going down it. Another example: hiking was epic.

Here’s the crew at Hutchinson Homestead.

So now I can get to the actual camping “adventure.” The first day was really just unpacking and getting prepared for the craziness to come. The second day, on the hike we visited the “homestead,” which was really cool. It had a bunch of buildings, including: an outhouse, lodge, meat cellar, and storage shed with an anvil and other equipment within its rugged old walls. (BTW, most everything in the “homestead” was real like around 100-year-old stuff, so that was really interesting.)

In the back of the residence, there was a giant “stone mountain.” I’m guessing that’s why they named the place Stone Mountain. So then we continued with the hike. The hike was long, about three miles, but when we finally reached the end, a 200-foot waterfall awaited our hiking victory. We didn’t swim because we still had to hike back, but we just “walked” in the water which was strange.

So we got back, we got on our swim gear and headed for the mini sliding rock. We finally arrived at our destination and slid and slid and slid until………….DUN DUN DUN….I got in big trouble, so here’s the story folks. I was told (by my parents) not to go in the swimming pit above the rock, but I didn’t go until a little later.

But then Asher (one of the people I went with) was calling me from the pit, so I started up, then I was being called out of the pit and came out and I was in big ol’ trouble. By the end of the weekend, we had lost about the month’s worth of video games! That concludes the getting-in-trouble story.

Having big fun at Widow’s Creek Falls.

We left and went back to the campsite and had a fire, (like usual) and went to bed. That ends day two.

Now for the last day: Day three. We packed up and left, but this is not the end. We were driving home and we took a wrong turn after leaving the campsite. We couldn’t have GPS because there were no bars on our phone, and we were taking wrong turns all over the place. We ended up wasting an hour even before we started on the right path to home, and then there were slow people at the Sheetz, too. So long drive home, ain’t it?

We finally arrived home and we stared unpacking, putting stuff in the shed, and just putting some of our gear inside. We didn’t finish unpacking until the next day, but we got most of it done. The day was over, and our camping trip had come to an end.

I’m grateful that my parents take us camping, even though there are some bad moments. But on the other hand, there are quite a lot of good moments, too!

The next day awaited. OK, so it was the next day and the day of my 10th birthday … YAY! I woke up at about 7:00 and started playing some video games which some were: Minecraft, Halo, and Forza Horizon. (Despite the ban, my kind father let me play because it was my birthday.)

Now we ate breakfast, but there was some angst which included: Zeke getting his butt whipped, crying, and screaming. The rest of the afternoon was spent decorating and getting food all ready for the party.

Around 1:00, we ate lunch and about at 1:30 my grandmother arrived. She bought me a new video game (Halo 1 also known as Halo CE Anniversary, which is basically like Halo CE and Halo Reach together one game) as a birthday present. After lunch, we tried it out. It was really awesome.

Getting some nice birthday gifts from my friends.

After that it was just a matter of time before the big party started around 5:00, and ended around like 9:00 or 9:30 (I can’t really remember). Earlier in the day, we had set up a badminton net and some sort of shooting station where we shot the BB gun and the bow and arrow.

After a while, we did cake and presents, which, by the way, I got some good loot. This included: a Nerf rival rifle, Clue the board game, an emoji frisbe and much more. The party ended and everybody went home, except for my friends that were spending the night: Brodie and Bret. We stayed up until about … I can’t remember … but I think it was around 2:30 or 3:00 playing video games and watching movies.

The next day we woke up at 8:00 and played some more video games and then went outside for a little bit shooting Nerf guns, the BB gun, and the bow and arrow, and then went inside again (playing some more Halo). After that my friends left and my birthday party and camping trip adventure had finally come to a close. I would like to thank my parents for throwing me a cool birthday party.

Goodbye everyone! Thanks for reading!

Massunutten madness!

We went to Massanutten with our friends Asher and Jackson. On the first day we were there, we were watching baseball on the TV and we saw the players fight!

I’m serving during a doubles game.

On the second day, we went to an outside pool. Right next to that pool, there was an indoor pool, so we went in both. The third day, we played tennis at night and it was really fun. We played the next day, too.

On the fourth day, we went to a different pool that afternoon and it went up to 12 feet of water, but the other ones only went up to 5 feet. And at this one, there was a diving board that we went on … it was really exciting!

I was scared at first, but then I did the jump!

On the last day, we got in our hot tub and you could add bubbles to the the hot tub; that was cool, too! And we had a game of Risk that started on the third day and didn’t end until the fifth.

After that we went to the Valley Heritage Museum and we saw arrowheads that they found in the area. We also learned about Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign and The Burning done by Sheridan.

At the museum, we learned about the War Between the States and other kinds of local history.

I’m thankful that our friends invited us to Massanutten. I hope we can go again because it was so memorable!

Pilot Mountain merriment

I went to Pilot Mountain with my friend, Jacob. We went on hikes. It was like 83 degrees, and that’s pretty hot. There was a construction site near our campsite … that’s pretty weird.

Here’s Jacob & I in front of the bottom of the mountain.

We played this game when we jumped on rocks; it was really cool! There was a lake we were playing in, and I pooped in it!!! I really had to go, and the bathroom was disgusting.

When we slept, the tent was really hot, and I couldn’t go to sleep. We had these little fans, so if it got too hot, we could turn them on.

Look, there’s the construction in the background of our campsite.

We brought some toys which were Minecraft toys. We played checkers at a picnic table, and we took a photo at the top of the mountain, and my friend had a really funny face! We brought glow-sticks and played hide and seek with them in the dark.

When we were coming home, I got car sick and had to drink some Coke. I got sick because we were playing with my friend’s iPad.

Jacob & I had fun playing checkers at the picnic table & other games all around.

It was kinda cool to go somewhere without my brothers. I brought my Atlanta braves hat, so that’s cool, too. I’m really thankful because that was my first time there, and I want to go back there again.

Take-Your-Son-To-Work Day

Here I am with my dad after a hard day’s work.

On April 27, 2017, I went to work with my dad. I met all his co-workers and boss, and I think they were all really nice.

My dad showed me around and, instead of working in cubes, my dad and most all people work in pods, which is like a big cube that three or four people can work in, but then a team is made up of four or five pods. Weird. And on my dad’s friend’s team, there was a picture of his face in a tuxedo with a really serious face, which was really funny.

I went out to lunch at a place where they sell burgers and Irish food. I asked when I was looking at menu, “Where’s the corned beef?” I wanted that corned beef, but sadly, they didn’t have it, so I got a club sandwich, which was actually pretty good … but I was like, “What kind of Irish place doesn’t have corned beef?” It got the massive turkey sandwich with bacon, tons of mayo, and fries as a side.

When we returned, I met some more people and then we all got back to work. I also had to do “work,” but it wasn’t computer programing: it was school! So I did my work for quite a really long time. I read some of my book, did Explode the Code, did my PreScripts, and a lot of Duolingo.

People were always asking me if I was helping my dad with work and I said, “Yes, I’m helping him by encouraging him.” Oh yeah, and at lunch they were talking about “Uncle Greg.” So, we texted him to see if we could come and “check out his cube.” But he was on meeting. We texted him first at about noon and we went up at like 4. Then we finally left.

There was a bridge connecting the old building and the new building, and we had to walk across it to get to where Greg worked. We went across only to find eight elevators, and we decided to just choose one. At first we didn’t know what floor he was on, so we just went to floor 12. The ride to floor 12 was crazy because the floor we were on before was all the way down on the third floor.

We came out of the elevator after only like three seconds in it, but we couldn’t find anything besides salesmen! So we went down a floor and we found the cube (finally)! Greg had pretty nice view of downtown out of a nearby window. We hung out up there for a while, and then we came back to the third floor. I packed up my school stuff and my dad finished up his work and then we left.

It was cool to see what my dad does every day. THE END!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We’re still here, I promise!

Hey, it’s been since November since the last blog. Sorry about that, all you Clan Dillingham fans, but I’ve launched my own personal political blog, and that has taken up all my spare time, in addition to homeschooling, holidays, church, vacation, baseball, field trips, doc appointments, housework, yard work, and much-needed downtime, of course.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I want to try to keep this blog alive, so I’m passing the torch to the kids. My goal is to have them publish one or two blogs a month about our happenings and any special event they may want to write about.

So, here we go. Wish us luck … we may need it!

Our autumn blur

I haven’t blogged in nearly three months — officially the longest gap I’ve ever had between writings. And that pretty much sums up the blur that has been life the last few months.

Our summer wrapped up with these end-of-dog-days notables:

  • Matthew’s birthday party;
  • our final trip of the season to Wet n’ Wild with Matthew and Miss Stacey;
  • my completing the Color Vibe 5k with Tricia;
  • Zeke breaking his arm while playing nighttime freeze tag at Miss Jessica’s;
  • my 45th birthday;
  • and Papa’s 80th birthday party in Richmond.

We attended a Trump rally, which served as our anniversary kick-off & the 3 Amigos’ civics lesson for the day. Plus, we ran into Tyrnan & Jim @ the event. What a win-win-win!

From then on, we began mixing a brew of activities, which seemed to make life rush by in the blink of an eye. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was all good stuff, just a bit overwhelming, especially for a mama who took Awana off our schedule this year just so we’d have more free time. Ha, live and learn.

There were 3 main ingredients to our cocktail of crazy:

1. SRA baseball

Baseball was the big kahuna time-wise because all three boys played this season, although Gabriel and Zeke were on the same team. However, being that there were two games a week per team and two early-morning Saturday practices every weekend … well, just talking about it makes me tired.

Houston the big-hitter! (Speaking of blurry, my apologies for the not-so-focused baseball pics. Sports photography is hard, people.)

Now, throw in these curve balls (pardon the pun):

  • that kids were supposed to show up a half an hour before game time to warm up;
  • the fields where they played were both 20-30 minutes away from home;
  • sometimes the 3 Amigos were scheduled for games on the same night (and sometimes at the same time);
  • dinner either had to be eaten in the van en route to the game, or made and served up upon arrival home to a tired and hungry (read: “hangry”) crew;
  • and then there were even games every night of the week during part of the playoffs.

Luckily for me, the boys’ teams didn’t advance too far in the tournament. I know that sounds callous to say, but sheesh, this old lady needed a break something fierce. I think the 3 Amigos and Daddy did, too.

Houston participated in his last season of coach-pitch ball with good buddy, NickO. His team, the Athletics, didn’t do that well, but Houston really came out of his shell as far as his personal skills go, especially his hitting.

Bum arm & all, Zeke does what it takes to help out his team during an early-season scrimmage game.

That child actually hit a few home runs and a lot of RBIs. He was even moved to 4th position in the batting lineup, which is the “cleanup hitter” (a.k.a. the “power hitter,” says Stephen). Way to go, Houston!

This season was Gabriel and Zeke’s first experience with competitive baseball. Their team was the Rockies. And I’ve gotta say, they really took to the regimen, the hard-nosed style of the rec coaches, the technicality and rules of the game, and the responsibility that comes with being part of both a winning or losing team.

It was amazing to see my two sometimes head-in-the-clouds boys out on the field, focused and ready for action; to watch them attentively listen to their coaches, heed their advice, and improve on skills; and to witness them strike out or be called out or lose a game, and not cry, although I know it often devastated them. Studs for sure.

Gabriel, whose running had been likened to a kid moving through quicksand, sprints to home plate. Running was just one of the many drastically improved skills the twins attained over the course of their baseball season.

Moreover, Zeke played the first five weeks in a cast. Sure, he didn’t get to hit. But when he was in the outfield, boy, he was working his butt off, stopping grounders and even catching a couple pop-flies with his baseball cap.

I’ve got to say, although it was an exhausting few months, it was such a pleasure to watch the 3 Amigos grow in their sportsmanship, maturity, and love of the game. It really was a blessing to be a part of it all.

2. CC + Essentials

Sure, this is our 5th year of doing Classical Conversations. But this is Houston’s (and my) 1st year of Essentials, which is the dialectic stage of the classical-education model called the trivium.

Zeke & Gabriel get ready to blow out their eight candles during their birthday celebration @ the Eden Drive-In. Where have all the years gone, my sweet babes?!

What the boys have been doing up to now is called Foundations. It’s the grammar stage of the trivium, and it involves tons of memorizing vocabulary and basic facts about a variety of subjects.

The dialectic is when kids start “asking questions, sorting, comparing, and practicing the knowledge learned in the grammar stage.” It involves delving deeper into English grammar and writing. It’s an extra 2-hours of instruction after Foundations wraps up at noon every Tuesday, but it does comprise our complete language-arts program.

It’s intense, humbling, time-consuming, and challenging, to say the least, but it’s effective. I also had good advice from a couple veteran moms, who advised us newbies to take it easy, chill out, and relax. After all, Houston will be in Essentials for three years, so no need to bite off more than we can chew. (The twins will start it in fall 2018.)

The neighborhood crew held their own election & the results are in: Zeke won secretary of state, Jacob governor, Gabriel treasurer, Houston VP & Congress, NickO president, Gavan (not pictured) press secretary & Congress, & Matthew (also not pictured) general.

Houston has become a madman at diagramming and parsing sentences. He actually enjoys it and always says, “Let’s do one more, Mommy.” And we’ve written some great papers on a myriad of medieval topics, with Houston taking the helm more and more each week, coming up with his own similes, alliterations, metaphors, and more.

It is quite a wonder to see a classically-educated child unfold and mature and grow into an independent learner. One day, the 3 Amigos will all be smarter than me … but not just yet, fellas. And can you believe we wrap up our semester this coming Tuesday? Life is a blur indeed.

3. “Church shopping”

That’s what Protestants call it when they flee a church because it’s not meeting their spiritual needs anymore. It may have gotten too worldly because it has too many parking volunteers, too much of a rock-n-roll praise band, or too much of a social-justice bent.

We had a corntacular good time w/ friends @ Harvest Ridge Farm on Halloween morning.

Or it may have been putting too much effort into lobby coffee, happy Sunday greeters, or video messaging. Whatever the case, evangelicals say their hungry for authenticity and truth, not watered down, gimmicky, commercial, popular sentiment. After all, truth is probably the most unfashionable thing these days … or any days, for that matter.

But because of this, we left our church of 3+ years this summer and have been “frolicking,” as one pastor called it, this fall. We have visited three churches over the last few months: two Reformed Presbyterian and one Eastern Orthodox.

I will write more about our religious adventures in a future blog. But for now, suffice it to say that we’re seeking a church with stronger roots and traditions, more liturgy, and a deeper respect for history and the early church.

The Halloween posse, featuring the 3 Amigos as different warriors throughout history: Gabriel is a Confederate infantryman, Houston a U.S. soldier, & Zeke a Medieval barbarian. Not politically correct in the least, which is just the way we like it!

And because we’re so serious about participating in a church, a denomination, a corporate worship that is grounded in longstanding convention with an adherence to great Christians and rituals of the past, we have been very intentional in our frolicking, as well as getting to know each church’s leaders.

My pal, Adair, and her family are extremely involved in Christ Covenant. Her husband, Eric, is an elder, and a few cool CC families attend there. One Sunday, Adair and Eric even hosted a lunch at their house, where they invited our family, the lead pastor, Neil, and his family, and a few other choice folks. That meant a lot to us.

Neil even reached out to Stephen on his own accord. The two met for lunch and talked about everything from faith to firearms to freedom and more.

The dudes go nuts on the giant jumping pillow @ Harvest Ridge. You gotta love the feel & smell of a warm autumn day … it’s just like a cozy blanket.

Our pals, Tricia, Jeremy, Bret, and Bella go to The Kirk. In fact, Jeremy preached during our first visit there. He’s not a pastor per se because he didn’t graduate from seminary, but still, that was super-cool. They even treated us to a post-church lunch twice and on their dime. Very kind indeed.

Like Adair and Eric, Tricia and Jeremy are serious, thoughtful Christians. They wear their faith humbly, but forthrightly, always growing, reading, discussing, reaching out, delving in, and just keeping Jesus at the center.

It’s like my BFF Christie, who actually introduced me to Tricia and Jeremy, once said: that her walk with Jesus was head and heart. Intellectual and emotional. Reason and faith. And that describes where Stephen and I are, and the Kirk and Christ Covenant, which are both Reformed/Calvinist, meet those needs.

Our crew @ the Carolina Renaissance Festival. Jousting, dungeons, falconry, fire eaters, jugglers, sword fighting, gothic weaponry, fairies & even camel rides + awesome friends = medieval merriment!

Holy Cross, on the other hand, is Orthodox, meaning that it has basically done things unchanged for 2,000 years. It was the early church. The first Christians sung the same songs, chanted the same prayers, and had the same liturgy.

When the Great Schism took place in 1054, Catholics tweaked a few tenets and invented some new ones from their base in Rome. But Orthodox Christians just kept doing things old school and kept its center in Constantinople. And when Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation in 1517, it was against Catholicism, not Orthodoxy.

Admittedly, Stephen and I still researching this ancient, but not-well-known brand of Christianity. And it is vastly different than what we’ve become accustomed to at Protestant churches. It’s extremely serious, not casual. It’s highly ceremonial, not preacher-centric. It’s solemn, not loud and over-the-top.

Interestingly, Father Christopher, the head priest at Holy Cross, was in the popular alt-rock band Luxury in the ’90s (click on this NRP link, and he’s the second dude from the left). Before that, he was into punk and says that he used to read a lot of Noam Chomsky. Pretty zany for a man of the cloth, huh?!

Zeke’s uses his new double-headed axe to slay this scalawag pirate @ the Renaissance Fest.

Recently, Stephen met with Father Christopher for lunch, and even though some of the above tidbits might lead one to believe that he leans left, he explained to Stephen that, because of keeping with tradition, there’s really little room for politics in a homily. And for us, that’s a good thing.

Sickness, Stanley, & slogging

This triad of busy was intensified by a stomach bug that worked its way through the family in early fall. People puking in trashcans, on couches, in beds, and on walls… you know, the average abdominal-virus fare. It was rough.

Houston, Gabriel, and I were hit early on in autumn with severe seasonal allergies. Mine haven’t been that acute in years. We really should buy some stock in Kleenex.

Those illnesses subsided, only to be replaced by a harsh debilitating cold that’s been bringing Stephen, Gabriel, and me down for the past week and a half. Oh, and did I mention that I got a gargantuan stress-induced fever blister on my top lip the night of the election?! Here we are, nearly two weeks out, and I still have a healing scab. Nuts!

A nervous Houston grabs on for dear life on this real, live camel during a ride @ the Renaissance Fest. It was an hour-long wait to ride, so I hope the boys’ enjoyment & adrenaline rush outweighed any anxiety they may have felt these atop these huge, smelly beasts.

Stanley had an injury, too: a cat bite on his front right paw. Once I noticed his limp, I doctored it myself for a few days, and it seemed to get better. But all of a sudden, it ballooned up and his hobble intensified, so I finally took him to the vet.

The doc said he had the cat version of cellulitis, so he got his booboo drained and cleaned, a shot, meds for home, and had to have a check-up a few days later. While at that return visit, the vet noticed that Stan had lost 3 pounds since his annual appointment this summer. So, he had a third appointment for a round of blood tests.

Turns out, Stan has hyperthyroidism. Because we’ve caught his early on (unlike Bob’s, which was in the extreme stages once diagnosed) and because he’s 14, we are foregoing expensive treatment options, which the vet says is ethical at this point. However, once the condition worsens, we’ll have to put him down. So sad.

I actually completed an entire 5k (w/o walking) w/ my pal, Tricia. And amazingly, I have been running fairly consistently ever since. Here’s to good health.

Stephen’s job got a bit hairier than usual this fall, with calls from the powers-that-be for additional sacrifices in personal time and little to no telecommuting. So, I had to get creative in getting to all my necessary yearly medical appointments, which, for some reason, all take place this time of year.

Thankfully, Granny visited, allowing me to get to my gynecological and eye exams, and then I squeezed in my mammogram late one afternoon when I think the kids were playing at a neighbor’s house. I can’t really recall, but it was touch-and-go for a while there.

Fortunately, Stephen can work from home again without too much hand-wringing from his workplace overseers, but he could still use any and all prayers for just doing what he does so well: laboring diligently and providing for his family with little complaint. We love you, darling!

Gabriel readies himself to ride a mini-motorcycle @ NickO’s birthday party. What a cutie pie!

October occurrences

October always offers up an annual whirlwind of fun. Our 16th anniversary began with a Trump rally in the afternoon. That evening, we got Donni to babysit, and Stephen treated me to an hour-long couples’ massage and then an eating/drinking feast at World of Beer. Doesn’t my husband know me well?!

We celebrated Gabriel and Zeke’s 8th birthday at the Eden Drive-In. A smorgasbord of cool kids and even a few families were in tow for the movie. We packed up already-prepared hotdogs, sides, popcorn, and cake, and enjoyed the beautiful night outdoors under the balmy fall sky.

Bret and Tyrnan spent the night, so the good times kept on rolling until wee in the morning. And then our clan went out to Burger Warfare and Krispy Kreme that Sunday (on their actual birthday) to round out the celebratory weekend.

There’s always a haze of activity surrounding All Hallow’s Eve. A few days prior, Miss Julie hosted a Halloween piano party, at which each student played their spooky-themed songs.

During our outing to Harvest Ridge, Gabriel & I strike a pose w/ Miss Jessica — my partner in crime for mirth-making & mischief.

On Halloween morning, we went with Miss Jessica, Jacob, and NickO to Harvest Ridge Farm. It had massive hillside sliding boards, a giant jumping pillow, a corn cannon, huge rolls of hay to climb on, a barrel train, and of course, a corn maze and a tractor-pull ride.

Miss Stacey hosted a pre-trick-or-treating party that evening. She had a variety of games for the kids and food for all, which really came in handy since I had spent my whole late afternoon helping the 3 Amigos piece together their homemade costumes, not fixing dinner.

Trick-or-treating was a hoot. Miss Jessica even drove us wide and far in her golf cart, so the boys’ pumpkins were overflowing with goodies, and the adults were able to kick back and enjoy an adult beverage or two during our escapades.

Playing Risk w/ Daddy: a new favorite pastime of the 3 Amigos. It can get pretty intense, y’all.

We’ve had quite a few other special fall memories, like:

  • a rare visit from Gramsey and Papa, who got to catch both a Rockies and an Athletics baseball game;
  • a farewell dinner hosted by Miss Shawn for our longtime and wonderful neighbors, Miss Ruth, Mr. Kevin, and Maddie, who’ve moved back to their home state of Pennsylvania;
  • Q Commons, a “live learning experience” that focuses on discussing relevant topics through a Christian lens, which I attended solo;
  • the Renaissance Festival, which we did with Mr. Jeremy, Bret and Bella, as well as the J-Crew (sans Logan), who spent the night with us the night before;
  • local birthday parties for neighbor NickO and CC buddy Joel;
  • and Asher’s 10th birthday party, which was in Roanoke, so our entire clan made a weekend of it and was able to spend some much overdue with our beloved J-Crew.

So, yes, we are busy and our lives do sometimes seem to be a blur. But what is abundantly clear is that we are truly blessed. Of that, I am sure and grateful.

Running around … & just running

So, guess who has been training for a 5k? This 44-year-old, 25-pound-overweight, slow-as-molasses mama, that’s who! Pretty astonishing considering that at one time (due to my past left hip/lumbar/pelvis injuries), I was fairly certain I would never even be able to run around the block. Thank God for modern medicine and improved health!

“Running slow isn’t a character flaw. Quitting is.” – Jacqueline Gunderson

It’ll be interesting to see if I can actually complete a 3.1-mile race, considering that my longest run to date probably maxed out at just over 2.5 miles. But Tricia, who I’ll be running the Color Vibe 5k with on 8/27, promises me that my adrenaline will help push me through to the finish line.

Just like old times: Beck-Nut & Laura Anne on the tandem bike!

I’m fairly confident that I can complete the course, as long as we don’t start off too fast. I really don’t mind running so slowly that little old ladies with walkers are speed-walking passed me; I just don’t want to wuss out and walk. Wish me luck!

Got another one for ya: Guess who took on the 76-foot water shoot at Wet n’ Wild known as the Daredevil Drop? Yep, yours truly. In an effort to prove to the boys that super-scary rides aren’t really all that scary, I nearly had a heart attack! But I survived and was thrilled to bits that I actually had the cojones to go through with the steep plunge.

Third time’s the charm

So, it turns out that this old cliché proved true for us at Wet n’ Wild. The dudes and I ventured over again on 8/10, and I was kinda dreading it due to our first two stress-inducing trips to the waterpark. But this outing proved to be way more fun.

The 3 Amigos having fun @ my old stomping grounds in Deltaville, Va.

There were barely any visitors there on this Wednesday afternoon, so the wait times were short to nonexistent. Moreover, we all had way more realistic expectations about who would participate in what slides, and how we would handle scaredy-cats not willing to do a particular ride. It worked out quite splendidly!

Return to the rivah

After probably more than 25 years, my old friend, Laura Anne, and I reconnected on Facebook. She had been one of my besties growing up because our families had cottages right beside one another along the Rappahannock River, where we spent most every weekend of summer, from before I was born till our place was sold in ’81.

Needless to say, we have many incredible memories from our summers in Deltaville, like crabbing, fishing, boating, and swimming on the river; and riding bikes (and sometimes even motorcycles) all around North End Shores and up to Snake Road.

Check out the underside of this sailboat I made Kara & the boys pose in front of @ the Deltaville Marina? Isn’t it neat looking?

While Mom drank her Tab and Dad his cheap canned beer, we kids had bonfires, made s’mores, and set off dangerous (by today’s standards) fireworks at night on the beach; we frogged, fished, and hunted for sassafras at the pond; and we all ate fresh-caught fish and crabs on our screened-in front porch.

Basically, it was a childhood of exploration, adventure, and freedom. Such was growing up in the unencumbered and relaxed 1970s, and that kind of free-range living always seemed amplified at the river. In fact, my long-lived nickname “Beck-Nut” was coined by Laura Anne’s older brother, Eric, during those wild Deltaville days.

Dina, who is as nostalgic about the river as am I, enjoyed a few fleeting moments when dropping off Kara and Sara. Although it was a whirlwind visit from July 20-22, this blast from the past gave us an opportunity to catch up with Laura Anne and her mom, and meet two of her five kids, as well as offer our kids a glimpse into the early Quate years.

Three generations of sassy ladies gather for Dina’s 50th birthday crab-feast party on 8/6!

Other notables

  • Dina and I took the kids to play miniature golf at the putt-putt in Richmond where we used to play. Not much has changed, just good, clean fun.
  • I had a girls-night out with my good friend, Penny. We ate Scottish eggs, drank craft beer, and loved having some kid-free time together.
  • We also had Penny, Jim, and Tyrnan over for dinner. They are in the midst of church-shopping, too, so we had plenty of things to chat about, faith-wise and otherwise.
  • We visited Tricia and Jeremy’s church. Jeremy actually preached, which was super cool. And then after church, they took us out to lunch … on them. Super-duper cool.
  • Adair had our family over for a pool date, which had been rain-checked three times. Stephen and Eric discussed theology and politics, Adair, Christina, and I chatted about homeschooling and mama things, and our total of 10 kids had a blast swimming.
  • Houston attended a weeklong half-day baseball camp at the local high school as a belated birthday gift. He got to hang out with pals Nick and Carter, and said he learned a lot from the coaches and teenagers.

Stephen, Greg, Meredith, & I went to see the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Los Lobos, & North Mississippi All-Stars in Charlotte on 7/24. It was a hot, humid evening filled w/ kickin’ tunes!

  • The 3 Amigos wrapped up their summer piano lessons with a party on 7/29. We have the month of August off, before starting back to fall lessons, which will entail Houston having an extra 15 minutes each week per Miss Julie’s request!
  • Gabe and Zeke spent the night with their buddy, Josh. This was a sleepover that had been months in the making, which made it extra-special sweet for the twins.
  • Houston spent the night with “Nick 2,” who is now called “Nick O,” even though his middle name doesn’t start with said letter. Weird, I know.
  • Miss Jessica and I had a long overdue “mama booze date” at her community pool. I hope to have more of these bonding sessions with my sweet neighbor this fall.
  • Last night, Dan treated us to a “braai, which is just a fancy Afrikans word for a grilling out. Chillin’ with our favorite South African and his kid, Brendan, is always proves to be a good time.
  • Interestingly, I modeled a shawl for Greg. See, he’s a very talented knitter and has created his own pattern, which he wants to sell online. Once the pics are available to view, I’ll be sure to share.

Keep calm, it’s summer

This is a mantra I keep telling myself. But when you just finished up your math curriculum from last “school year” this past week, well, one can understand why calm has been an elusive thing around the Dillingham household for much of the summer.

Clan Dillingham on the stern of the U.S.S. North Carolina in Wilmington, NC. Now there’s a nice looking crew!

Many friends that are normally at school during the day are now home while the 3 Amigos and I do lessons, so it has been a bit challenging. Even though we’ve summer-schooled in year’s past, the dudes didn’t have as many solid boy friendships in the neighborhood back then, so there simply weren’t as many distractions.

But that has all changed, which is a blessing, of course. It can just sometimes make the logistics and implementation of educating year-round a tad arduous. Not mention, all of our sleeping-in late hasn’t helped … then again, that’s part of the “calm” of summer, right?!

And now that we finally wrapped up the Saxon math curriculum, I feel like I have broken free of the chains. See, Saxon is very teacher-centered and time-intensive, so it was taking virtually all morning for me to complete a lesson with Houston and then one with Gabriel and Zeke.

Gabriel “steers” the battleship from the bridge. He sure makes one cute & confident captain!

This obviously left sparse time to do other necessary school, catch-up work, supplementary learning activities, and other fun projects I have been putting on hold till what I hoped would be a big, fat swath of seasonal spare time. I guess the laugh’s on me.

Good news is now that Saxon is finally complete, we will never again use that curriculum. I am in search of a more student-centered math that frees up the parent significantly while also fostering independent learning for the child.

I think I’ve decided on Teaching Textbooks, which comes highly recommended by other friends and is fairly cost-effective, considering that I’ll eventually be using Houston’s curriculum for the twins. Plus, it’s pretty popular among home-educators, so it shouldn’t be a problem to resell a level once we’ve completed it.

A contemplative Zeke looks out a porthole from the bridge. Maybe being a helmsman is what it’s going to take to calm down this wild child.

Another rough spot of the summer has been dealing with our exit from Mercy Hill. I wrote about our reasons in the three previous blogs, but it was still a hard decision. I mean, two of my kids made their professions of faith in Jesus in the baptismal waters at that church, so yeah, it’s sad.

And right now, we’re taking a church hiatus, just trying to get our muddled heads and broken hearts in order before “church shopping” later in the summer. There are two in particular that I think may meet our theological and non-social gospel needs, but we shall see. Please be praying for us that we find a church home. Thanks.

Of course, there’s seemingly always some behavioral bone of contention that decreases the calm around the homestead. It has been a mostly twin thing for most of the summer, sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both (a la the “freight train.”)

A view of the battleship bow from the bridge. Can you imagine actually steering this behemoth?!

As of late, Gabriel has been showing a much greater deal of self-control and maturation, though. Thank the Lord! You can tell he’s really trying and liking the results of being a bigger boy. Fewer punishments. More rewards. Greater freedom and independence.

Zeke, on the other hand, well … let’s just say that he has always been our most stubborn, quick-tempered, prone-to-a-meltdown child. We’ve made a tiny bit of progress over the last few days, but geez, can that kid wear a person out! Prayers on that front would be sincerely appreciated, as well.

Despite these hurdles, we’ve actually had a great many adventures this summer … yet they’re ostensibly peppered with a dash of stress here and a sprinkle of anxiety there. I suppose that’s parenthood, but for the love of Pete, let’s relax and have some fun, people. There are too many cool things to do and see to be sitting around, crying about nothing!

Inside the battleship, we found Uncle Bill’s name on the Roll of Honor wall commemorating all North Carolinians (listed by country) who fought in WWII. Bill Houston was Stephen’s grandmother’s brother on Granny’s side. He was a pilot in the war & died in action when he was shot down over India.

Oak Island

We went to this wonderful destination June 18-25. It’s a quaint, low-key little island, about an hour south of Wilmington. Not too fancy and commercial, just the perfect mix of down-home beach town but with a few nearby conveniences.

The interesting thing is that we went with extended Biddix family, including Granny and Cathy; Kelly, Rusty, and cousin Ella; Dale and Teresa; Tiffany and cousins, Grace and Faith; Dustin and his girlfiend, Anna; Christy and cousins Marley and Sofie; Tee, Morgan, and cousins Rawley and Sloane; and Mike and Diane.

It was a raucous week of drinking too much, eating yummy homemade food, and having many loud, boisterous, and often profanity-laden conversations. The swimming was excellent because it never really got that deep, so you could walk way out onto what I guess was a sandbar to catch waves, while never having to tread water.

Granny & Houston hang out @ Oak Island Point, right where the Intracoastal Waterway, the Eastern Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean meet … very cool.

The weather was incredible, even kinda chilly in the evenings, because there was an ever-blowing ultra-force wind. I mean, it was powerful. It even blew over Mike’s canopy, which hit a guy, so there was never any shade to be had while on the beach. Too dangerous.

On the flip side, I never broke a sweat, despite the heat and humidity, so it was always temperate and nice. Most nights featured exquisite moon shows, including a Blood Moon, and a billion perpetual stars dancing on the ocean that we viewed from the front-row seats of our ocean-front house.

Now, there was one particularly stressful time when Stephen and Houston took our new inflatable raft into the Eastern Channel from Oak Island Point. This is where the channel meets up with the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic, causing a huge suction toward the ocean, unbeknownst us.

During our camping trip to Peaks of Otter, here are the boys, precariously balanced on a cliff face & ready to conquer the world during our hike to Harkening Hill, a 3.3 mile loop with an altitude of 3,364 feet.

At first, I thought I could swim out, and help them get back shore. Certainly my kicking at the back of the raft and Stephen’s paddling would create enough force to actually move through the water. Well, as confident of a swimmer as I am, I was scared to even get out to them.

Luckily, Uncle Mike had his boat and proved his nautical skills by rescuing my dudes, even navigating through 2-3 feet of water without getting stuck or ruining his engine. Of course, holding on to the rope that pulled them back to safety almost broke my hand and Stephen’s finger, but eh, that’s the stuff of which memories are made.

And even after all that, awesome Uncle Mike still took Clan Dillingham for an amazing sightseeing ride along the Intracoastal Waterway. Thanks, Mike!

U.S.S. North Carolina

On the way home from the beach, we took a detour to Wilmington to visit this battleship, which was part of the American fleet during WWII.

Enjoying a break @ the summit of Harkening Hill. Sure, you couldn’t see the mountainous view from this high vantage point because stupid nature was in the way, but @ least the national park rangers made up for their lack of stewardship by sorta helping us out when Rick & the boys went “missing.”

According to the battleship tourism pamphlet, “She steamed over 300,000 miles. Although Japanese radio announcements claimed six times that the North Carolina had been sunk, she survived many close calls, near misses, and one hit when a Japanese torpedo slammed into the battleship’s hull” on Sept. 15, 1942.

The boys learned about all that history, and got to check out the ship up close and personal, from the gun mounts and gun turrets, to the Kingfisher scout plane and the plotting and coding rooms, to radio central and the bridge, to the engine room and the powder magazine and projectile storage, to the chapel, galley, and barber shop. Neat.

Houston’s 9th birthday

Santa gave the boys season passes to Wet n’ Wild, and we finally put them to use on July 2, as a belated celebration for Houston’s 9th birthday. Yeah, I knew a Saturday on a holiday weekend was going to be a bit chaotic, but it was even crazier than I had imagined.

Gabriel, Jackson, & Piper do their best “Atlas Shrugged imitation during our hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The additional stress began when I was prohibited from using my two free friend passes, even though my official paperwork didn’t specify any such a restriction. Then we were forced to pay adult prices for Nick and Bret, who are 8 and 11, because they exceeded some arbitrary height rule. What a ripoff.

Despite all this and the very long and tedious lines, I think the boys had fun. Good thing kids are so resilient because I was exhausted by the end of the outing. I think the pizza, chocolate cake, ice cream served at the house and enjoyed with all their neighborhood pals, and a sleepover helped to create some fond birthday memories.

Independence Day

4th of July really wasn’t that notable. We did school that morning, since we were still in hardcore Saxon mode then, but that evening entailed yummy burgers and other delicious edibles grilled by Daddy, and then fireworks and sparklers at Matthew’s house.

This pic was taken literally moments after we returned home from Oak Island. Other than Houston’s pretend angry face, you can tell how happy the hood crew is to be reunited after a week apart. So sweet.

Grasshoppers game

We went to see a minor-league baseball game on July 7 with our neighborhood posse. It was a Thirsty Thursday event, which meant the yummy local microbrews were flowing for only $2 a pop. Now, there’s a bargain!

The kids had half a row of seats along the first baseline all to themselves, and then the parents sat staggered behind them, with the moms first, followed by the dads. I got the tix this way as to foster greater conversation, and I think my plan was a hit. Good times at the ballpark for sure!

There was a rain delay, so the game didn’t end till quite late. And by the time we were leaving, there was a Black Lives Matter protest going on right in front of the stadium. Now the city cops had things well under control, but it was still disconcerting when the 3 Amigos and Matthew started chanting, “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

The boys @ Wet n’ Wild for Houston’s 9th birthday outing. With a buy-one-get-one-free discount, those Icees were about the only thing affordable @ at the waterpark. Highway-robbery prices, I tell ya!

I mean, you know I’m a firm believer in free speech, but when I’m prohibited from carrying my weapon into a baseball game and I’m put in a defenseless position, the last thing I wanna do is tee off a bunch of young, angry black people. Luckily, we made it to the van and home safely. Thanks for driving, Miss Stacey!

Peaks of Otter

From July 8-10, we went camping with the J-Crew and cousin Rick at this national park in Bedford, Va. Camping always provides for many entertaining moments, and this time was no exception.

Some highlights included:

  • a freak storm that blew in just as we were about to finish setting up the tents … classic Dillingham;
  • Houston and Zeke going in circles, like a dog chasing its tail, trying to walk the tent up the steep hill toward the van;
  • watching the twins “fall over rocks, sticks, and thin air,” as Christie described it, and out of chairs constantly around our rugged campsite;
  • an inebriated Christie (a rare occasion in and of itself) laughing hysterically at the reflectors on my tennis shoes and then me laughing hysterically at her;
  • our camping neighbor yelling, “Shut up!” at said mirthful ladies;
  • and the boys following Rick around like he was the Pied Piper.

From L to R: Yours truly, Shannon, Jessica, Stacey, & Joanne representing the hood @ the Thirsty Thursday Hoppers game. Looking good, chicas!

The last item led to our most disturbing memory, however. On our hike down from Harkening Hill summit, the boys took off with Rick ahead the rest of us. By the time Stephen, Christie, Piper, and I slowly meandered down to the visitor center, where the 3.3-mile loop began,there were no dudes were to be seen.

We sat calmly for a while, thinking that they had probably taken a detour to Johnson Farm, a 1930s-era working farm that offers a glimpse of what mountain life was like back in the day. But then an hour passed, and then another, until I started for freak. With no cell coverage up yonder, what’s a worried mama to do?

See, if I had known for a fact that they were all with Rick, I wouldn’t have been so concerned. But he’s such a fast hiker, and the boys are sometimes slow or get off trail or get separated into splinter groups, etc., that my biggest concern was that all kids were not actually with the one adult in the group.

This is what I get when I ask all the kiddos to “act silly” for the shot.

Christie drove to our nearby campground and then to a lodge that was across the parkway, thinking that perhaps in a daze of selfishness, they had completed the hike and set off on a new adventure. But again, no boys were to be found.

Stephen talked to the park ranger inside the visitor center. He apathetically radioed the farm, but got no answer. Then we considered having one person stay at at the center, one hike back up to the summit, and the other do the farm loop.

Then we surmised that that plan would take too long, pushing us way too close to sunset. And did I mention that there had been lots of black bear sightings in that part of the forest?! Yep, that’s always a good thing.

I even went back inside the center to see if the dispassionate ranger would try again to contact the farm. He did so in uncaring, post-office-like fashion, but somehow forgetting to mention to the farm rangers the most distinctive aspects of the missing crew: that Rick has bright green hair and all the missing kids are only ages 6 to 9.

Stephen & neighbors Bill & Heather attended Trump’s rally in Greensboro back on June 14. He was a little apprehensive about going to an event where he’s prohibited from carrying a firearm, even when the protesters are known to turn into a riotous mob. But the rally went off without a hitch, thank God.

As we discussed this tense predicament, a friendly ranger happened to hear our anxious conversations and queried as to what was wrong. After I, in my “Libertarians plotting to take over the world and leave you alone” t-shirt, explained our worries, the ranger commented, ”Oh, you’re a librarian? My mom was a home ec teacher!”

After a quick chuckle over the libertarian-librarian misreading, we took the ranger’s advice and walked to a nearby police van. The cop was very nice and told us to head back to the center, so we could discuss the game plan, which he said would most likely entail a couple of us hiking back in and him taking a vehicle up to the farm via maintenance road.

But right as we reconvened, the green-haired leader and his minions came waltzing out of the woods. After we hugged all our beloved boys and thanked the good Lord for their return, we pieced together that Rick had confused the ”.8 mile” sign pointing back down to the center with “8 miles.”

Doing sparklers on Independence Day w/ some of my favorite mamas, Stacey & Shannon. Happy b-day, ‘Murica!

In his defense, the engraved decimal was not filled in with paint. And the poor dude had tried his best to get those kids back down the hill safely, scouring the farm in pursuit of us, and even hiking back up to the summit solo (while the boys rested at a the farm-hill crossroads) to try to figure out his directional mishap.

So, all’s well that ends well. And the final humorous clincher was that the listless visitor-center ranger emerged from his governmental cave to ask me what had happened. Then he went on to compliment my shirt and admit that he, in fact, was a libertarian, too, making him the Ron Swanson of the federal parks. Classic.

Wet n’ Wild … again

On July 13, we did a waterpark redo with Jessica and Jacob. It was a Wednesday, so there were much shorter lines. We packed food and got our hands stamps, so we could eat outside and didn’t have to buy the overpriced junk food inside.

It wasn’t only the nights that put on grand displays for us while @ Oak Island, but the sunsets were pretty impressive, as well. God is everywhere, watching over us, reminding us to keep calm, it’s summer.

I bought a $4 waterproof bag that hung from my neck beforehand, so all I brought in was our season passes and my car key. When we got thirsty, we drank from the water fountains, and we reapplied sunscreen during our picnic lunch. We also got to use one of our friend passes for Jacob. I was determined not to be taken advantage this time ’round.

Well, the only thing I couldn’t foresee was that the twins were being total scaredy cats about the rides (even ones they had ridden previously), and Houston was being picky. Therefore, I got dissed on much of the fun because of that and our spending a large amount of time contemplating who was willing to ride what and how we would play that out.

I told Jessica I was “wangry and wild,” and that Santa was a fool for buying these season passes. Oh well, live and learn.