“She’s So Heavy”

Yeah, that might what you be what you’re thinking about some of my serious blogs as of late. But this analogy between my recent pensive posts and the Abbey Road song of the same name provides a nice way further explain my stance on the purpose of bold expression.

“‘She’s So Heavy’ was about Yoko (Ono),” John Lennon told Rolling Stone in an interview in 1969. “When you’re drowning, you don’t say, ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me.’ You just scream.”

Here’s an oldie from Jennette’s Pier during our OBX summer vacation. Poor sea turtle … never knew what hit him.

Sure, Lennon was talking about his muse, and no, I’m not screaming. But the point is the same: dire situations require immediate action. And since I am a journalist by training, the written word is simply the means by which I try to get my head above water, culturally and politically.

Spring semester strides

Of course, I cannot forget about the ultimate topic of interest to my readers: the adorable and precocious 3 Amigos!

We’ve been back in the swing of homeschooling for a few weeks now. Things are going well, although I do have to occasionally do battle with a negative, complaining Houston.

It’s not that Houston necessarily dislikes homeschooling. In fact, he finds great joy and takes great pride in learning. But what he finds annoying is that he often has to stop playing in order to “do school.”

Plus, Houston has to deal with the fact that Gabriel and Zeke aren’t technically in school right now. So the fact that they sometimes get to continue their horseplay, while he’s beckoned to his studies, is a natural bone of contention — a typical, competitive reaction to the dynamic of being one of a brood.

The 3 Amigos stay dry, that is, until Mommy & Miss Ashley get them stuck out @ pier’s end during a fierce rain storm.

Houston would rather take part in a feverish group instruction with bros, whether that’s Mommy teaching all three a single lesson, or Mommy pre-schooling the twins, while Houston does kindergarten and Mommy oversees three boys doing two different lessons.

I, on the other hand, prefer the more attentive one-on-one teaching method, that is, when Houston decides to cooperate and the twins offer us a rare moment of quiet and no interruptions. It’s just less strain on my old brain; plus, multi-tasking just isn’t my forte these days.

But I better get used to a class size larger than one or two, since the 3 Amigos will all be officially under my instruction come the fall. Can you believe I will be homeschooling two kindergartners and one first-grader in a matter of months?!

As far as Houston’s attitude goes, I do have to explain to him that school — no matter home, public or private — is simply the law for kids his age and older. All his friends are either being taught by their moms or are down the road at the local elementary school, so it’s nothing to get upset about.

Gabriel & Houston check out the ocean as the storm makes its way toward the pier.

I also try to remind Houston of some of the wonderful homeschool memories we’ve already had, when we’re learning amazing things, soaking in the knowledge and clicking communication wise. I try to call to mind our sense of pride in accomplishment.

When recently rushing to finish up a lesson before Jessie’s arrival, I said, “I know you like doing math, but you probably think playing with Miss Jessie is more fun.”

To my delight, he replied, “I like school better!” Whether or not that’s necessarily true for Houston all the time, it was certainly music to my ears.

Houston has also made strides (better eye contact, speaking louder and more articulately, and exhibiting more confidence) with his CC presentations. One of his best was when he used used homemade sock puppets to tell a made-up scary story. Very cute.

We do other things besides homeschool

We had our first snow of winter on 1/18. Obviously, the dudes were ecstatic. They don’t have winter boots or good gloves, so they didn’t last long outside, but they definitely got their fill of the white stuff.

Zeke, Daddy & Mr. Greg watch the Nags Head surfers as they take advantage of the swell.

Gabriel’s basketball skills have improved drastically since games resumed after holiday break. In fact, he made two baskets (first ever, to my knowledge) at last weekend’s game. You should’ve seen his face; he was beaming with joy!

G-man has also become a better team player and all-around trooper. He has played the last two games from beginning to end and without complaint. Gabe’s newfound endurance is certainly appreciated by his coach.

His team is kind of like the Bad News Bears: some players are good, but easily tire; others love to play, but don’t like to share the ball; some don’t show up for games; and others just prefer crying on “the bench.” Gotta love youth sports.

This, of course, makes for uproariously entertaining games, and Gabriel is having a wonderful time, making friends and learning a lot in the process. Go Wildcats!

Part cowboy, part pirate and part Jedi, Houston takes advantage of an unseasonably warm day in mid-January.

After last Saturday’s game, Daddy took us to the Science Center to see the Accidental Mummies of Guanajuoto. Zeke was a bit scared, but mustered up the courage to enter the exhibit.

The kids were wide-eyed checking out all the bodies, especially the babies, and were captivated by each mummy’s story. My always-inquisitive boys asked a million questions and we all enjoyed this educational outing.

This week, we finally finished the third book in the Shiloh trilogy. What’s funny is that Santa brought them the box-set of the Shiloh DVDs, but I wouldn’t let the boys watch Saving Shiloh until we’d completed our reading.

It was worth the wait, though. The 3 Amigos were absolutely riveted by the film, as they were with the first two (Shiloh and Shiloh Season). They also liked talking about the many differences between the book and the movie.

Provocation + Pride = Parenting

I’ve come to realize that January is the hardest month for parenting and reflecting back on the past few years proves it. I suppose it’s a mix of the post-Christmas doldrums, the gloomy wet weather and getting back onto a more regimented schedule.

Although breaking safety protocol by pointing the barrel my way, Gabriel shows off his unloaded cowboy pistol.

I’m also becoming increasingly aware that, for whatever reason, Wednesdays suck! I’m clueless as to why this is so, but the last few weeks have borne this fact out in spades.

Consider Zeke’s penchant for tantrums, Gabriel’s for whining and Houston’s for a bad attitude. Now these past few Wednedays didn’t have all three boys doing their thing at the same time, thankfully. Instead, it has been a revolving door of equal-opportunity naughtiness from morning till night.

Interestingly, the 3 Amigos’ behavior on Tuesdays and Thursdays has been pretty darn good recently. So what gives? Is there something about Hump Day I should know?

As with most older kids, especially first-borns, they sometimes feel the need to bully their younger siblings. Miss Christie says she calls Asher “Little Dictator” when he’s in said mood, so I borrowed the moniker for when necessary with Houston.

Zeke the superhero/cowboy opts for bubbles over firearms or light sabers.

But I’ve since updated it to the retort “Don’t be an Obama.” Sure, we discuss current events with the kids and speak rather directly about our disdain for the Left’s authoritarian policies.

But we also don’t want the boys to abhor our president. So we have to be careful in what we say and how we say it.

“I hate Obama,” Houston recently said. I explained that we mustn’t hate anyone and that we should instead pray for him to become a better man and a leader with more integrity.

And then at bedtime one night last weekend, Houston offered a prayer request for President Obama. Thank goodness I’m finally getting through.

I mean, it’s fine to adamantly disagree with someone without detesting him and wishing him ill. After all, such hostility can eat up the person doing the hating.

More importantly, I want my kids to pray and love on people in the hopes that they, too, will come to know Christ and the ultimate freedom He offers up for everyone. I know that’s a hard sell for kids sometimes, but it’s a lesson worth learning.

Houston excitedly displays a grassy chunk of ice crystals after the winter’s first snow.

On another positive note, I think I forgot to mention the 3 Amigos’ charitable giving at Christmas. We had given each of them the option of donating $5 or $10 from his piggy bank to either the March of Dimes or the TTTS Foundation.

Houston immediately said he wanted to donate $10, split between both organizations. Fortunately, Gabe and Zeke followed his lead.

“Mommy, I thought about my giving,” commented Houston a few minutes later. I assumed he was regretting his big-dollar donation. “I would like to give $15 instead,” Houston explained. I’m so proud that my occasional “Little Obama” is typically such a sweet, self-less dude.

One day healthy, the next day not

Since a couple different flu strains worked their way through Miss Christie’s house, Stephen and I decided to get flu shots for the whole family. So far, so good.

Gabriel did, however, have a seemingly random 48-hour sickness late last week. Fortunately, his symptoms were minor — just fatigue, loss of appetite and a slight fever — and G-man’s doing much better now.

Houston had a random, quick-recovery “injury” in mid-January. He strained his groin while playing in the gym post-CC community. Not sure how a 5-year-old can do such a thing by simply running and shooting hoops, but thankfully, Houston was fine a couple days later.

Big bro had his annual wellness exam two weeks ago. He is 53 pounds and 49 inches. In fact, he grew some 4 inches taller since his last checkup a year ago.

Zeke gets down on the ground to taste-test the newly fallen snow.

As Dr. Gay describes it, “He’s off the chart” for height, but the perfect weight for a person that size. And here I thought Houston looked emaciated.

She prescribed Houston a nasal spray to alleviate his enflamed nasal passages. The thinking is that this will not only help relieve some of his seasonal allergy symptoms, but it will also curb his persistent (although, increasingly minor) nosebleeds.

The doc found that Houston also has enlarged adenoids, which are probably the cause of his occasional intense snoring. We’re going to get an x-ray to see if removal of the tonsils is necessary, and then we’ll just cross that bridge when and if we get to it.

I, too, may have to get surgery. My left wrist had been hurting for about a month. This pain isn’t new, it’s just that when I got it in the past, it only persisted for a couple days. But this time was a lot more painful and debilitating.

I had an appointment with a hand specialist and turns out I have a triquetrum fracture. I had already seen the doc for the same problem back in February 2011, but the fracture was so tiny back then that it didn’t show on the x-ray.

Gabriel & neighbors Maddie & Alyssa search a bucket for yummy snow to feed Maddie’s silly dogs.

Since this type of injury is caused “when the hand absorbs an impact beyond its means,” our best guess is that the fracture was caused by having three kids in diapers around the time of my first appointment — a messy and exhausting period of my motherhood that I must have suppress.

Now that I think back, I recall lots was lots of fighting against diaper changes, including spastic kicking and intense pushing against my left arm, which I used to hold their strong legs up. Hey, where’s my workman’s comp?!

Anyway, the fracture has apparently grown over the years to be pretty significant in size. I am splinting my wrist now and have a follow-up in a month to see if an MRI/surgery will be necessary. Good times.

The funny thing is that I already had surgery on my right wrist back in the summer of 2006, but that was due to a tear in the tendons and a gangliatic cyst. God has blessed me with so much that I suppose I can’t complain much about being a weak-wristed old lady. Could be worse, for sure.

“A life is a life, no matter how small”

The mantra from Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears A Who” is quite fitting for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday — a day that sheds light around the darkness that is federally mandated legalized abortion. Tuesday will mark 40 years since the U.S. Supreme ruled on the infamous Roe v. Wade and the lesser-known Doe v. Bolton cases.

All “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” — 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Since our founding, family law and police powers were left up to the purview of the states. Each one decided through the legislative process what its laws would be on everything from murder and the death penalty, kidnapping and domestic abuse, to abortion and rape.

The founders in their ultimate wisdom knew that such hot-button issues should be decided upon by the voters of each state. Thus, our diverse, often-disparate nation is supposed to be made up of 50 laboratories of democracy, since what works for one place might not jibe for another.

A “state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

And if one state implemented an ultimately failing policy it was up to the people to either peaceably work to change the law or vote with their feet: the disaffected could move to another state, taking with them their productivity and money. After all, shrinking the tax base is always a great way to get the attention of legislators.

The founders understood that in a nation as large and varied as ours (approximately 300 million people today), one-size-fits-all edicts would only create strife and disunity. And leaving abortion up to the states had been how the issue was determined and regulated for some 200 years.

“We are all adopted in Christ … we belong to the Father, even when nobody else wants us.” — loosely based on Ephesians 1

But on January 22, 1973, the high court ruled on Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. The infamous Roe asserted that a woman has a right to an abortion until the “viability” of the baby, while the lesser-known Doe stated that a woman can obtain an abortion post-viability in order to protect her “health.”

Forget that as prenatal and neonatal medicines progress, viability changes and that it hasn’t been the constant the court hoped it would be. Or don’t worry that health was said to include “physical, emotional, psychological, familial (health), and the woman’s age.” What’s not health, right?

Forget that as sonography advances, people can plainly see a human form living, breathing and moving well before viability (including a heart beat at just 21 days). It’s not just a “blob of tissue,” which is how the “experts” often misleadingly describe the development of a first-trimester child.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb … I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” — Psalm 139: 13-14

Forget that everyone knows at least one woman who has had a surgical abortion, since the astounding stat is that one in four pregnancies in America end in induced abortion. And don’t worry that abortifacients are commonly distributed on some our nation’s college campuses in vending machines. That’s women’s health?

Forget that 55 million people’s lives have been snuffed out, especially concerning since western civilization is now experiencing depopulation. And don’t worry that nine lawyers in robes invented a right to privacy under the due process clause of 14th Amendment, enabling on-demand abortion to take hold and flourish, irregardless of the will of the people.

Whatever your opinion is on the science, the stats, the statutes, the logic or the emotion, you must admit, wouldn’t you like a voice, a say, a vote on the matter? Wouldn’t the legislative process be preferable to a monolithic edict by judicial fiat? Don’t you think that the citizens of each state should decide their laws on such a divisive, life-altering issues?

The personal is political

Personally, I don’t think Roe will ever be overturned; instead, the lucrative industry will probably be forever threaded in the fabric of our society. As the abortion lobby likes to say, it’s “the law of the land” (even though the judiciary’s role isn’t to craft law) and is also perpetuated at tax-payer expense, unfortunately.

So, I believe it is up to pro-baby/mommy/daddy folks to try to change hearts and minds, one person at a time. This often seems an insurmountable task, but the cause is a worthy one for sure.

Just because you can get a surgical abortion at virtually any stage of pregnancy and often obtain abortifacients without a prescription doesn’t mean you have to do so. There are other choices available to you. Information is key.

“It’s much easier to demagogue than it is to educate.” — Jason Lewis, author & radio talk-show host

One option is to donate to your local pregnancy care center to help them obtain equipment and personnel for offering its clients ultrasounds: the ultimate in prenatal education. Perhaps you could participate in fundraising efforts, since life-affirming centers typically don’t receive government funds (as they don’t want bureaucrats telling them how to run their organization).

You could also volunteer at a center as peer advocate. Or you could take part in an abortion-recovery class, should you be a woman (or man) who is feeling regret and grief due to your abortion experience.

In fact, I hope to facilitate such a class at my local pregnancy care center. I’ve already completed the volunteer training, so now all I have to do is shadow the current facilitator before I can actually serve in that role.

I truly feel called to this important work, as it helps those scarred by abortion find forgiveness and peace, as well as gain empowerment. Please pray that I can finally make this long-time goal happen in 2013!

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” — George Bernard Shaw (sure, he was a Fabian socialist, but I’m still co-opting this quote for my own ends)

At the very least, if you are life-affirming, speak up when you find yourself surrounded by “reproductive rights” types. Politely expressing an unpopular opinion, while informing folks of the facts is sometimes just what the party needs to get rolling. Here’s to bucking the status quo!

Be the driver, not the driven

Tuesday was our first day back to CC community for the new school year. I thoroughly enjoyed our well-deserved time off for the holidays, but I’m glad to be back into the swing of things.

A six-month undertaking, the “Original 13 Colony Flag Wall” (plus, Texas, Gadsen & Betsy Ross for good measure) was finally completed in late December. The dudes celebrate their awesome accomplishment!

Driving the organic schoolbus

And considering that “When do we go back to CC?” had been the kids’ refrain the second Christmas came to an end, I know the 3 Amigos are rested and ready for this semester’s adventures in learning. I suppose there’s something in all people, even the type-B personality, that craves routine and structure.

I (a naturally leaning type-A gal) am careful not to take regimen to an extreme, though. After all, this chaotic world requires sane people to sometimes make peace with disorder.

Also, letting go of rigid perfectionism and scheduling can open up the gates of creativity and spontaneity. In fact, this is often when we as a homeschool family to our best and most productive work.

Christie describes my teaching style as “organic,” to wit I always ask, “Is that just your nice way of calling me a slacker?” Ever-honest and sweet, Christie, of course, is seriously paying me a compliment.

With Uncle Albert’s police hat & an assembled Lego cop car, Zeke is ready to serve & protect.

I strive to be the driver, not the driven, and try to avoid letting the anxiety-inducing details and relentless inessentials cloud my simple educational mission. This is my guiding philosophy not just in home education, but also in politics and in parenting.

Driving the limousine liberals nuts

Remember back in a November blog when I wrote that freedom is increasingly perceived by the masses as being uncool? It’s one of the things the progressives and socialists do best — incrementally co-opt language — and they are brilliant at it.

For instance, a Georgetown University professor of law closed out 2012 by writing in the NY Times that America has a “dysfunctional political system” because of “our obsession with the Constitution … with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.”

“But before abandoning our heritage of self-government,” concludes Prof. Seidman, “we ought to try extricating ourselves from constitutional bondage so that we can give real freedom a chance.”

The adorable bear hat Cousin Meredith gave Gabriel for Christmas brought out his primal, rugged nature while exploring the woods @ Gramsey & Papa’s.

In other words, freedom can only exist by getting rid of the very document that was designed to protect human liberty; and anything less than this is slavery. See how he so cavalierly dismisses history, and twists knowledge, truth and the meaning of words?

Knowledge & history: When not blatantly ignored by those sworn to uphold it, the Constitutional separation of powers and its methodical approach guard against despotism, mob rule and overreaching laws by purposefully slowing down the wheels of government. It is our safety net.

That is not archaic; it is as current as ever. There are more than 4,000 federal statutes on the books now. Honestly, who thinks we are lacking in the number of laws and need to speed up the pace at which bureaucrats usurp our liberties?

Houston does a convincing outlaw stance w/ the die-cast metal cap gun & holster Santa Claus brought him & brothers.

It is he, Seidman, who preaches a doctrine that is as old as time: the covetous want of power and influence (which always lead to loads of taxpayer cash) as his monarch sits atop the throne, coupled with a God-complex notion that he and his aristocratic brethren know what’s best.

Meaning of words: As a writer, this tool long used by propagandists — spanning the globe from tinpot dictatorships to imperial oligarchies, and fashionable fascists to homegrown authoritarians — is an annoyance I take rather particularly to heart. Here are some of my favorites:

“Choice” means “only the option the statists endorse,” “tolerance” means “acceptance,” “equality” means “equal outcome,” not “equal opportunity,” “fairness” means “redistribution of wealth,” “diversity” means “elevating one group over another,” “multi-culturalism” means “you should feel guilty,” “free” means “something that comes from legal plunder” and “self-defense” means being “pro-murder.”

To me, freedom is the “exemption from external control, interference, regulation” and the power to “act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint,” as long as your action doesn’t infringe upon another individual’s liberties.

To Seidman, freedom is government picks winners and losers, grants rights and has the purview to take them away, endorses group rights over the individual, and should be unstoppable in its efforts to grow the insatiable bureaucratic behemoth — all with no check, no counter, no buffer to its lust for power and profit.

Zeke practices target shooting his new “really loud” & “smoky” gun w/ Daddy on Christmas Day. Since then, the boys have grown accustomed to their pistols & don’t find ear and eye protection necessary anymore.

But as the saying goes, “Those who anger you, control you,” so becoming enraged at the authoritarian rants of a law professor in a publication of disinformation is counterproductive. Plus, it bums me out.

At its conclusion, the CC Timeline song says, “Rising tide of freedom … I’m part of my timeline.” And that’s exactly right: liberty-loving individuals like me and you must take the wheel and drive home the fact that freedom is always cool, in vogue and on the march. Let’s get busy, folks!

Driving the kiddie train to discipline depot

Considering that the boys are all determined, willful little buggers, I have to be extremely purposeful in my parenting. Otherwise, the 3 Amigos — who all know what buttons to push — would be the conductors and I would simply be an aimless passenger.

To try to decrease my emotionality and increase my intentionality, I have created the Clan Dillingham Family Rules (thanks for the idea, Nanny 911). The document, which is a work in progress, is not meant to be a harsh edict, but rather a guideline for everyone in the family, parents and kids alike.

Gabriel might not have a cop car, but armed w/ Uncle Albert’s hat, a food-covered shirt & cuteness to spare, he’s ready to take on the bad guys.

It is amazing that something as simple as a list of rules has actually helped. I have been more methodical and calm in my approach, and subsequently, the boys have been easier to parent.

Stephen and I are also reading “You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded),” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias. Not just your average self-help book, the author is a former cop and teacher, an admitted strong-willed personality and mother of one strong-willed child.

We were first introduced to Tobias while listening to a Focus On the Family podcast series and her advice was so fresh and different from any parenting/discipline advice we’d ever heard. Check out the Top 10 List for Bringing Out the Best in a Strong-Willed Child.

They’re all smart tips, but No. 5 has probably been the easiest for me. For instance, every time tantrum-prone Zeke screeches “I want …” during the onset of a meltdown, the rest of us holler, “Whistling pig!” It ticks Zeke off initially, but he usually ends up laughing along with the rest of us.

Penguin vs. Bomber Bird: Houston plays basketball @ our newly rigged-up backyard hoop w/ buddy, Cameron.

Another one of my comedic tricks is the use of Looney Tunes characters Speedy Gonzalez and his cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez. I showed the boys some YouTube videos to familiarize them with the storied mice — definitely an easy sell to the 3 Amigos.

Now when I need them to be fast and efficient, we joke about whoever’s being Slowpoke; when I need them to concentrate or be calm, we joke about Speedy. It’s not a sure cure for the zaniness of boyhood, but it works much of the time, and gets us giggling at the very least.

Honorable mentions

From 12/27-12/30, we visited Gramsey and Papa’s and got to see much of our Virginia kin. Cousin Kara spent the night our whole stay there — always a huge hit with the dudes. One particular highlight was when the kids found and buried a dead cardinal: R.I.P. Lady McFly Stook-Fee!

Call of the wild: Christmas brings out the animal in Zeke, Kara, Gabriel & Houston.

Since Stephen and I are old and tired, we did nothing special for New Year’s Eve, even though it was 14 years ago that night when we fell in love in the Big Apple. Perhaps we’ll get out next year to celebrate our crystal anniversary. (Hint hint.)

Last Saturday, Gabriel didn’t have basketball, so Stephen took the boys swimming at the Y. They hadn’t gone to the pool in ages and all the kids had a blast showing daddy their pool moves from summer.

We’re thinking that when basketball wraps up, we’re going to take a break from sports in order to free up our Saturdays. The more open our schedules, the more boys-only and family outings we can have … and the more likely we can finally take the whole clan camping.

Till next time, I wish you good health and happiness for the new year!