Joy to the world!

Yep, I’m gonna keep the joy alive and kicking around here, from chugging good coffee to loving on my beautiful family to celebrating the birth of Jesus at Christmastime.

The wonderment of the season

Last night, the 3 Amigos watched in awe as Santa delivered each one of them a personalized video message. Thanks for turning us onto the Portable North Pole, Granny!

After doing a pretty good job @ being mannerly during “The Nutcracker,” the boys (L to R: Zeke, Houston, Landon, Gabriel & Logan) let loose & release a little post-ballet energy in front of the Gen. Greene monument.

Stephen created the videos, which explain that they’re on Santa’s nice list, yet each should still try a bit harder. Santa said:

    • Houston is “generous,” but needs to “be nicer to his brothers;”
    • Gabriel is “full of energy,” but needs to “work on his table manners;”
    • and Zeke is “quite a character,” but needs to “work on not having temper tantrums.”

Amazing how St. Nick knows such particulars about each boy’s personality and areas of behavior improvement. If you have a child who still believes in Mr. Claus, you should definitely check it out.

It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child Himself. — Charles Dickens

Houston, who despite his best friend Asher’s adamant disbelief in the jolly old elf, still regards Santa’s existence as not only possible, but very true indeed. The funny thing is that he has questioned some of the logistical aspects of the mythical Father Christmas.

For example, “Mommy, do reindeer really know how to fly?” asked Houston. “Sure. If Santa can make it around the world in one night, he has to have a fast sled,” I answered with confidence.

The dudes also sent their letters to Santa a few weeks back, when naughtiness was reigning supreme at the time. (Admittedly, I chose this time to have each boy fess up to some of his misdeeds and to hopefully work through some of the issues.) Here’s what they wrote:

Dear Santa, I would probably not earn that many presents, but maybe one or two. I’ll try to be better till Christmas and after. — Houston

Dear Santa, I’ve been very naughty and I will try to be good and try to be nicer to the cats and Mommy “because she gives us everything we need” (Houston helped him out with that part). I hope Zeke doesn’t throw Woody anymore. — Gabriel

Dear Santa, I’ve been naughty “because I’m always thirsty” (we opted to edit out this excuse), but I will try to use my brain more and just do what Mommy says. I deserve a little bit. — Zeke

More Christmas cheer

Since I was quite restrained in our spending on gifts this year and did 99% of the shopping early and online, we had the opportunity to slow down a bit and soak in the season and all the fun that it offers.

Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money. — Author Unknown

On 12/1, we kicked things off by attending the annual Holiday Parade downtown with Christie, Logan and crew. It was our first year to claim sidewalk near the start, instead of at the tail end of the route, and the kids scored tons of candy from the spunky and spirited paraders.

On 12/6, the boys and I went to see “The Nutcracker” with our CC pals “Miss Kristy with a K” and her sons, Logan (not to be confused with the other Miss Christie’s husband) and Landon.

Gabriel, Houston & Zeke stand @ the elevators inside the Jefferson Standard Building, the historic downtown structure in which Daddy now works.

Because it was a shortened student version, the local ballet company offered the kids some narrative explanation and let them see the crew do set change during intermission. The 3 Amigos were already familiar with the Tchaikovsky music, the story and its characters, and seemed to appreciate their first ballet, especially Houston.

On 12/15, the boys and I attended Miss Christie’s “Polar Express” Party. All the kids were admitted entrance into the gathering if they met the pajamas requirement and could also present their boarding passes (the invitation).

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things — not the great occasions — give off the greatest glow of happiness.
— Bob Hope

An admitted Pinterest fanatic, Christie went all out, with cookie decorating crafts, edible chocolate and peppermint trains, festive games and one-of-a-kind handprint ornaments homemade for each child in attendance. Of course, watching the namesake movie while feasting on popcorn was a big hit, too.

On 12/17, the dudes and I we went caroling (in the rain) with Christie and and the kids. Because we went during the day, we hit the homes of two seniors in her hood, and the weather couldn’t dampen our spirits nor could it diminish our singing and energetic instrumentation.

“Big Hashy” (a.k.a. Houston & Asher) get festive & freaky @ the 36th Annual Greensboro Holiday Parade.

Then we came back to our stomping grounds and sung for Miss Shawn and the boys’ newest neighborhood pal, Cameron. Our setlist was You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and Jingle Bells.

While drying off and warming up at our casa, the kids devoured the gingerbread house the 3 Amigos had made with Miss Jessie a couple days prior, and (sort of) watched A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.
— Author Unknown

On 12/19, Miss Shawn invited us over for cookies and playtime with Dixie. It was nice to get together with our awesome neighbors, who we don’t see near often enough these days.

That afternoon, we headed downtown to attend Daddy’s work party. The boys loved the the parking deck, elevated crosswalks, elevator rides, visit to Daddy’s cubicle and his tour of the historic building in which he now works almost as much as they enjoyed the endless supplies chicken strips and strawberries.

Gabriel & Mommy keep the seasonal spirit alive well into @ the lengthy holiday parade, while Zeke crashes quite comfortably as the festivities rage on.

Another hit was the kid-friendly room, featuring choice live performances of The Nutcracker, holiday movies, made-on-the-spot theater-quality popcorn and tons of fellow youthful travelers on this stimulating ride we call Christmas.

Not a basketball star yet

On 12/1, Gabriel had his first basketball game, which fizzled before the scheduled end time. Gabe kept running off the court to see the photos I was snapping, one kid was crying ’cause he didn’t want the ball, while another was sobbing crying ’cause he didn’t want to share the ball … it was too comical.

Gabriel did much better at his second game on 12/8. Only he and one other Wildcat played the entire game. I was so proud. And Daddy and bros reported that he also gave a worthy effort the following weekend at his third game. Way to man up, Gabe!

I took Gabriel to buy a youth basketball (with his own piggybank money) after the 12/8 game. And since then, Stephen I have since souped up the boys’ old toddler hoop, attaching it onto the back deck at the six-feet regulation level used in his league.

Gabriel concentrates (as best as a 4-year-old is able) on making a free-throw shot during one of his recent basketball games. Go Wildcats!

While I spent some one-on-one time with Gabe on the 8th, Daddy took Houston and Zeke downtown to the city historical museum. Then we all met up post-basketball for a massive Mexican feast, which included guacamole galore for the 3 Amigos. Happy campers, for sure!

Other merry outings

On 12/9, the boys and I went rollerskating with a huge group of our CC friends. I knew it would be difficult for the kids, being their first time skating and all, but it was way more demanding on both them and me than I had imagined.

I had rented skates, too, so every time they pulled on me, I nearly toppled over. Just standing up was almost as an impossibility for the dudes in the beginning. But through diligence, each one made it around the rink twice, before giving up on skating and opting for video gaming with friends instead.

Zeke, Gabriel & other merry passengers on the Polar Express proudly admit to devouring Miss Christie’s chocolate, licorice & peppermint train cake. All aboard!

Of course, we’ve gotten together with Christie and the kids a few times beyond the already-mentined outings. One was a record-setting six-hour playdate that included good times at her house, my lunchtime lesson/discussion on “The Pilgrim’s failed socialist experiment” and then more romping at the park.

On 12/14, we attended our final Moms Club playgroup. The kids and I hadn’t been to one since the summer, so we decided to go and bid the group farewell and a Merry Christmas.

Moms Club was a life-saver for me two years ago, when the 3 Amigos were very young and I sometimes felt trapped around the homestead. We made some good friends over the course of our membership and surely plan on keeping in touch with those fine folks. Thanks, Moms Club!

Stephen and I had a nice date night that evening. It was a dinner-and-a-movie affair, featuring Thai food and then the spectacular flick Life of Pi, which was the first regular-release film (i.e. not a kids dollar movie) I’ve attended since seeing Apocalypto while pregnant with Houston.

Here’s handsome-boy Houston in one of the phenomenal photos Miss Christie took of the family back in November.

Then the dudes spent this past weekend up in the mountains with Granny and Grumps. The creek house had no power for two out of the three days, but Granny survived (barely) and the kids had a great time roughin’ it, playing in the snow and listening to the wind howl “like a ghost.”

Sickness & health

In the midst of all this merriment, we have battled and conquered a couple illnesses.

First, the dreaded stomach bug, which raged through the entire family, starting with Zeke puking all over my side of the bed during the first Saturday night of the month. (I blame it on the kids literally hanging out on the dirty downtown streets for 2 1/2 hours during the parade earlier that day.)

Whatever the cause, that violent virus eventually made its way to every member of the family, but took each of us only a couple days to get over, thankfully. Pray you don’t this brutal illness anytime soon. Yikes.

Cutie-pies Zeke & Gabriel also “work it” during Miss Christie’s fall photo shoot.

About mid-month, Houston and Zeke developed a nasty cold/cough. Zeke got over his fairly quickly, but Houston actually lost his voice the night of Christie’s party and still has a lingering intermittent cough, but I’m confident he’s at the tail-end of it. Nothing major.

Semi-schooling

Not much to report on the homeschooling front, since we’ve been on official CC break since Thanksgiving. We’ve been doing what I like to call semi-schooling, which has been a relaxed break from the grind, but is still productive.

So, I will leave you with two humorous videos: 7 Lies About Homeschooling and Miss Jessie’s popcorn experiment video, which she had to do for one of her education classes. Enjoy.

Till next time, Clan Dillingham wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

“Give me grace & good coffee”

These are the words emblazoned on one of the beautiful totes my CC director, Jenn, gave to the moms who attended a ladies-only Christmas party at her house on 12/17. And the bottom of the bag contains the second part of Psalm 84:11.

No good thing will He withhold from those who walk along His paths.

But the beginning of the verse is just as important and should not be forgotten.

For the Lord God is a sun & shield; The Lord bestows favor & honor.

These words so perfectly encompass my coping mechanism when reflecting on the extreme political turmoil unfolding in front of our eyes and the mob-rule sentiments that abound in every corner of our nation.

First and foremost, my heart-felt prayers go out to the students, teachers and administrators who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook shooting, as well as the friends and family they left behind, and the police and emergency personnel who had to deal with the aftermath. So tragic.

I’m not going to claim to know the one root cause of these mass murders, but there are some patterns from the past few decades that are worth noting.

  • An overwhelming majority of these shooters obtain their guns illegally, already breaking the multitude of gun-prohibition laws already on the books.
  • All of the murders took place in “gun-free zones,” including the Fort Hood shooting. Targets are plentiful where people are banned from defending themselves and that’s exactly why killers choose them.
  • All are planned and enacted by males, and a great number of them come from broken homes where there is no father figure.
  • A plurality of the shooters are already immersed in the mental-health system and using varied psychotropic drugs.
  • All of the massacres are given round-the-clock media coverage, thus, making the perpetrators’ names live in infamy, probably prompting copycats.
  • Most of these murderers kill themselves once they know the police or somebody else armed with a gun have arrived at the scene.

I won’t even go into possible causation of using violent and bloody video games or viewing gruesome and gory Hollywood films. After all, those are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, & to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

People have the freedom to choose whether or not to purchase and use those products, and the market will determine their ultimate success and availability.

Housed in the lobby of the historic building in which Stephen now works is the bronze sculpture “The Signing of the Constitution.”

But just as we are endowed by God with this unalienable right, so too are citizens called to cherish and governments to protect the Second Amendment.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep & bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Our right to self-defense, whether that be to abate tyranny or to protect your family and home, is just as important as our right of unfettered speech, no matter how politically incorrect it may be deemed by the easily offended.

My counter to the draconian, anti-gun hysteria is best described by the words of two famous Jamaican musicians.

I’d rather be a free man in my grave than living as a puppet or a slave.
— Jimmy Cliff

Better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life. — Bob Marley

The most inarguable lesson of this whole tragedy is that if a bad guy is hell bent on hurting people, he will find a way to do it. Hence, disarming law-abiding citizens will do nothing but increase their risk to life and limb.

This can be evidenced in the mass knifing that took place in a Chinese school, wounding 22 kids on the very same day as Sandy Hook. And as you know, Communist China has extremely strict gun control.

The “Freedom Pledge” plaque is located on the outside of the Jefferson Standard Building on the corner of Elm & Market streets.

Interestingly, you’ll see near the end of the article that knives were also the weapon of choice in seven other Chinese stabbing sprees in 2010, killing a total of 20 people and wounding 50. Yes, these mass killers are insane, but they are also resourceful.

For example, in 1964, a man armed with an insecticide sprayer converted into a flamethrower killed 11 and injured 22 in a school in Cologne, Germany. In 1927, a man used dynamite to bomb a school and then explode his shrapnel-filled truck outside the building to kill 45 and wound 58 in Bath Township, Michigan.

In the wake of the current tragedy, it is God’s grace alone that helps me deal with the acts of such evil men, as well as the illogical, agenda-driven, emotion-based rantings of those in the media after the fact. (Not participating in the cultural cesspool that is Facebook has also helped.)

Case in point: A recent article in The Nation. As you can see, the author worships at the shrine of collectivism (public schools), blaming individualism (the homeschooling movement) for society’s ills, thus, setting the stage for massacres like Sandy Hook.

On this seal above the elevators in the JSB, Liberty holds the state constitution & faces the goddess Plenty. The motto “Esse Quam Videri” means “To Be Rather Than To Seem” & the date @ top is especially important, since it refers to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which was allegedly the first such declaration adopted during the American Revolution.

If that weren’t bad enough, she goes way beyond the miseducation and misunderstanding of what it means to live in a Republic (and what the government’s role is therein), or the predictably intolerant and anti-choice stances of America’s Left.

What she is preaching is authoritarianism. She and her statist ilk want to impose their view of social-justice morality on the masses through government edict and anyone who gets in their way is, simply put, the enemy.

“Let us do all the talking, thinking and law making, and you just shut up and be a good little subject” is really the end game. Who knew fascism was back in fashion? So much for live and let live.

As a Christian, I cannot let my emotions be manipulated by such evil and oppression. I have to pray that the misguided will come to their senses, and come back to embracing liberty, which I truly believe is not only at every American’s core, but is something fundamental that God places within every human heart.

So that’s where the grace comes in. And the “good coffee” part — which is my effort at not allowing the haters to steal my joy — will be expanded upon in the next blog, which I promise will be light and fun, and full of cute photos.

Also above the elevators in the JSB is the “Signing of the Declaration of Independence” in marble. The reminders of liberty are everywhere!

And as a mother trying to deal with increasing unrest and social division, and the ramifications such intolerance may have on my children, I’ll leave you with the prescient words of the brilliant and strong-willed Abigail Adams, the first Second Lady and second First Lady of the U.S. (and a homeschooler to boot).

The following is an excerpt from a letter written to her 9-year-old son, John Quincy Adams. She has sent him on a long journey to France to be with his father, John Adams, and explains why the separation from his mom’s loving arms is necessary.

These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orator if he had not been roused, kindled, and inflamed by the tyranny of Catiline, Verres, and Mark Anthony? The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All history will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruit of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities, which would otherwise lie dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman. War, tyranny, and desolation are the scourges of the Almighty, and ought no doubt to be deprecated. Yet it is your lot, my son, to be an eyewitness of these calamities in your own native land, and, at the same time, to owe your existence among a people who have made a glorious defence of their invaded liberties, and who, aided by a generous and powerful ally, with the blessing of Heaven, will transmit this inheritance to ages yet unborn. — Abigail Adams, 1780