Spring has finally sprung, so we’ve been spending as much time outdoors as possible. And this weekend was no exception.
The boys and I began our day by meeting up with Miss Christie and crew at the Science Center on Friday. The animals seemed to be ecstatic about the weather, as well, putting on quite a show for visitors.
The meerkats rolled and played; the howler monkeys hooted and hollered; the usually private maned wolves napped openly in the warm sun; the tortoises moved about at what I would consider a rapid-fire pace for these monster turtles.
The male tiger strutted his stuff and marked his territory, even spraying the female with his musky mist, further ticking her off to his machismo ways. And just like all the critters, the kiddos were wild and uninhibited, running about, yelling and giggling, and just living it up on a gorgeous spring day.
After that, we headed back to our house for cooking hot dogs on our first backyard campfire of the year. Christie picked up Logan en route to our place and Stephen got home soon thereafter, so it was all family members in tow for a wonderful evening of chilling, eating, playing, chatting and, of course, burning lots of stuff.
Saturday, Stephen took the boys to Virisat India Cultural Festival, where they ate spicy cuisine, won prizes and played soccer with the other kids. And Stephen got to see a few of his former software colleagues from his days with AT&T.
We’ve had some other cultural adventures recently, like our outing to Bach’s Lunch with Christie and company in late March. It was a weeklong classical music series, and we caught the piano and trombone performance.
It was a classy event to be sure, so Christie and I were nervous about how the kids would handle the situation, but they actually did pretty well. In fact, many people came up to us afterward, complimenting us on the behavior of our young ones, as well as our efforts to expose our children to the arts.
The big historical thing the boys have been into lately is what I refer to as Titanic Mania. It all started when Zeke discovered a couple books about the notable ship that Aunt Lisa had handed down to us. They’d been sitting our our shelves for quite some time, but something about the famous vessel piqued his interest this time around.
Ever since then (and this was at least a good two months ago), the dudes have been way into the Titanic. They act out scenes from the dramatic sinking, play different class passengers, the captain, the lookout and other crew members. They watch TV documentaries about the Titanic with Daddy.
The boys sing songs about the Titanic; recite facts about the the “unsinkable” ship and its ultimate demise; build Lego versions of the Titanic, its lifeboats and the other ships involved in its history; and give dramatic pronouncements of “iceberg ahead!”
And the dudes have that uncanny ability to always pose new and challenging questions for me about the historical passenger liner, how it was built, the passengers who journeyed on it, its sinking in the icy North Atlantic, the rescue of its survivors, and the exploration and subsequent finding of the famed ship.
So on 4/13, we took the 3 Amigos to the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh to see the Titanic Artifacts Exhibit as Zeke’s belated birthday gift. After all, he didn’t want to play winter basketball, like Gabriel, so we still owed him something cool.
Plus, he was the one who spawned the Titanic Mania in the first place. So thanks, Zeke, for inspiring us to learn so much about this chapter of nautical history… and thanks, Daddy, for taking the clan to the Capital City for a memorable fun-filled family outing!
Our CC community’s Awards Night was on 4/12. We took the boys and Asher to the end-of-the-year gala, which included Houston receiving a medal and a certificate for doing Memory of Excellence and an academic-achievement scroll for completing 24 weeks of intensive classical homeschooling.
Houston’s class also sung The Presidents Song, in which they recited all 44 commanders in chief in chronological order. I even performed in a choral group to sing a ditty for Jen, our CC director, who’s resigning after 10 years in the demanding position. It was a wonderful night and a great way to celebrate our first year of successful homeschooling!
Since our education load is a bit lighter till CC starts again in the fall, Houston began taking piano lessons. He’s only met with his teacher, Miss Julie, for one lesson so far, but I think he’s really going to enjoy learning piano, and will hopefully pass along some musical knowledge to his bros in the process.
I also got the dudes involved in the tail-end of Awana (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed), which comes from 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed because he can rightly handle the Word of Truth.”
It’s a wonderful children’s Bible study, and I plan on getting the boys into it at the beginning of the program next fall. Plus, we’re attending Awana at the same church as Asher, Jackson and Piper, so that’s always an easy sell for the 3 Amigos.
We had Asher over to spend the night after Awana on 4/10. He and Houston stayed up till 11, giggling and being silly in bed. And the next day, the kids shot cap guns and played outside all morning till Miss Christie came to pick up Asher in the afternoon.
A few nights ago, Houston said, “I wish I lived with Miss Christie.” To which I asked, “Why, honey? Don’t you like living with us?” “Well, yeah,” he replied with a smile. “I just wish Asher was my brother.” Awww, boyhood friendships are the cutest!
Unfortunately, we had to euthanize Bob the cat in early April. She had hyper-thyroidism for years and, despite medication, had just become a shell of her former self.
I adopted Bob at six weeks old while in college in Madison in ’96. From there, my jet setter feline went on to live with me in New Orleans, Colorado Springs, Richmond and Boone before we finally called the Carolina piedmont home.
Never one to like cuddling or being held, Bob was nonetheless a loyal and kind kitty. We will miss her sorely.
Fortunately, before Grumps’ passing on 4/16, we got to spend Easter with him and Granny up at the creek house. No, he wasn’t as lively, loud and vivacious as he once was, but it was a true blessing to be able to laugh and talk with him over that holiday weekend.
Stephen, the boys and I hiked up Uncle Clay’s backyard hills, target practiced with the bow and arrow and the BB gun, went to sunrise service, ate yummy mountain cooking, and just tried to live life to its fullest, while also loving on a recumbent and tired Grumps in the process.
But our final visit with Grumps was different. Although, we all tried to stay busy, the boys’ grandfather, my father in-law and Stephen’s dad was obviously in his final hours. There was just him peacefully dying and then all of us there to help Granny deal with the loss of her best friend and husband of nearly 38 years.
To everything there is a season, & a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:
A time to be born & a time to die, a time to plant & a time to pluck up what is planted …
A time to weep & a time to laugh, a time to mourn & a time to dance …
A time to rend & a time to sew, a time to keep silence & a time to speak,
A time to love & a time to hate, a time for war & a time for peace.
What profit remains for the worker from his toil?
… [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts & minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy] …
I know that there is nothing better for them than to be glad & to get & do good as long as they live;
And also that every man should eat & drink & enjoy the good of all his labor: it is the gift of God.
— Ecclesiastes 3
After Grumps died, we all did what we had to do … Granny painstakingly looked through old photos and picked out music while planning his Celebration of Life memorial; Stephen toiled on writing an honest and loving eulogy; and I practiced singing “How Great Thou Art” for the service.
Houston, Gabriel and Zeke were extremely well-behaved all week and handled the death of someone so close to them with maturity, tact and grace. Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers called and came by to show their love both for the dead and those living with the loss.
It’s amazing how enduring the human spirit is during such times of grief. And how even in times of such sorrow, there can be joy … like Granny’s church friend, Lisa, having the boys over for an afternoon of throwing rocks into the creek, playing football in the mud, petting horses and other such mountain mayhem.
And it’s awe inspiring, too, the beauty that is always there … like our heading back from a Boone shopping trip via the scenic backroads down the rear of Grandfather Mountain. The intermittent fog cloaked us in a reminder of our loss, while the heavy precipitation gave us a show of spectacular waterfalls, the likes of which I’ve never seen in Appalachia.
So, I’m going to remember the Grumps I knew best. The man full of piss and vinegar, always ready for a political debate, as well as a theological reflection. The man who owned the phrase “blithering idiot” and was never afraid to speak his mind, yet never cowered showing his emotions.
The fellow Virgo who definitely had his idiosyncrasies, but tempered them as much as possible for the sanity of his loved ones. The man who appreciated Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers as much as he did Pink Floyd, Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
And the man who once bought me a beautiful ring set with my husband’s and sons’ birthstones and engraved with each of their names just ’cause he felt like it. Cheers, Grumps … you were our gentle giant and we love your forever!